‘Abandon Earth’: More Faulty Thinking by Top Scientists E-mail
Wednesday, 16 February 2011 00:00  |  Written by Charleen Touchette | Blog Entry

Maman’s Terrified Scream photo and art by Charleen TouchetteWhen I was a schoolgirl, President Kennedy said, “We stand on the edge of a New Frontier,” and directed our young eyes to the stars and promise of the space program. We drank Tang like the astronauts as we sat on the edge of our rec-room sofas with our eyes glued to news coverage of every space launch from Cape Canaveral. We grew up watching Star Trek and introduced our children to Star Wars, rarely questioning why anyone would want to leave the beauty of walking free on this Earth to be restricted in a space suit, confined in a metal cylinder, surrounded by uninhabitable space.

In October of 1962, the nuns at school told us that President Kennedy was going to make an important speech about an imminent nuclear attack. We were told to put our heads under our desks and look away in the event of a nuclear blast. We felt firsthand the fear caused when science and projecting metal cylinders are used for destruction.

That was nearly 50 years ago. In the decades since, some pursued the trash-and-abandon-Earth mentality with further alienation from the natural world, while others, more quietly, walked a path of reconnecting with the Earth, its animals and plants. Many looked to our grandparents and ancestors to remember and relearn a more balanced way of life that replenished the Earth instead of abusing and then abandoning it for Space.

Today, top scientists warn that we should prepare to “abandon Earth” since “our aging sun will expand and swallow the earth.” When? In about 7.6 billion years.

"I believe that the long-term future of the human race must be in space,” theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking tells Big Think. "It will be difficult enough to avoid disaster on planet Earth in the next hundred years, let alone the next thousand, or million.”

In addition to climate change and the chance of destruction by a supernova, asteroid or black hole, Hawking cites the Cuban Missile Crisis as an example of humanity narrowly escaping extinction and points out that the threat of nuclear  annihilation persists—with more than 22,000 nuclear weapons around the world and 7,770 still operational.

While Hawking is undoubtedly one of the most brilliant minds of our time, his reasoning is faulty because it advocates crisis thinking for a disaster that could be a moment or billions of years away from happening. Would that Hawking would wrap his brilliant mind around solutions to eliminate the threat of nuclear weapons, to living sustainably on this planet, and realigning science and technology with the already brilliant perfect workings of the living Earth and universe.

While other scientists caution those who plan on inhabiting space when the sun dies, they limit their reasons to the scientific impossibility of human life surviving travel to the nearest star, Proxima Centauri, 4.2 light years from Earth. None offer strategies and technology to change the unsustainable practices stressing our home planet or to neutralize the destructive weapons that threaten our survival.

Return to the Earth photo and art by Charleen TouchetteBig Think’s Andrew Dermott sums up the “abandon Earth” philosophy this way: “One way or another, the life on Earth will likely become uninhabitable for mankind in the future. We need to start seriously thinking about how we will free ourselves from the constraints of this dying planet.”

Or not. Before packing for outer space, consider the indigenous alternative. Look around and see that people and communities continue to practice sustainable lifeways that grow food and replenish the Earth as their ancestors have done for thousands of years. Indigenous people love the Earth like a relative. The idea of leaving the Earth where their ancestors walked and are buried is incomprehensible.

In 1854, Chief Seattle wrote, “The white man’s dead forget the country of their birth when they go to walk among the stars. Our dead never forget this beautiful Earth, for it is the mother of the red man. We are part of the Earth and it is part of us.”

“The earth is the mother of all people,” said Chief Joseph of the Nez Percé.

Indigenous thinking teaches caring for the Earth with the seventh generation in mind. The Earth gives us everything we need and we have a responsibility to live in balance with it—and to preserve its land, water and air for future generations. Instead of dreaming of abandoning it and escaping to space, abandon the confines of house, factory and office and escape back to the Earth to replenish yourself and it with thanksgiving and planting.

If we take our responsibility seriously to make decisions with the seventh generation in mind and teach our children and grandchildren to replenish rather than abandon Earth, we can rely on those 7.6 billion years in the future to do the same for their seventh generation.

Additional resources:
Stephen Hawking
Dr. Katherine Freese
From the Heart: Voices of the American Indian
Honor the Earth
Indigenous Women’s Network

Comments (2)add
Written by Charleen Touchette , February 16, 2011
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Written by Rick , February 16, 2011
Nature is the greatest scientist. It has been performing experiments for millennia. The results have informed its creation of the perfect abode for us. We need to respect its wisdom if we wish to survive.
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