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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Learning lessons from living off-planet

Nasa blue marble

Anyone who has been paying attention is well aware by now that humanity is destroying the planet's ecosystem quite systematically.  While the planet Earth may well survive humanity, humanity may not survive the planet in the long run.  In my mind humanity's final lesson will be to learn how to live off planet.  Consider the small manned space missions we have undertaken so far, including the International Space Station.  These tiny spaceships represent a small closed ecosystem with a minimal inputs and outputs, and the ideal space colony whether in the asteroid belt, on the moon or Mars will need to be entirely self-sustaining in the long-term.  If we were to view our home planet as a similarly small closed system, we would certainly treat it with a great deal more respect.  Once humanity begins to reach towards the other planets we will be living in completely closed systems and our consciousness will change because our very survival will require maintaining these environments. (I am reminded of the classic Bruce Dern movie: "Silent Running").  For this reason, I admire Elon Musk for his proposed long-term goal of making humanity extra planetary and colonizing Mars.  His company SpaceX put out a T-shirt a few years ago with a picture of Mars and the text "Occupy Mars" and I have been wearing mine ever since.  Sadly, it has not stimulated conversation around the potential for humanity to become extra planetary. 

The nations and economies of the world seem to believe that sustained economic growth is possible into the indefinite future but we simply do not have the resources. The reality is that we simply cannot continue to support an increasing population all of whom require products and services.  So if/when we become a multi-planetary species, I am hoping that we will have learned the lesson of living in small, contained ecosystems.  Hopefully we will treat the planets that we colonize in the future with more respect than we treat our home planet which may be doomed to a future as a garbage heap as imaged in the movie: "Wall-E".