Between Star Wars and the Trek, our generation grew up always looking at the stars as the site of the future home of humanity. It already had the “Sold” sign in the yard.
In the years since Ronald Reagan preached his doctrine of militarizing space for safety, we have spoken about climate change and pollution, the inevitable deterioration of Earth, but never with the same urgency or imagination that we spent talking about space. That’s a shame really because our generation was fueled on premium grade fiction and we lost a lot of potential momentum by ignoring the concept and drama of a sustainable Earth.
Instead of renovating the old house, we decided collectively a few decades ago that we were just going to move out, trade up. We were going to pack up and move when we were all grown up. All it would take was an elaborate propulsion system, gravity technology and about a million things we hadn’t learned to do yet. Still, Gene Roddenberry had shown us the future and it was bright.
It’s like we all got stunted as a group in that indestructible portion of youth before you learn about your own mortality, and we just stopped caring about what the kids would have left should we fail.
That was fiction. This is real.
Today, we’re facing imminent global catastrophe. Wildfires are burning almost without ceasing, thanks to the heating up of the planet. Since 1880, the planet has warmed by 1.9 degrees. Storms are intensifying to record levels, and the Arctic ice is melting. All of this while many believe we’re in the midst of the sixth mass extinction set to change the course of the planet, possibly forever. With the loss of so many masses of wildlife and the images of emaciated creatures roaming the forests, it’s hard not to see the trend as potentially fatal for Humans.
Yet, despite all of this, we aren’t actively seeking solutions, or we don’t appear to be. In fact, in a perfect imitation of science fiction, our affluent citizens- those with the most resources to save the planet- are actively working to leave it without a second home or even a way to get very far. They are failing to understand exactly how little time we have, and don’t seem to comprehend that any off-world settlement, no matter where(even if it were possible), would need the support of a healthy Earth.
Projects like Mars One seek to start a permanent settlement elsewhere but are absolutely dependent on Earth for resupply for the foreseeable future, even their FAQ has little to say on the subject of a sustainable colony on Mars. It simply states that Mars One will be solar and will become independent over time. Translation: we don’t know how long we’ll need back up because Mars is a dead planet.
And, that’s the crux of the issue.
This is the only planet we can be certain of at this moment in time, and we’ve trashed it like an eighties hair band in a free Vegas hotel suite. It says something about us as a species, doesn’t it?
Mr. Roddenberry believed humanity would, or at least that they could, find their feet one day and build a sustainable Earth that could colonize the galaxy and others beyond. However, it seems George Lucas was closer to reality despite all his magical science. Humanity is going to take their destructive tendency with them wherever they go, except that in reality there’s really no way off this rock at the moment.
Therefore, we continue to fiddle while Earth burns. On a global scale, anti-science and anti-ecology governments are taking root and undoing decades of conservation work in the world. In an effort to justify greed or perhaps a simple bout of hubris, mankind has gone a step further in its delusion and abandoned the Earth altogether.
This is illogical, Captain.
The wealthy still believe without a doubt that their ARK will be ready, that their fortress of solitude will protect them in the coming onslaught, but it won’t as many elite politicians have found out countless times before. That’s because, traditionally, money insulates the wealthy from their consequences.
They believe they will survive because nothing bad ever happens to them, and nothing bad does happen to them because they have resources to cushion themselves from catastrophe. In other words, our problem isn’t the greedy nature of humankind. Our problem is affluenza. Catastrophic climate change will not be slowed or stopped just because you have the best bunker. If the planet doesn’t kill the wealthy banker in his ivory tower, then the mob most assuredly will. The question is no longer who will pay the price for the destruction of our environment. The question is now who won’t, and the affluent are solidly convinced that will be them.
So what turns this around?
For those of us without the means to take off for Mars, it seems we are left to hold on tight and start bailing out the boat. Mankind will have to take action, not only on the planet but also on income inequality if it wishes to survive. And yes, that includes punitive redistribution of wealth from the obscenely wealthy.
The only thing that stands between concrete action on climate and the government are those in power convinced that hoarding wealth will save them. There’s no sure-fire way to convince a rich man that he’s vulnerable to the same ills as the rest of us if he doesn’t want to see the reality, therefore we have to make him just as vulnerable as the rest of us if we want to live. It’s honestly the only solution. Normally, the Kardashians' behavior and consequences should probably be left up to the whims of Karma, but, in this case, Karma may not intervene for the rest of us. We may actually have to face reality and just do it ourselves like a Jedi.