Wednesday, July 21, 2010

So just how long do we have anyway?

More news today from China.  No, not about the UFO wave (although there are updates on that front.  Check the comments section of the corresponding post.)  This time it is yet another oil spill.  Here are a few photos from it.
Looks like something from Dante's Inferno, doesn't it?  Or perhaps one of William S. Burroughs' more fevered trips.  It hijacked my emotional status and turned it to one of exceptional pessimism. 

Sure, I'll give you a moment to recover from the shock of reading that.

The end of the world.  Unless you're a hardcore survivalist or a religious whackjob, most people don't like to think about it.  In fact, they'll deny its very inevitability or claim that we are a very smart species (due to Divine mandate they usually assert) and that somebody will eventually figure out how to repair all the damage we've done.  There may indeed be things we can do, ranging from altruistic "green" efforts to quirky new concepts such as "hacking the planet," reprogramming the Earth's "source code" as it were and getting geology under our thumbs.  There might even be an eco-disaster on the scale of 9/11 in terms of social impact.  Then these environmental efforts would get kicked into overdrive and you'd really start to see things happen.
For a while.  But just how much longer can our world support a greedy, short-sighted, warlike species such as ourselves?  That is to say nothing of the external dangers.  There are any number of asteroid bodies that could slam into us (although there may be an app for that one day or so they say) or a new strain of virus could emerge to which we have no defense against.  What to do?
I'm often asked about UFOs and why aliens would want to come here.  I reply that there are a few schools of thought on that subject, but in reality I don't know.  What I do strongly suspect is that these aliens are unlikely to intervene in our struggles in either of the Hollywood extremes.  We will not awake one day to saucers capping our major cities before laying waste to them like Independence Day.  We will not be contacted by messianic figures like in The Day the Earth Stood Still, who will have a message of peace for us and give us technology beyond our most intricate designs, thereby ushering in a neo-utopian era.  Whatever they want from our planet, be that DNA, surveillance, or satisfaction of their anal fetishes, they will likely take it and then leave.  To those who view the UFO phenomenon as a sort of "spiritual contact" with those who may deliver us, I say "don't expect any handouts."  We, to them, must appear as a hopeless cause.  And they must be quite content to leave us to our little contaminated sandbox and perhaps even take steps to make certain we never escape from it and bring our stench out into the cosmos.

Except that's exactly where we need to be.  When a duck's pond becomes grimy and polluted, that duck will pick up and find another pond.  That is what humans will need to do as well if our species is to survive.  Our "ponds" will have to be Mars, the Moon, perhaps even asteroids or the moons of the gas giants.  There are a growing number of scientists who have expressed this, among them Stephen Hawking.  It will mean a herculean amount of research and an even greater amount of money.  We will have to determine how to most feasibly get out there, then how to not just survive but to prosper, and perhaps even how to technologically augment our bodies and evolve completely into the posthuman form, taking our soft, squishy selves and transforming them into survival machines.  Life down here must move out there.  It's that simple.
The question is when the mainstream public will realize this.  As I mentioned it will take a great deal of money.  Given the actions of Wall Street in the past few years, this isn't the sort of "profit venture" they'd go in for.  Really makes me wish we could somehow get all the money back that was spent on the senseless invasion of Iraq and through Cheney-like prestidigitation, fund colonization research.  Wistful thinking, I know, but still...
If nothing else, just think of the opportunities we'll have in colonizing another planet.  We can now completely screw up someplace else altogether.  Viva variety.

Now playing: David Bowie, Aladdin Sane

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  1. Interesting thoughts. I tend to look at our human impact on the world more in the sense that we are simply changing it, not destroying it. It all depends on how you look at it. You can clear out an area of forest and build a housing development. Yes, you destroyed one environment but you replaced it with another one. Some people have an idea that where nature exists it should be preserved just how it is. Others look at it and say, let's make it different, more suited to our needs.

    One one hand, trying to preserve a natural habitat gives us the ability to study it and try to learn why the squirrels like those nuts so much and how many centipedes there are per square meter of ground and these obersvations can be beneficial to our understanding of ourselves and life in general. On the other, why not create a new ecosystem and see how that works out? We can study that just as well and it could be better than the last one. I'm not saying let's bulldoze the national parks to make malls and sub divisions but change is not always bad.

    Overall I think our impact on the world has been pretty minimal. Have you ever seen the show, "Life After People"? I think that show gives a good interpretation of how fast the natural world would reclaim all of our changes, which in geological time, would be a very short time. The Earth is actually far more capable of damaging the enviroment with volcanic activity that we are with all of our industrial accidents.

    Nature has a way of healing itself. We are part of nature, even if we don't want to admit it. Skipping ahead to your next post, Mars is just a bad comparison because we just don't know enough about it. We are only fascinated with it for lack of alternatives. It is the closest planet to Earth that we know so we try to project Earth's environment on it because we don't know any better.

  2. Good to see you back, David.
    I will agree with you one thing for certain: geology and weather can dish out far more destruction than we can. You have heard of the Gaia Theory? That the Earth is one single organism composed of interconnected sub-ecosystems? When something gets out of balance and begins to act as an infection, such as humans, the Earth fights back just as our body would and attempts to eradicate the threat. Not sure I believe it, but aspects of it have a logic to it.
    Just in case I did, I don't mean to come off as a tree hugging hippie. I grew up on heavy metal and punk rock. I used to wear combat boots and I've never even touched a pair of sandals in my life. "Getting back to nature" is not my idea of a good time and a world without concrete and steel is not my kind of place.
    But I do love animals. I do care about having a healthy world. I believe, as it sounds like you do, that we can find "green" ways to strike a balance.