In the Vast Universe, There’s
Just One Place for All of Us
Good news for those planning on catching that last rocket out of Earth: you may take my seat. After careful consideration, I decided that I’m not booking that flight. The upside is that I was never really good at packing light. Or committing to a one-way ticket to anywhere.
But don’t get me wrong. Neither I gave up on having a pulse, nor I’m now for comfort over smelling new sights, even it takes smelling bad for months too. Trust me, shreds of my soul would fill the backpacks of those pioneers-slash-refugees boarding the spaceship to a new Terra.
Recent news that not one, but three new exoplanets have potential to surrogate us may have pricked up beaten ears, tired of the minor chords of our final symphony: warmer years, rising tides, growing masses of the starved and homeless. Those who can’t stand this one-note samba, are ready to rock. Ciao.
I wouldn’t maximize my cards just yet, even if this is no figure of speech: collectors have chased me for years. Also, I’m in no rush to make snide comments about silly fools, hahaha, building a fleet toward a breathable future. For it’s what may actually happens.
One thing seems probable: the last to embark will be the hardest at work to make such exodus an option, not an escape plan. And even as a dwindling bunch – hey, who can put up with so many storms before jumping ship? – their wishes match that of the most hospitable place we’ve ever known: right here.
By the way, I’m not one to believe that we’ll be missed. It’s likely that every species, along with nature itself, will be cheering our departure, and the very conditions that made us possible will heal and thrive once we’re out of the picture. Without us, they’ll all do just fine. But with us, chances are that Earth will look like Mars in less than a century.
LIKE PATCHING UP THE TITANIC
Which is as much faith as I’d put on us as anyone would about a virus: it’s ancient, no one knows where it comes from, it’s lethal, and when it leaves, people throw their hands up and give praise. And yet, even viruses can be beneficial, I know, but tell that to those who got on their way. So, am I saying we’re good as plagues? you damned right I am.
That being said, for as long as I breathe I’ll be partial to those fighting for reversing the clock. They used to practice (more)
* The Undreamed World
* Worlds Away
* Red Shift
by an actual atomic clock, which despite their efforts, still remains frighteningly close to a midnight doomsday. They’re now measuring glacial melting and water levels, gauging heavy metals in the air and carbon from fossils in the ground. Bless their hearts, for all the good, and dirty, work they do.
It is like watching paint dry but hold your laughs. After all, the thought of building a ship to take us all away from this fuzzy ball would be hilarious just a few decades ago. Now look at us. Still driven to survive even if it costs all else around us. But realistically, we’re no closer to take off than James Cook was to return to England in 1779.
THE NEW ARK’S MANIFEST
For let’s check the facts, so far. First there’s that obscene one-way ticket. Forget for a moment future light-years-long trips. Consider Mars, around the corner from the Moon; it’d be six months, tops or a bit longer, but all and all, a snap. Or the first murder in space. Unless, of course, you’ll be unconscious. Or are a monk or something.
Who should go, willingly? Athletes, perhaps, trained to endure harsh conditions of an unknown planet? Couples, but they will argue. Or even babies, in which case, we should also prepare for a future surge in matricides and fratricides. For wait until those teens find out whose idea was it to send them to ‘this place.’
England once sent non-volunteers, i.e., outcasts and criminals, on a similar trek, and out of a scorched outback, they’ve built Australia. Not bad. Today we’d send politicians and they’d wreck the place. They got to be rocket scientists too. And many, for Osteosporosis and radiation will cut down numbers to a fraction.
A SPACEPORT FAR FAR AWAY
The biggest challenge is indeed our short lifespan. That there may be 40 billion Earth-like planets only in the Milk Way is not hard to conceive; just a matter of stats. Of these, though, only a small percentage are within the Goldilocks zone, where conditions are ideal for human survival.
But then, stats turn viciously against us: of these, only six are within a 20-light-years radius from here. Which means that they can be reached in a generation, maybe, with our currently fastest rocket. Then what? We can’t have 50-somethings in charge of starting a new civilization.
So something else is still amiss to make that a valid alternative to life in this valley of tears. Maybe later, I’d say, feigning optimism. At this point, even getting back to the Moon would be an odyssey mankind hasn’t undertaken since, well, that time we went to the Moon. And some even doubt that.
ULISSES IS STAYING IN TONIGHT
The appeal of salvation coming from above is too strong an idea, though. Thus the latest discovery landed effortless on the headlines of every major world paper. Forget it, though: they sit at a forbidden 40-light years away. Only catching a ride on a UFO. The odds of even you-know-who coming back to Earth beats us getting there.
Wouldn’t be better to focus our aim at fixing this planet, then? What? Wouldn’t be even better to be able to fly? Once we get a crazy idea inside our skulls, it’s hard to dislodge it, and some think that that’s a good thing. Maybe. Better yet is to dream, and that we do too.
But we can’t control them either. Of all the nice ones, about a future of living among the stars, we got stuck with drones and cellphones, and nary a car in the sky. We’ll find a way, sure. But it may take longer than the light of the Supernova, that shone 1,012 years ago this month, took to reach the Earth.
(*) Originally published on May 4, 2016.