Earth is where we make our stand

Through the wonders of TiVo, I have been getting caught up on Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, Neil deGrasse Tyson’s phenomenal reboot of Carl Sagan’s original Cosmos television series. Highly recommended!

That being said, the season finale ends with a pull-back from the Earth as seen from space, with a voice-over from Carl Sagan as he quotes from his book Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space. And as I watched the camera pull back and the Earth slowly recede to a tiny, pale blue dot in sync with Sagan’s eloquent ruminations about life on our lonely little world, my ears caught a sentence that literally made the hair stand up on the back of my neck:

“Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.”

For a variety of reasons, both physical and political, Earth is all we’ve got. There is no Moon base. There are no colonies on Mars. No prospectors out in the asteroid belt; no brave explorers on Titan or Europa. Other than a couple of trips to the Moon over forty years ago, the only exploration of other worlds we have engaged in have been constrained to the wanderings of a few robots, and our imagination. Indeed, should the Koch brothers and their ilk succeed in turning the Earth into a facsimile of Venus, the only record of our existence as a species will be that contained on the Voyager spacecraft that just crossed the boundary of our Solar System. All that will be left of us, the totality of everything humanity has ever done or been, will be what is recorded on a couple of 12-inch, gold plated copper disks containing sounds and images of life on this planet as it existed back in the mid-1970’s: before the Internet; before the Space Shuttle; before the International Space Station, before iPhones; before Facebook and Twitter; before blogs, before the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the cold war; before the election of the first black American president; before most everything we take for granted in society today.

Like it or not, Earth is where we make our stand. We have no other choice.

This is our home; our only home. And on our only home, we have explored and inhabited nearly every place we can set foot. There are no more unexplored continents for us to plunder or run to when the food and water run out. We are currently exhausting all known sources of food and water. There are no more unspoiled lands for us to migrate to; we are currently spoiling all known lands. If our descendants will be forced to migrate to greener pastures due to rising oceans and expanding deserts, those greener pastures that remain will already be inhabited by people who will probably not be too happy to see them arrive. The traditional response to invasion has not been opened arms, but war and blood.

Thus, Earth is where we make our stand.

There is no more room for error here. There are no more chances left. If we do not get it right this time, then it is all downhill from here. We are taking from the Earth more than she can give, and unless we can somehow learn to live within the budget she can provide us, then equilibrium will eventually reassert itself whether we want it or not. In tears.

Earth is where we make our stand.

The human condition is such that we can visualize the easy path, but invariably choose the hard one. We have known for decades that our current path as a civilization is unsustainable, but we have collectively chosen to plunder ahead anyway. And now there are no more easy choices. We are beyond simply choosing to recycle, or turning the thermostat down in the winter, or shutting off the lights when we leave the room, or using less water, or driving less. Yes, those choices matter. But we are beyond that now. The choices before us now are not how we can keep things going as is, but how we can keep things going at all. Soon, and sooner than most people think, the choices available to us will only reside in fantasy, because the reality will be beyond what we can technologically achieve.

Earth is where we make our stand.

The changes we have already baked into the Earth’s bio-system will push many—if not most, if not all—of our civilizations to and beyond the breaking point. As a species, we have never had to deal with a catastrophe simultaneously effecting everyone, everywhere.  Localized, yes. Globally, no. There is literally nowhere left to run, nowhere left to hide from the results of our hubris.

Earth is where we make our stand.

Realize this: there are no gods willing to save us from ourselves no matter how hard we pray or sacrifice. Google will not save us with their robots. No iPhone app is going to magically make this go away. The future of our civilization, our collective hopes and dreams, the lives of our children and their children, the long tapestry of our species, written and yet written, are all predicated on where we stand, right here, right now.

Earth is where we make our stand. Are you ready?

2 Comments

Filed under Climate Change

2 responses to “Earth is where we make our stand

  1. A wonderful treatise to Humanism, my friend!

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