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Should We Focus On Moving To Another Planet Or Fixing Our Current One?

28 April 2020

German Space Centre Research

Earth is our home. Our place of birth, our place of growth and the place which we have evolved to live on. We are exceptionally lucky, not only for evolving into such a prosperous species but for being handed a planet with unimaginable beauty. To even consider leaving forever the place where we originated, the wonders that accompany it, and where all the significant accomplishments, cultures and histories have arisen, sounds threatening to the cultural continuation identity of our species. As American poet Maya Angelou said, “You can’t know where you’re going without knowing where you came from.”  We not only owe it to our home and all the species which we have shared a home with, but also our ancestors and future generations.

What reputation would we withhold if we left all this behind? However, discovery and exploration are bred into our blood. From the old Sumerian civilization studying the stars to the antique sailors who circumnavigated the globe, from Ulysses and the argonauts to the astronauts who landed on the Moon. Humans have always been vying to inquire into the unknown. Exploration is what allowed us to thrive into the flourishing species we have become today. It has allowed us to achieve an important understanding of the world around us and led to the invention of many new technologies. From time keeping, to navigation, from medication to light-speed communication. Exploring the world around us can only further our innovative spirit. The same technology to build the international space station located just 400 km above the surface of the Earth has led to the invention of camera phones, CAT scans, LEDs, water purification systems, wireless phones, ear thermometers and much more efficient propellants and renewable resources. Satellites have allowed us to better understand the complex systems of climate dynamics, thermo-haline circulation, the African Bodele Depression and how the Amazon impacts the maintenance of the Earth’s ecosystem.

If all this can be derived from being just 400 km above the surface of the earth, imagine the potential discoveries and inventions that could arise from visiting a foreign celestial body and settling there. Not only are unimaginable inventions just around the corner but a new age in the history of humanity could be kickstarted. If we correctly use the resources available to us and put aside our petty squabbles, a whole new story would begin. To quote astronomer Carl Sagan, ‘We’ve been wonderers from the beginning. Bounded by the earth, the ocean and the sky.’ It took us a long time, but we explored the corners of the Earth, circumnavigated the globe and then continued to explore the seas and the skies. We broke the bond of the sky more then 75 years ago, but rather then truly flourishing as a species, we created a new bond for ourselves out of general greed and self-benefit. The time has now come for us to expand our horizons. We must explore planets, solar systems and stars if we wish to keep intact with our natural desire to explore the unexplored surrounding us.

However, focusing solely on exploration and fully migrating our species to another planet would be catastrophic. Not just from a moral viewpoint but a social and geopolitical aspect too. Leaving the place where every human has been born, every nation has risen, accomplishment, inventions, books, songs and every person you have ever learnt about in history has come from would be disastrous. Like every great explorer from Ulysses to Gulliver, we always must eventually look back at our home. We should not abandon our beautiful “pale blue dot”. Earth is an incredibly complex and vibrant ecosystem, where organisms have interacted with each other and the environment, creating the world we live in today. Failure to preserve it would not only mean we failed to protect ourselves but also protect all the other species which we have shared this beloved planet with for so long. Earth is our home and no matter what the future outcome is for our species, it will always be held in the highest regard as the birthplace of everything we imagined, and we can never, under any circumstance, forget that. 

By Sam Berlet and Antonio Torrisi