Stephen Hawking is a rather famous physicist. He has become a household name, primarily for his work on black holes and their radiation and for one of his books, “A Brief History of Time”. He has gotten well known enough that he goes on several speaking engagements each year, and the thing is that more than just scientists come to hear him talk. Due to this popularity and his wide reach, when he makes a prediction about how long mankind has left on earth people tend to listen. And he has made such a prediction, giving humanity about one thousand years left on our home planet.
He is basing this on a number of worrying factors, to include climate change, nuclear weapons and even genetically engineered viruses. Any or all of these has the power to wipe mankind from the face of existence. But Dr. Hawking isn’t totally doom and gloom. He has put forth the idea that we can survive as a species if we take to the stars and colonize other planets. While none of what he said is new or ground breaking, when it comes from someone such as he, people tend to sit up and listen.
Now the question comes up, is taking to the stars even a possibility at this point? Luckily for us with a thousand year lead up time we are not scrambling at the last minute or just accepting that we are doomed. We have time to make dreams of building colonies on other worlds a reality. There are those who believe that we have the technology to start another colony at this point. Many space agencies around the planet are looking at the idea of sending humans to Mars, some with plans to explore and return and others with a goal to start the first outposts.
There has been a lot of studying and dry runs. NASA in particular has had people spend a year sealed into a dome here on Earth to run a test of living on Mars. They have done all that is possible to give those inside the same types of situations that they would find on the red planet. Forcing them to reuse the water they took with them and even having the appropriate delay on any messages that are sent from those in the doom to their teams to simulate the time delay of communications from another world. So far it looks promising, but it won’t be without peril or cost.
And those that highlight just what it would cost point to the fact that putting a timeline on mankind to go extinct here leaves far too many variables in play. Some scientist would argue that each of the things that Dr. Hawking has listed as drivers can be contained and we will be able to live through.
The biggest one that many people are concerned about is global warming. We are at a point that most scientists seem to agree that mankind is having an influence on the climate on a global scale. The problem is that if we raise the world-wide temperature a few degrees then ocean levels can rise by as much as 20 feet which would radically change the face of the Earth as we know it. However, there is plenty that we can do to stave off that disaster.
Many will point to sustainable living as what will save us. The idea behind it is that we need to do what we can to keep things going as they are well into the future. Instead of burning coal or using nuclear plants for energy swapping over to things like solar and wind would be the more sustainable choice. For farming it would mean less reliance on chemicals to grow more food, but use old fashion techniques.
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