Fermi’s Paradox Amidst a Planetary Endgame

Fermi’s Paradox is a physics concept that argues against the presence of life on other planets due to a definitive lack of communication or contact from extraterrestrials throughout the course of human history. Citing this absence, Fermi’s Paradox postulates that all of the other planets in this galaxy and beyond are barren of life. While other planets might have the the base ingredients for life, these elements have not coalesced into life forms as we understand them, or into life forms at all. Fermi’s Paradox emphasizes that Earth may be it, the only planet that contains life, and for that reason is exemplary.

Earth is bound by a number of natural processes, and it is the unique dynamic between the sun, water cycle and gaseous atmosphere that have allowed life to evolve and flourish on this particular planet. The salinity of our oceans, the size of our trees, the biodiversity in our rainforests, are all ultimately derived and dictated by Earth’s natural order. Given a lack of viable alternatives, life, and everything that embodies, is constrained by the Earth.

It is the natural constraints of Earth that has made our unmitigated release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere problematic. The equation of climate change is fixed, if humans continue to pour CO2 into the atmosphere the Earth’s temperature will ascend into uncharted territories. Given Fermi’s Paradox, it is necessary to postulate if Earth will be hospitable to life when climate change takes its full effect, and if not, what is next?

The idea of a barren Earth has been the primary motivator for my climate action. The array of color and pattern that is present within our planet’s plants and animals has created world awash with character. Earth’s beauty has been a constant amazement to me and I have worked in conservation at several botanical gardens to study this phenomenon. In seeing all that the world already offers, I have fought against destructive environmental practices and have engaged with movements ranging from fossil fuel divestment to food justice. The biodiversity of our planet is particularly threatened by the fossil fuel industry; dually in the methods used to extract fossil fuels and the effects of fossil fuels on the planet’s life forms. As Naomi Klein explains in This Changes Everything, “We are blasting the bedrock of our continents, pumping our water with toxins, lopping off mountaintops […] all to get the last drops and the final rocks”. We are changing the face of the Earth to serve our transient energy needs.

Much of my work in climate justice has been in the form of environmental education. I have taught environmental science, botany and nutrition science to urban youth in the hope of generating the will for collective climate action in the next generation. In this work I have found that every person, if given the right access, can cultivate a reverence for nature. Equal to these individual’s capacity for respect for nature is their capability to feel dismay at instances of environmental degradation. When you have witnessed firsthand the wonder of the Earth’s life forms, you can visualize how every species extinction leads us closer to a grayer world. President Donald Trump’s recent decision to withdraw The United States out of the Paris Climate Accord only strengthens my resolve to educate students on the power and grave importance of our environment, and I still believe that the next generation will live in a green future.

The want for fossil fuels is trivial if the resulting world is a fossilized, lesser version of its former self. If we continue spewing CO2 into the atmosphere we risk the viability of all life in their current renditions. It is apparent that our current dependence on fossil fuels is petty in the schema of the planet, and that collective climate action is immediately needed. Climate change as a concept is known, climate change as a reality is unfolding. We have proof of the viability of this world — in our oceans, forests and animals, and there is no Planet B in the immediate future. It is the miracle of what we have, and the uncertainty of what else there is that should bring the urgency of climate change to the forefront of the human conscious.