The Green, Green Grass of Mars

A news article today about renowned physicist Stephen Hawking reported another statement by him, more dire than previous statements, that he was convinced that the future of the Human Race is dependent on colonization of outer space.

Stephen Hawking’s warning:

Speaking via live stream this week at the Starmus Festival, Hawking claimed that now is the time to start planning moon colonies, and that Mars should be the immediate successor once we’ve accomplished that. “We are running out of space, and the only place we can go to are other worlds,” Hawking remarked. “It is time to explore other solar systems. Spreading out may be the only thing that saves us from ourselves. I am convinced that humans need to leave Earth.”

Hawking also took the opportunity to lay out what he sees as the biggest risks for mankind’s ultimate survival. Global warming, resource shortages, and overpopulation were all included, and while the award-winning scientist admitted that the idea of venturing to new star systems is not possible at this time, he maintained that Earth is simply not enough for humanity.

I am struggling to accept this view. Indeed, I find it troubling. Admittedly, he has a point – a very strong one. We, on this planet Earth, are in trouble, and we’re digging the hole deeper each and every day. I tend to think that most people will agree, some are willing to consider that the situation needs to be addressed, but few are willing to undertake any significant effort at change – either for themselves or the community they live in.

In the history of Mankind, when there were problems within the “tribe”, or between tribes, it was relatively easy to just pick up and move a safe distance away. That was if one tribe didn’t completely annihilate the other. However, inevitably, we’ve run out of space here on the Mother Ship. In short, the default action of how we address our problem isn’t going to work much longer. However, I’m not convinced that “boldly going where no man has gone before” is going the answer. First, and foremost, we are products of this wonderful environment, and surviving outside it is akin to teaching fish to breath air. That’s not to mention that we do not have the technology at this time to a) travel the required distances, b) know which direction to start traveling, and c) survive the trip or the new home once there. In short, it appears that we’re screwed.

What is wrong with this planet? Nothing, except the people who inhabit it.  The people aren’t all that bad, but their actions are testy. The Earth itself is magnificent, and there’s more than enough for all of us who are here. It’s true, we’re reproducing rapidly. And it’s true, there isn’t “enough” to fill everyone’s wish list given the current standard of desire and acquisition. Aptly stated by Ghandi: “The world has enough for everyone’s need but not enough for everyone’s greed. ” I wonder why Dr. Hawking isn’t selling this concept? Someone of his prominence and persuasion may be able to sway current action into the present environment, not into the vast Cosmic Dust Bowl outside it.

According to core Buddhist principle, all wrong action can be traced to three simple elements: greed, hatred, and delusion. Yes, there’s a fourth: any combination of the above. I’m consistently amazed when I maintain this viewpoint as a thread, and begin to address action. It’s equally amazing to me that these principles were laid down over 2500 years ago, long before we were playing the game with the toys we’re using today. Further, it doesn’t take a Rhodes Scholar to see similar analysis in several other approaches to the Human Condition.

I don’t think that political solutions are the ultimate answer. It’s not that there isn’t a need for political application or approach. However, the politics of Mankind only reflects what’s being held more deeply. Truthfully, the more I age the less certain I am about many things I once took as “gospel”. However, the more I meditate and reflect on the current state of affairs, I’m becoming more and more certain about the following:

  1. Whether we like it or not, whether we want to admit it or not, we are all in this together.
  2. We, as Human Beings, are alone, here, on this Earth, in this Universe, with the problems of our making.

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