Mankind will need to venture far beyond planet Earth to ensure the long-term survival of our species, according to the world’s best known scientist, Professor Stephen Hawking.
The Daily Telegraph
If you have a sense that the quality of life is deteriorating not only where you live, but all over the globe, you have good company. Stephen Hawking has been saying for some time now that we need to leave the planet in order to preserve our species. He is our generation’s Albert Einstein, probably the brightest person on earth, so he must know, right?
With the mounting evidence that we have compromised our planet’s life-sustaining abilities by our relentless greed, arrogance, and self-indulgence, it is easy to see Professor Hawking’s point and to agree with him. The Guardian (UK) reported recently that “the human race is living beyond its means. A report backed by 1,360 scientists from 95 countries — world leaders in their fields — warns that almost two-thirds of the natural machinery that supports life on Earth is being degraded by human pressure.”
The study contains what its authors call “a stark warning” for the entire world. The wetlands, forests, savannahs, estuaries, coastal fisheries, and other habitats that recycle air, water, and nutrients for all living creatures are being irretrievably damaged. In effect, one species is now a hazard to the other 10 million or so on the planet, and to itself.
“Human activity is putting such a strain on the natural functions of Earth that the ability of the planet’s ecosystems to sustain future generations can no longer be taken for granted,” the report says. Growth, unbridled and reckless, is causing us to use up the very soil we are standing on. What we have gotten ourselves into is madness, of course, and we do not seem to be able to see it — or to do anything about it, even if we do see it.
But is departing the planet we have gutted and plundered the only answer to the dilemma of species survival? Professor Hawking is not the first to suggest that we leave our crippled earth. For many years, the popular imagination has been pointing us toward abandoning our planetary crib after soiling it beyond reclamation. In Mexico Mystique: The Coming Sixth World of Consciousness (1980), Frank Waters asks the question, “Are we on this ecologically doomed planet psychologically making efforts to leave it? Is this the unconscious prompting, akin to the instinct of migrating birds — or rats deserting a sinking ship! — behind our rationally engineered landings on the moon and preparations to extend our space travel to Mars?”
If we are thinking of leaving the planet, where would we go — and, probably even more to the point, how would we go? “There isn’t anywhere like the Earth in the solar system,” Professor Hawking says, “so we would have to go to another star. If we used chemical fuel rockets like the Apollo mission to the moon, the journey to the nearest star would take 50,000 years. This is obviously far too long to be practical, so science fiction has developed the idea of warp drive, which takes you instantly to your destination. Unfortunately, this would violate the scientific law which says that nothing can travel faster than light.
“However, we can stay within the law, by using matter/antimatter annihilation, and reach speeds just below the speed of light. With that, it would be possible to reach the next star in about six years.”
So, we could leave our planetary home, theoretically, but should we? The challenge for us may be not how we are going to get out of here, but how we are going to stay. Just because our home base is ruined (at our own hand) does not mean we ought to walk away from it. The correct decision for our species, on the brink of its adulthood, is to remain here and reclaim the planet, turning it into the garden that we have been imagining through the ages in our sacred texts.
Turning things around on earth will take some doing. We have been working from the assumption that everything under our feet is here for us to exploit. If we are going to commit to staying here, we will have to first come to a new awareness of Earth as a living organism, truly the mother from which we sprung — deserving of a maternal respect. It is a spiritual awareness, taking us not to some far-off heaven beyond the stars, but back to the heaven of this planet, our divine mother, from whence we came. Like her, we are three-quarters water; our bodies are made up of the same minerals and other chemical elements as her body. We are the earth.
A great deal is at stake at this moment in history. We appear to be reaching the point of no return, when we will have no choice but to abandon our home planet because, dying, it will no longer sustain us. How much better for us to begin now to take on the adult responsibility for making heaven right here on earth.
“If humankind would accept and acknowledge this responsibility and become creatively engaged in the process of evolution, consciously as well as unconsciously,” Jonas Salk tells us, “a new reality would emerge, and a new age could be born.”
There is still time to transform where we live now into the garden we have always yearned for. All that is required to create heaven on earth is to live lightly upon it and understand that the place whereon we stand is already holy ground.
Joseph Dispenza is co-founder of LifePath Retreats in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico (www.lifepathretreats.com). His new book, God On Your Own: Finding a Spiritual Path Outside Religion, is available at bookstores and online at Amazon.com.