This was originally a guest post for Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo. In view of recent events, I thought it was due a rehash.
A few years ago BBC2 showed a programme called The Search for a New Earth. It featured physicist Stephen Hawking, who claimed we will have to leave Earth within the next 100 years as it will have become uninhabitable. He listed various possible causes of this catastrophe, including overpopulation, pollution and nuclear war. The programme went on to explore the various measures being taken right now for the eventual colonisation of a new planet.
The technology is mind-boggling. It demonstrates the sheer brilliance of the human mind at its best. It seems there’s nothing we can’t achieve. In which case…
WHY ON EARTH CAN’T WE USE THESE SKILLS TO MAKE SURE THIS PLANET DOESN’T BECOME UNINHABITABLE?
For instance, scientists are developing technology that will utilise the sun’s energy to create superfast rocket fuel. Why don’t they consider using that energy for fuel here on Earth, to replace dwindling oil supplies, dirty fossil fuel and dangerous nuclear power? It would be a lot cheaper and easier than trying to colonise a planet that isn’t designed for human habitation.
The planet under consideration is called Proxima B. The shortest time it would take to get there – once they’ve got their superfast fuel – is 20 years. The crew would have to go into chemically induced hibernation to avoid radiation damage in space. Most of the planet is too hot or too cold to support human life, so we would only be able to occupy a thin strip around the middle. This would lead to even worse overcrowding than we’ve got here. It’s possible the place has got no atmosphere, so we would have to create one ourselves. This would take about 100,000 years, so the early colonists would have to live in a geodesic dome. They would never be able to walk under the open sky.
Even if we did manage to find a planet that was suitable for humans, chances are that humans would be living there already – in which case, would they really want us showing up and asking to live on their planet because we’ve trashed our own? We might even find they’d made a worse mess of their world than we’ve made of ours.
Maybe we should clean up our act rather than jumping ship. If human science can develop the technology to colonise another planet, surely it can find a way to heal and care for the wonderful planet we live on now.