The number of serious problems confronting the world at large today
continues to grow, and become ever more difficult to manage with each
passing day. The human race seems to be having a full-scale adolescent style
crisis. If we do not soon emerge in fair shape, we may face something much
worse than a worldwide depression -- a new Dark Ages. How long that would
last and to what depths we might sink, dragging our host biosphere with us,
cannot be known.
Population growth is outstripping our ability to access available resources
at the standard of living levels with which we in the Developed World have
become all too comfortable. Maintaining energy use at customary levels and
maintaining the present state of “health” of the environment are beginning
to look like either-or choices.
Poverty is on the rise in many areas, even in First World Nations. There is
no end to a list of pressing top level concerns. Solutions requiring
investment in one area, make investment in other areas harder to support.
Are we caught in an “end of times” downward
I think we need to take a look at just who we are, just where we came from,
how we fit into the scheme of things as a people. If we can get a better
insight into these things, we will have made a big step in putting the
problems in the right context to begin to see solutions.
Most people consider our planet to be the only context in which we can
understand our origins, our present history, and our future. One hears
remarks such as “we need to find solutions to terrestrial problems right
here on our home world, not out there somewhere.” Well, quite frankly, it’s
too late for that. Our “home world” was Africa, and modern man has been on
the move to wherever our developing technology would take us for at least
80,000 years. Our world used to be flat, but now we all consider it global.
While few realize it, when man first set footsteps on another world, the
“world” as a continuum of human horizons shattered that global limit
forever; with that first step we became children of the Sun.
On every new frontier, we faced a new set of resources, of food sources, of
climate conditions, of life-threatening dangers. Each time our great
resourcefulness earned us the comfort of becoming “at home” in previously
unforgiving, danger-fraught alien territory.
Backup a few steps to the real "Genesis." Of all the various elements of
which our bodies are composed, only hydrogen is primeval. [Primeval helium
is not found in living tissues, biochemical molecules, and substances.] All
the higher elements have been forged in the interiors of stars which, at the
end of their lifetimes, have exploded as “novas” scattering their enriched
debris throughout the universe. It is from such “salted” gas and dust clouds
that new stars began to form with attendant rocky worlds.
Genesis has it only half right. It should
“Of stardust thou art,
And to the stars thou shalt return.”
Too many people think of Mother Earth alone. But where would we be without
the Sun's light and warmth! Where would the Sun be without the countless
older larger stars that ended their lives in a life-giving explosion? The
Sun is but the most locally prominent part of Father Sky. Mother Earth and
Father Sky are an inseparable pair. Together
they constitute the holistic human environment. Without both, our
existence and subsistence would be unthinkable. Nor can it be under-stood,
preserved, enhanced, have a trans-adolescent future. We are children not
just of Earth, not just of the Solar System, but of the Universe. “Mother
Nature” is more comprehensive than “Mother Earth.”
In that context, the suggestion that all solutions to our problems must be
found here on Earth is not only wrong, but ignorant, stupid, self-defeating.
Frankly, it is doctrinaire smelling of “orthodoxy.”
Looking outward, the Moon shares Earth’s orbit about the Sun. It is ours, a
hinterland continent with resources for us to access and use. It is Earth’s
Yes, we have major energy, environmental, and social problems, all complexly
interlinked. If accessing resources from space can help in any useful way in
dealing with these crises, then assertions that we should look beneath our
feet for all solutions becomes a cult of ignorance. And beyond the Moon are
other resource-rich bodies, the asteroids, comets, and everything else in
our Sun’s considerable family.
Now the Environment seen as Earth alone, is clearly susceptible to the
exponentially increasing effects of inhabitation by an excreting
technological species. But what about the Environment seen as including
“Father Sky?” The Solar System is, by terrestrial standards, very vast. Is
it possible that we could in any sense pollute that larger ecosphere?
Perhaps. Extensive use of mass drivers used to move small bodies such as
asteroids, if the exit velocity were to be within a certain velocity range,
could create small, limited but dangerous streams of pressure
vessel-rupturing shot. Our possible negative effects on the solar
environment are, however, hard to assess at this time. Let us hope our
successors will be on alert.
On the positive side, Earth Life will accompany us as we spread the
continuum of our presence beyond Earth’s atmosphere. Sure, we could process
some sort of Solyent Green nutrient to make it unnecessary to bring with us
sustaining plant life. I will be most happy to have lived out my life in
this “more primitive” age in such a case. The oasis of life that sustains
us, is, in our opinion, not something to be outgrown.
Do we share the Universe
Looking out further, while the Moon seems to be barren, sterile, Mars may or
may not be. But at best, any Martian life is stunted at a very low rung up
the ladder of life. Around Jupiter, Europa’s extensive ice covered global
ocean hides mysteries about which we can as yet only wonder. The same may be
so for other ice-covered moons of Jupiter and Saturn.
We know of advanced multicellular structured life forms only here on Earth.
Are we alone? As mammals? as intelligent environment-modifying creatures?
Many easy, flippant answers display an incredible ignorance of how very vast
the universe is, not only in space, but also in time. No matter how rare
“other” fertile “earths” may be percentage wise -- e.g. “one in a billion”
-- the universe is so vast that there must be hundreds, even thousands of
billions of other civilizations throughout quadrillions of cubic light years
and through the most recent two thirds of the time since our universe seems
to have come of age. That said, our nearest “contemporary” neighbor
might lie beyond the distance in both space and time within which there
could be any meaningful interaction or exchange.
At any rate, it is most likely that the Universe is multiply fertile on a
Humans and the Universe?
“Go and fill the world” in this expanded sense, begins to take on an
interstellar connotation. Technology may limit us to much less than that.
Some worlds will be able to support native born flowerings of life such as
has Earth. Others may be able to support the beginnings of life, but not
allow it to get much further. Others still may have all the needed resources
but not the environmental conditions. Some grand beginnings will occur on
planets whose suns are too short-lived to allow the full flowering such as
that has happened here on Earth.
And there perhaps is our ultimate Genesis mission: to sow life where it
could not have arisen on its own; to advance life where local conditions
have held its evolution in check; to speed up evolution where the local Sun
may be too short-lived. See “Welcome-Mat Worlds”, MMM #45, May 1991,
reprinted in MMM Classic #5, pp. 25-28 – at http://www.moonsociety.org/publications/mmm_classics/
It is not mankind that is called to return home to the stars, but Earthlife,
Gaia herself. Earth-life cannot reproduce itself elsewhere on its own. Thus,
with no apology to those whom the following makes them squeamish, an
intelligent dominant species can be seen as the reproductive organ of its
planetary Biosphere. Through us alone, can Earth-life, Gaia, Mother Earth
spread beyond its current limits. Father Sky calls us to this pilgrimage
home. It calls us to fulfill the destiny of Mother Earth, and in the process
tap full endowments of the Mother Earth - Father Sky union, to save Mother
Earth from the ill effects of our technological adolescence. Someday, when
our civilization has become more adult, we will be Solarians, children of
the Solar System.
As noted, our species is not originally “Terran” but African. We have been
on an epic journey of expansion to one frontier after another, to one
continent after the other as we crossed the seas of Earth. Earth's Moon,
stress on Earth's, is another continent of Greater Earth across another kind
of sea. To stop now, in the belief that the world cannot be more than round,
a belief as mistaken as the one that held the world to be flat, would be to
turn our backs on ourselves, on our origins, on our destiny. We must not
hide our light under the basket of Earth’s defining atmosphere. We must
continue to develop the depths of our given talents. We can only do that by
accepting the challenge to keep pioneering new frontiers. What other way to
continue to give praise and glory to the creative forces which have forged
Those of us who want to look outwards for help with Earth’s intractable
problems, are environmentalists too. But we see “environment” as a much
larger bi-parental context. Our origin is on flat plains of Africa. Our
destination is wherever our pilgrimage to keep on exploring our hidden given
potential will take us. "Of Stardust thou art, to the Stars you shalt
Mother Earth is not a spinster but wed to
Father Sky. Her terrestrial brood is but the first. We must reject
the demands for terrestrial solutions to terrestrial problems. We must
educate others to the much vaster space-time context in which we have come
into being, and within which our future lies. Our
Environmentalism must be holistic to be effective.