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To Preserve Human Life, Look to the Stars

Robert Franklin

Posted on August 17, 2019 22:00

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Exploration and study of space is fundamentally important to the survival of the human species.

Humanity's future is in space, no matter how you figure it. If we manage to keep ourselves from eating it due to impending environmental catastrophe - so we figure out how to at least manage through the harrowing effects of climate change - this planet, Earth, won't be around forever.

At some point in the future, Earth will be the bulls-eye on a galactic dart board and some huge piece of rock will collide with it, rendering remaining life on the planet extinct.

At some point in the future, a nearby star will explode in a supernova, posing a threat to life on Earth.

Eventually, Earth will likely experience another supervolcanic eruption akin to the Toba supereruption. Yellowstone, perhaps?

C4 photosynthesis will, at some point, no longer be possible, prompting Earth's atmosphere and ozone layer to disappear.

The Sun will, at some point, enter its red giant phase, likely swallowing Earth in the process.

Even though these events are, by all estimation, thousands or millions of years out, the point is that the time humanity can spend on this rock is limited, with or without its self-inflicted existential crises. This is why studying space - obtaining the knowledge and developing the tools we need to survive out there - is important, even in the here and now.

To some, this may seem like a waste of time. Even controlling for the folks who don't believe human-exacerbated climate change is a thing, there are a fair amount of people out there who think studying the stars and considering the efficacy of celestial inhabitation and terraforming to be a poor use of time and resources.

I believe these people are, in many respects, ignorant of human mortality.

Even if we subvert the more immediate existential threats of climate change and the Sixth Extinction, even if we could actually scale back the damage we've already caused, that doesn't mean humanity is free of the forces that could be poised to kill us.

But by acknowledging these threats, both immediate and long-term, we can work to at least give ourselves a fighting chance.

Our technology continues to evolve at an alarming rate, and it is at a point now where serious consideration to the long-term safety and comfort of humanity is a worthwhile pursuit. Additional missions to the moon could act as surveying points for longer-term missions further into the solar system and even beyond our own borders.

These could ultimately lead to colonization and the survival of the human species.

But philosophically, there are certain hang-ups that need to be forsaken to achieve these lofty goals, including the obsession with racial and cultural identity, xenophobia and nationalism, and this obsession with borders. So long as these ideas continue to be culturally pervasive and identifiably paramount, humanity will never achieve the type of civilization needed to explore and colonize space.

And we'll all die in the process.

Robert Franklin

Posted on August 17, 2019 22:00

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Source: Phys.org

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