On Having Hope: Part 2


[summary from last week: Having faced as fact the inevitable death of planet Earth, I’ve been forced to confront the only real solution.  Our only real hope for saving Gaia, the Lifeforce on this planet, is to get off the planet to a newly terraformed panet.]

Note that I didn’t say “saving humanity.”  In fact, our preoccupation with “saving humanity” is precisely why I am so certain that we will not change our negative impacts on the Earth in time to save Gaia here.  Whether we save ourselves in the process of saving Gaia is very much in question, as even saving Gaia will be a difficult and an only marginally possible task.

But, unlike the doomsayers that dominate the literature of environmentalism, my appeal is to an arena not already tried unsuccessfully time and time again.  Environmentalists have long advocated for solutions which involve changing people’s behavior so as to make the continued growth of the human population tolerable for Gaia here on Earth.

But where I look for a solution to the death of Gaia here on Earth is off the planet.

The only possibility once this planet is, itself, dead, if there is to be any solution, is to survive on another planet-one that will host and support the survivors.   In our solar system, if humanity is to be one of the surviving species, that means we will have to terraform one of the existing  celestial bodies.

There are number of reasons for this claim, none of which I will go into much depth about here, as I have written reams on the topic elsewhere.

One objection, however, is so prevalent that it deserves note here.  Why can’t we resort to some sort of provisional habitat of our own design to provide for us if we truly lose it here.

The answer is also the answer to the almost universal feeling that, if we are capable of Gaiacide because of who we are, then we shouldn’t take our evil seed to another planet, terraformed or not.

The fact is that both of these attitudes reflect unjustifiable faith that our current level of technology will travel with us.  Technology, in temporal coincidence with loss of the home planet, or even continued intercourse with the home planet, will not survive the transfer to any other world, nor be sufficient to sustain any man-made shelter.  There will simply be an insufficient number of humans available to sustain the technology and it will, therefore, eventually pass.

Even if we build domed villages on Mars, say, but lose contact with Earth, they will eventually fail and we won’t have the wherewithal to fix them.  That technology just demands many millions more people than we will have been able to transplant there before losing contact.

If we terraform a planet before losing contact with Mother Earth, there will still be too few people to sustain the technology required to do so when we do lose her.

We will, at that point, revert to a new stone age, which should allay the concerns of the many who think moving humans off planet will inevitably constitute a contamination.  Of course, it is rather unlikely that we will have enough time in the terraforming process to make the new planet truly hospitable to humans in any case, so the fear is probably unjustified on that grounds alone.

The good news, however, is that in the process of attempting to terraform the planet, we will have to introduce many less demanding species whose main function will be to hasten the terraforming process itself.

For example, at some point Cyanobacteria (aka blue-green algae) will almost certainly be introduced to help produce oxygen in the atmosphere.  Cyanobacteria don’t need anything like a terraformed planet in order to thrive.   But, from the perspective of saving Gaia, getting a flourishing colony of them established might be enough to have done the job.

There is, in addition, a resistance I have only recently come to recognize.  It apparently germinates from an assumption so different from  my own that I had not realized it might even exist.

There are a number of people who seem to have no concern about the fate of any other life form on this planet than human.  This despite the nearly universal recognition of nature’s beauty.

I grew up in a very small town in the low mountains surrounding Mount Shasta and after a few years in the Sacramento valley I returned to the mountains in an equally beautiful setting at Lake Tahoe, where I’ve spent the rest of my life.   I’ve always felt very close to nature, and have long blessed my lucky stars for having been able to spend my life in her than having to take a vacation once a year to visit.

I’ve also known for most of my life that nature is beautiful almost exclusively because of the trappings of the vast wealth of living things that she is.  To my mind, the stark images we’ve gotten from the surface of Mars are proof positive.

That there are people so divorced from that kind of experience that they don’t recognize the religious nature of the Lifeforce on this planet is such an unknown to me that I have to stop and ask myself whether this group is large or small.

What would be your guess?

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2 Responses to On Having Hope: Part 2

  1. Hank Raymond says:

    Well George, I have come to the conclusion that we humans are not capable of eliminating life on earth. I just don’t see how we could do it. Taking all the carbon from the ground and putting it into the atmosphere will certainly change the climate and life on earth and may very well end life of humans, but it won’t end life here. Then the question is, “Where are you going to go?” You speak of cyannobacteria on Mars, but you need water for that and Mars can’t hold an atmosphere because it doesn’t have a magnetic field so therefore no water. I suspect Mars lost it’s magnetic field because its core cooled and solidified which caused it to lose it’s atmosphere and that caused it to lose it’s water. We don’t have the technology to re-melt Mars’ core to rebuild the magnetic field so it will never have an atmosphere. Now if you can come up with a lifeform that can live and reproduce in an environment with no atmosphere and no water, then that might work, but I don’t know of any life form like that, do you? Well, maybe Europa or Encelladus would work for you. They both have liquid water.

    • george drake says:


      I don’t maintain we will do it on purpose. In fact, if we see the mechanism we might use, I suspect we would do our damnest, quite possibly successfully, to avoid it. At least on the short term. The problem is that, because we always regard our well being as the motivation for doing anything, everything we do moves us closer to inadvertently tipping some balance beyond where nothing we do can stop the slide.

      When that happens, Gaia will be lucky to survive. If she does, then the presence of man will eventually be as the smoke of an ancient campfire, But if Gaia dies because of humanity’s activities, then I will feel badly (would is probably a better choice of word), Devastated, in fact.

      Nature is a miracle beyond comprehension by our little minds, How and where she may be preserved, or even restarted, is way above my payscale. But that we must try is, to me, totally obvious.

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