As the sun approaches the end of the current stage in its life cycle, it will begin to expand and turn into a red giant. In consequence the world will heat up dramatically, all the surface water will evaporate and eventually every plant and animal will die. In other words, within 500,000,000 years the world will become a dead zone and it appears there’s nothing we can do to stop it.
If this is the case, it is imperative a strategy is devised to improve our prospects. Admittedly global annihilation is still in the distant geological-time future, but any proposed solution will take an incredible amount of time to implement. We simply don’t have the technology at present to save ourselves.
Solutions may involve space flight, but there may be nowhere to fly to. And using current technology, the closest stars with potentially habitable planets are so many light years away it will take generations to reach them.
Humans aren’t particularly at home in outer space. We need a space ship with food, water and oxygen, but we also need shielding from cosmic rays and artificial gravity to stop our bones from turning to jelly.
To save even a small fraction of the earth’s population by evacuation would require an armada of thousands of large space craft.
Civilization is only a few thousand years old. The technological revolution practically started in our lifetime. With millions of years to play with, we should be optimistic about mankind’s prospects for survival.
That is why it is important not to stuff it up now.
You can argue till you’re blue in the face about whether global warming is a consequence of human activity or a natural part of the earth’s life cycle, but if the disruptions are going to be on a grand scale as predicted, we have to try to do something about it.
This goes for all forms of environmental degradation.
It also holds true for man’s inhumanity to man. It’s time to remove the imperative of greed and exploitation from our lives. Decide that we don’t need “more” after all.
Ultimately there is only one real challenge and it will affect us all.
Thankfully there are many countries and private corporations involved in the conquest of space. There still seems to be plenty of resistance to human genetic engineering, stem cell research and cloning, etc. These technologies may be the only ones able to provide a solution to our vulnerability in outer space. Bones that maintain their density in zero gravity, radiation resistant tissue, survival in low oxygen environments, skin that doesn’t explode with a sharp drop in air pressure.
These examples are traditional responses on a purely physical level which look at maintaining the current human form. Who knows what other possibilities will be explored – involving ideas that could stand our understanding of what it is to be human on its head.
We need a world which is conducive to research. We cannot afford a world where critical resources are diverted to fighting environmental catastrophes, wars, terrorism and the unimaginative narrow-mindedness of fundamentalism.
The sun IS coming – if we don’t put our differences aside and face the challenge together – we will all fry.