Humans are Harmful

Reason the First: Humans are Harmful

This post is Part 2 in a 5 Part series about why space travel should be made a priority by
governments, world leaders, private companies, engineers, scientists, and teachers. Click here to read Part 1.  Follow my blog or follow me on Twitter @jajaamanda to be alerted when
the next one is up!

Trash in the pacific ocean. Photo Credit
It's been in the news a lot lately: weird weather brought on by global warming, massive amounts of floating trash in the pacific ocean, Japan's compromised nuclear power plant leaking radiation all over the planet, dying bees, dwindling rainforests, disappearing habitats and animal species....

We are squandering the wealth of our planet and leaving our trash in its corners.

Maybe I've watched Wall-e a few too many times, but what if human impact is too far gone, and the Earth is irredeemable? What if we can't get it back? We'll need somewhere to go, or perish.

Part of what makes humans successful is that we're adaptable.

But perhaps we're too adaptable. If an ecosystem in nature can support X amount of animals, then any animals more than that die from lack of food, or are picked off by predators. And Nature prunes carefully. It is the sick, the young, and the old who die first from starvation, are first targeted by predators. It is those with inferior genetic code that are eliminated. The population regulates itself naturally.

Humans, on the other hand, are equipped to avoid pitfalls like this. We protect and heal our sick and young. We are both predator and prey, but we have super-powers. There is no prey we cannot catch. There is no predator that can diminish our numbers in any real way. If our food sources dwindle, we can create high-yield crops. There is nothing to prevent us swarming over the Earth and destroying everything in our path, like the plague of mice in Australia. (If you haven't heard of this, I recommend checking it out. It's crazy.)

We're in the middle of a Green revolution right now. We are beginning to realize that we are damaging the Earth that sustains us.

But what if we are too late? What if there is no way to bring us back? What if we replace every light bulb in the world, but Nature still deteriorates?
An artist's rendering of Gliese 581g.
Or what if our wars escalate, and we destroy the earth by nuclear holocaust?

Well. We'll need to escape.

It sounds fantastic. It sounds like a movie. Something that only happens on sound stages and comes from the minds of storytellers and animators.

But crazier things have happened. (I do live in America, right? No one fell off the edge of the world when they sailed out into the unknown?) 
And if our planet is destroyed, space may be our only escape.

And according to Discovery News, scientists have identified an earth-like planet a mere 20 light years away that seems like it could support life. Her name is Gliese 581g, and she could be our future home.  They can't yet measure specifics about the planet with the current technology, (more about pushing technology in the next post) but our solar systems are similar, which means the conditions planet-side could also be similar. And more recently, according to Space.com, "French scientists verify alien planet Gliese 581d's climate is stable and warm enough for oceans, clouds and rainfall."

In fact, there may already be life there. "'Personally, given the ubiquity and propensity of life to flourish wherever it can, I would say that the chances for life on this planet are 100 percent. I have almost no doubt about it,' Steven Vogt, professor of astronomy and astrophysics at University of California Santa Cruz," said on Discovery.com.

It's like a furnished house, just waiting for us to move in, if, in fact, we can get ourselves there. It IS 20 light years away, so even if we could go the speed of light (which you can't, the speed of light is a constant, so no matter how fast you go, it's still going faster than you.) I'd be 44 by the time I got there, if I left tomorrow morning. But if it is to save the entire human race, I'm not sure I'd mind a few generations in space. (There are logistical problems with this, but as you'll see next, a little Hawaiian squid is helping us smooth out the kinks.) 
And Gliese 581d doesn't have days or nights or seasons. We'd have to find a different way to keep track of time, if time is relevant at all on a planet that doesn't have days.

We would certainly have to take care not to lose our cultural identity, and to carefully study history so that we can avoid destroying Gliese 581d like we could Earth.  Our priorities would have to shift significantly.

Still, it doesn't seem like the far-off dream it once was. And it might be our best bet.

Part 3: The Science! The Science!

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