It’s the idealist in me. I recycle. At least I try every opportunity I get. Give me an empty bottle, and I’m looking for a recycling bin. Yes, I drive a truck (for practical reasons, I like to think). But, I walk whenever possible. I sincerely think cheap gas is not the solution. No gas is where we need to be. So I walk. Whenever possible, I take the train. I take the bus, I ride my bike, I turn off lights; I use the same thing over and over until I can’t use it anymore; I even have my own ceramic cup at work from which I drink my tea. I’m seriously thinking about having my own reusable plate and utensil.
I believe everything about conservation. In my heart, I’m as green as a tropical leave. But in my mind, I know even my best effort will fail at the end.
See, I have done the math, and I hate to say it, things don’t add up. No matter how you look at it, life as we know it is a sentence fast approaching a period. Our days here on earth are numbered. Not numbered as in now, or soon, but numbered nonetheless. It’s just a matter of when.
We can pick on CO2 all we want, but even if we cut emission to zero we are not going to save ourselves. We are simply going to make it comfortable for a little longer. CO2 and all the other greenhouse gases are not the problems, at least not in of themselves. They are just results, as that, scapegoats of the real problem facing human civilization as we know it.
The real problem? Human beings. It’s all in the numbers.
If science is right as I know it is—anything that can put hundreds of people in a box made entirely of metal, and take them to the skies across thousands of miles is as close to God as we know it—there are million phenomenon out there in space that could at any given moment blow us into tiny pieces. And probability will tell you eventually one will come to be. That’s why you play the lottery. But for the sake of argument, let’s say there is something uniquely special about this blue dot in the Milky Way, no matter the laws of probability, our one in a million never hits; we never ignite any of the nuclear weapons we have stockpiled in our backyards, the oceans never over-reach their boundaries in the name of a worldwide tsunami… We are still doomed.
Because if it ever did, the earth is done growing; the space we have is finite. Perhaps so are the resources. But we are not. The world population is growing, and so are our needs. And no matter the reduction in birth rate, we are going to continue growing—slow or fast—exponentially. It’s basic physics; no matter how slow you move, if your destination stays the same, eventually you will arrive. Regardless of the precautions we take, as long as we continue to grow we will outgrow this planet. Even if we mandate a one-child law, as long as more children are born than the number of deaths (as it would be in the absence of mass death in the form of war or natural disasters), we are still moving…towards the end.
With every child, every family, farm land gives way for sleeping quarters. At the same time, more is needed to eat, more to wear, more to drink, more more more of everything we use. Unfortunately for us, there is only so much the earth can give, before it runs out. And it will run out.
So what is our salvation? We can put the car in reverse. But how do you preach reverse when people can’t even accept slowing down? Besides, reversing is not human. For ages we have been taught to keep plowing ahead, fast and furious. Going back is not an option!
Thinking about this lately, I have come to understand the need for NASA and the work they do. We can recycle all we want, cut down emission all we want, one day this planet is still not going to be enough. As a specie, space travel is therefore our only chance of survival.
Maybe space travel is our destination all along.
I’ve always suspected the existence of aliens. (It’s the Star Trek in me.) Actually this too is all about probability. Of all the millions (if not billions) of planets in the universe, how can this be the only one with life? Unlikely, at best. But as I think about humans and earth, I have arrived at another possibility: We are the beginning! We are going to populate the universe.
But we better take care of this our first stepping stone, lest it’s gone before we learn to fly.