“It’s been hot lately, the weather reports coming out of the San Francisco desert are surprising. 137 in the day, 24 degrees or lower at night! Old Evans said that the concrete shafts of the Trans-America pyramid are starting to expand and contract so much that you can hear cracking off in the Oakland shelters.” -conversation overheard in 2042
Our sun is the same sun that has shined throughout the epochs of human existence. The 300,000 years of the human story have seen many ups and downs, with weather shifting and continents grinding upon each others plates, uplifting coastlines and erupting volcanic chasms- birthing new lands for man to spread his pollen to. We have adapted, as the gift of evolution allows, to the geologic changing of the guard. In short we weathered the weather.
But nothing like the current rapid destruction of the Earth’s climate had ever happened before; the human species, with our endless inventiveness, has created a world where the balance of nature has been spiked far outside of equilibrium. We have started a journey to a new world, a world not suitable to mankind.
Trillions of tons of carbon dioxide have been pumped continuously into our atmosphere, vast swaths of the Amazon rain forest, once our best carbon sifting shield, have been burned to the ground to host bovine life for our insatiable appetite for cheeseburgers (their methane leaks into the sky also increasing the Greenhouse Effect). Where once only a handful of erect humanoids wandered the plains of mother Africa, now crawl seven Billion humans all across the face of our planet.
We have wandered far and our seed is strong. But, like all of the great stories spoken or written over millennial, we are reticent in remembering the lessons of history. We grew strong and we built machines to make our lives better, but did not comprehend the byproducts of our creating. The Industrial Revolution brought us steam engines, it brought us increased material wealth, and by long extrapolation it brought us better health, longer lives, and untold increases in the amount of power we leverage as a species. From walking on two legs, to wheeled horse-carts, to automobiles, to giant rockets putting humans on the Moon…we have much to be proud of.
But we also have much to ashamed of. We have created vast inequalities of wealth between the richest and the poorest. The political divisions of the planet are stronger than ever, and the once lofty dream of a United Nations is a moldering mote from the eye of yesterday. Humankind figured out how to unleash the power of the atom, and promptly used it to build weapons of incalculable evil. My country, the United States, once stood for liberty and human rights, instead we use robotic drones to murder our own citizens without due process or recourse to our beloved Constitution. Our corporations threaten to become citizens, risking the very last spark of democracy, ready to dunk the light of liberty’s lamp into black seas of greed and slavery.
The current end game posits that the very things that make our lives better are dooming our world and its other lifeforms to destruction. The nations of the so called “third world” stand by waiting for their chance at claiming a piece of the prize, China and India are rapidly becoming world powers that desire what America and Europe have had for so long: dominion. But what good is hegemony on a world where death out performs life, where the air you breath can kill you, where the art of science is being perverted into constant consumer relations? Our species greed can appear boundless. Our desire to effect meaningful change can turn on a dime.
I believe however that the human race can over come these dire straits. I stand on the summit overlooking a world where the bright eyes of the young strain to look up to the heights of what our race has achieved. The world can be cleaned up, we can minimize the destruction and even, through our combined efforts, repair some of the damage done to our ecosystems. On the drawing boards of thousands of researchers, college students, doe-eyed dreamers, and hopeless romantics, sit plans to fix the problems we have created. There is hope.
Because one day, on a strange and beautiful planet orbiting Alpha Centauri, a young woman will make humankind’s first steps on a world not of our sun.
She will look around her, enraptured by discovery, but secure in the knowledge that her planet, Earth, was still more beautiful. She’ll be intoxicated by the idea of how far we’ve come and yet how far we still have to travel.