Start  |  Introduction  |  Part One: Islands  |  Part Two: Do or Die  |  Part Three: Send in the Clones

Part Two:  Do or Die

         Earth is a dangerous place to live. Perils, known and unknown, abound.  Volcanoes erupt, burying entire cities. Earthquakes raze in seconds what humans take centuries to build.  Hurricanes and tornadoes scour our coastlines and devastate our cities.  Plagues, disease, and starvation threaten humanity at every turn.  But these concerns are trivial.  

         The inhabitants of Earth face far greater problems, problems that imperil our very existence.    Every day our ozone grows thinner and less able to protect us from the deadly ultraviolet radiation and cosmic rays that continually pummel our planet.  Each year, the foul machine we call civilization spews millions of tons of pollution, toxins, and radioactive waste into our rivers, oceans, and atmosphere.  And global warming threatens to grill us like steaks on a barbecue.  Any one of these problems has the potential to exterminate not just humankind, but all life on Earth--given enough time.

       But why wait?   A nuclear war could end all life in hours.  A comet or asteroid could impact the Earth and extinguish all life in a mere few minutes--and we’re millions of years overdue for a large planet-crunching asteroid right now.  

       In the unlikely event that we wriggle our way out of our present predicament and avoid the minefield of potential calamities, nature holds in store for us a disaster of such magnitude that not even dumb luck can save us.  In a few billion years our sun will run out of fuel and expand into a giant red star that engulfs the Earth and even Mars, killing all life in our solar system.  Earth is a dangerous place, indeed.  So dangerous, in fact, that if we choose to stay here, we will all die.  And so will every other form of life on Earth.  

       Our universe is a very large place and may very well be crawling with life.  On the other hand, Earth may be the sole abode of life in the universe--we just don’t know.  Our universe is about 15 billion years old, and nearly 12 billion of those years passed before life sprang up on Earth. Another 3.8 billion years passed before the first sentient being arrived.  If we are destroyed by one of the aforementioned catastrophes, the universe may have to wait another 15 billion years or longer for sentient beings to return.  Or life may never return to the universe.  Life is precious.  We must take measures to protect this precious commodity.  

       People often wonder why we exist.  The answer is simple.  We exist to extend life--all life, not just ourselves--throughout the universe.  Mother Nature waited patiently 15 billion years for a species to arise capable of bringing life to the rest of the universe.  No other species that we know of can accomplish this monumental and noble task.  The duty--and privilege--falls upon us.  If we fail, the universe may continue on for hundreds of billions of years with not a soul around to enjoy it.  What a waste of a perfectly good universe.

       Humankind needs to begin colonizing space. Right now, all life that we know of exists only on Earth. And Earth is in a precarious position indeed, making us extremely vulnerable to extinction. We need to spread ourselves outward, first to other planets in our solar system, then to planets around other stars, and eventually to the entire galaxy and beyond. This constant expansion is fundamental to our survival. (Of course, someday the universe itself will die, either with a big crunch or gentle whimper. Will we escape, just in the nick of time, through a wormhole, perhaps, and into a new universe?)

       As we explore and colonize the galaxy we must take with us the lessons we hopefully will have learned through the destruction of our original home, Earth.  We can consider Earth a trial run, not a failure, as some might see it, but a learning experience.  

       This immense project cannot wait.  We may have a very limited window of opportunity to begin this task. Just as we are gaining the technology to make space colonization a reality, we are also losing the supply of natural resources needed to make it happen.  Once we establish a foothold in space, however, we will have virtually unlimited resources.  We live in the one time period of history when it will be possible for humans to leave the Earth and start using these resources. Yesterday, we didn’t have the technology.  Tomorrow, we won’t have the resources.  We can’t afford to leave this task for future generations.   If we do, we may have no future generations.  

      Colonizing space is a daunting task, to be sure, but what choice do we have?  Any other course will inevitably lead to the extinction of humankind.  We must make certain that our descendants remember us as the generation that liberated life from the confines of Earth, not as the generation that condemned humankind, as well as all other earthbound life, to extinction.

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Start  |  Introduction  |  Part One: Islands  |  Part Two: Do or Die  |  Part Three: Send in the Clones

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