In the past five hundred years, humanity has moved forward in huge technological strides that are perhaps unparalleled in the history of the Earth. We have not only increased our knowledge base exponentially, but we have also managed to put some of that knowledge into use for the betterment of the lives of the people on Earth. Incredibly, we have even explored the outer reaches of our small planet and visited space. We have conjured up technological marvels that would have been thought of as witchcraft or magic only a millennium ago. Our knowledge has managed to shrink the Earth into the palm of one’s hand, and technology now dares to have every part of lives interconnected in a grand internet of things. However, but, sadly, we have not been able to create or discover a viable alternative to good old mother Earth.
All our interstellar peeks have not revealed to us any other planet capable of supporting life. All our technological acumen has not yet provided a way for us to create another Earth. The best that we can possibly do is a few colonies in the realm of science fiction. The closest we have come to finding another life-sustaining planet is not close at all. There are no planets that are a reasonable distance away from Earth that can be considered a valid option B for us.
These are truths that are evident to every human. Apart from the religious types who are enchanted with the idea of a paradise just beyond the clouds and scared with the idea of a fiery hell just in case the paradise is not convincing enough, the rest of us know that there is no habitable dwelling away from this ball of iron, water and stardust. Even for the religious, you have to wait until you are dead to visit this other home in the sky.
Mars, the most likely candidate for life support still needs some work to figure out exactly why there is no life there now. Was there life before? If so, what happened to it? Was there water on Mars? Is it still there? And if we do indeed confirm that Mars can support life one way or the other, how much of the life on Earth can we expect to reasonably send there? What number would you be on the waiting list if the apocalypse came and Mars was the only refuge?
And yet, humans continue treating the Earth as if there was a planet B, an option to run to when they mess up this one. Every year, we deforest 18 million acres of land1. Every year we dump 8 million tonnes of plastic into our oceans2. We emitted more than 36 billion tonnes of CO2 in 20153. By comparison, in 1900, the total global emissions of CO2 were less than 2 billion tonnes. And not all of these emissions come from the usual ‘suspects’. A significant proportion of our greenhouse gas emissions are a result of industrial scale livestock raring and torture operations.
Yes, we belong to perhaps the most apathetic generation of humans. We have been a devastating and destructive force on this planet. If other species could talk to us, they would no doubt tell us of the good old days when the upright apes were not trying to commit suicide on a global scale. They would tell us of the days when we shared the resources of the forest and still left them a home they could live in. They would of course tell tales of brighter days, not so long ago when the seasons were predictable, and the Sun was a little milder.
Those days are long gone. The beauty, splendor and majesty of the Earth will disappear. Our practices today have made us akin to a virus on the Earth; we keep finding unexploited spots and disrupt them. We bring our ‘modernization’ and ‘civilization’ even to those who do not want it. Capitalism, that engine of perpetual growth, demands more fuel from a planet with finite resources. Soon, the Earth will no longer be habitable for us. And do not kid yourself, there is no plan B. Even if there is, you are probably not important enough to be saved by it. Live responsibly. Live Sustainably.
1. World Wildlife Fund
2. UN Environment
3. Our World In Data