habitable zone: habitable zones, Photograph, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online, accessed February 28, 2013, http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/media/143102/The-habitable-zones-for-stars-that-are-like-the-Sun
Orderly Solar System
As the search for extra solar planets reaches dizzying counts, one may at times wonder why we are located in this particular galactic habitable zone. I am assuming that by the mid-point of 2013, the tally of extra solar planets may well be 800, if not greater. And, in each instance of an extra solar planet, we may not possess the ability to say much about the planet—at least beyond what can be discerned by detection. Is all that cosmos beyond our Solar System—a vast waste of space? Many astrophysicists wonder to themselves, if Earth seems to be teeming with many varieties of life—then where is everyone else? As the famous anecdote goes: Enrico Fermi posed the question to his colleagues one day—and no one knows the answer. Will we be able to answer that question in our own lifetime? It seems murky, at best. As there may well be two sides in the debate of life beyond our Solar System—there is an equally vociferous line for initiating any type of contact. Why? Xenophobia? Possibly? Will we be subjugated? Who knows? The point being, if we cannot detect them, maybe they can’t detect us, either. The analogy sounds weak—I am sorry to say.
Our current state of technology does not allow us to travel very far outside of the Solar System (the Voyagers 1 and 2 may not reach “true” interstellar space for another decade). Using current technology, in the wake of a calamity, humanity would take multiple lifetimes to reach another, known habitable zone. Admittedly, the scenario sounds nightmarish. However, as most scientists will admit, life on our planet will not always be idyllic. And, within our children’s lifetime, global warming will be a major problem. It is obvious to me that humanity will undergo major growing pains within the current century if we do not learn to manage the planet’s affairs.
Stewardship with creative efficiency is the first task, and understanding our need to leave a sustainable legacy for our children’s children should be a driving principle as we depart for the next habitable zone.
Unfortunately, most of what I have said sounds rather nebulous and somewhat idealistic; however, a casual observer might concur in the following manner. As a species we don’t have much of a choice, and maintaining current behavioral patterns is ill-advised and dangerous.
At this point, a miracle happens?
As I loosely quote the self-help literature: revolutionary changes in technology and human behavior result from extraordinary changes in group behavior. In my mind’s eye, there are three driving forces in humanity’s history. Evolution, unforeseen natural phenomena, and cultural events seemingly are intertwined. Taken alone, none can affect positive change and may, individually, be viewed as statistical outliers. Isolation, seemingly, cannot affect group behavior—one outstanding example is the Pythagorean society of ancient Greece. I only know of one shining legacy which was left by their time on the planet, and their demise was by their own hand. If there was ever a point in ancient human history which cries for justice, that qualifies as one—but there are literally hundreds (if not millions of tragic moments).
Our humanity may have started in Africa many, many millennia ago, but from whence did we really originate—it readily cannot be said. It is an important question, and we need to understand that our existence is fragile. Life, however, is not so fragile—we have learned much of the intermediate steps on the path towards evolutionary maturation. Yet, as we cooperate with one another behind virtual walls and with objectified technology, the planet grows smaller—the need for true physical contact increases exponentially. The truth within the paradox may drive us to a point where we will know, through the strength of caring for the planet, when and what the technology can be to drive us to the next habitable zone.