A Whole New World…or Seven?


“It’s a whole new world…” make that seven. Last week, the google doodle was an adorable little cartoon of the earth staring into a telescope. The google doodle typically has some good fun fact or info that is pertinent to the day, so, out of curiosity, I clicked.

I was shocked to learn that a new star, not too far (in space terms) from earth, had seven planets orbiting it- some of which have the conditions to potentially support life.  That is a mind-boggling discovery, and frankly, I’m surprised I didn’t hear more talk about it in my day-to day activities.

According to the New York Times,

The [seven] planets orbit a dwarf star named Trappist-1, about 40 light-years, or 235 trillion miles, from Earth…The fourth, fifth and sixth planets orbit in the star’s “habitable zone”, where the planets could sport oceans. So far that is just speculation, but by measuring which wavelengths of light are blocked by the planet, scientists will be able to figure out what gases float in the atmospheres of the planets.”

First of all, science is really cool, and it’s amazing that we are able to calculate what’s going on 235 TRILLION miles away. Second, this essentially means that because there is water, there is a possibility the planets have life on them.

I have to say, it really made me think. There are those who say we should attempt to colonize Mars or look far away for habitable planets, and try to colonize there. This would be instead of attempting to fix the dumpster fire we’ve set here on planet Earth in terms of the climate. Which frankly, strikes me as very, very irresponsible. To some, who see space as the next frontier to explore and colonize, this may seem exciting, exotic, and a great idea- let’s just ditch this hellhole, right? This raises some serious issues for me.

First of all, leaving earth behind is incredibly, incredibly anthropocentric. Anthropocentricsm is essentially the idea that humans are meant to be the dominant species, and are the best, smartest, and most fit creatures on the planet (though in this case, we’re talking about the universe.) The idea that we can wreak havoc on a planet so long as it’s capable of suiting our needs, and then LEAVING to go wreck another one is just about the most irresponsible egotistical thing one could do. If I’m being honest, any other planet would do very well to put up a big ol’ wall around their ATMOSPHERE to keep us out, if we haven’t yet learned how to clean up our mess here. Something about history repeating itself, yes?

The interesting thing is if we did leave (and I mean all 2 billion of us, which is unlikely), the earth would actually sort itself out after a very long time. Without us spewing CO2 into the atmosphere, dumping plastic into the oceans, and spilling chemicals all over the land, things would sort themselves out through natural processes. It might not look quite the same as it did before we were here (I’m not sure, I’m not a scientist), but life would move on. It’s humans that are the problem, not the planet.

The thing that also gets my goat about this proposition is that what if there is intelligent life on the planet that we choose to space-jet our way over to? It doesn’t seem particularly likely that we’d make peace with them, even if they welcome us with open arms. I have seen and learned too much in school and in life about the human tendency towards war. So that option seems bad too.

The worst thing for me, is that essentially, we would be abandoning our home. It would be like burning something in the kitchen and ignoring the fire alarm until the house is in flames, then running away and not paying for the damages or bothering to fix it. The burn climate change, and the signs are here if we read them…are we going to just abandon ship?

This planet is the only true home we have right now. It is the only home we have ever had. We came up from this soil, from some primordial ooze, or were formed from clay, sand, or dirt, depending on your belief set. These creation stories all have one thing in common though—that we are tied to the land, inextricably and unexplainably. It speaks to our souls in ways we cannot fully comprehend, though we see its effects every day. Compare your mood when in a peaceful prairie, with the wind playing through your hair and no buildings for miles, to your mood walking stressed through a frenzied concrete jungle. Which do you prefer?

I cannot and I will not abandon this home, and I cannot and will not abandon the human family. No matter how nifty the idea of a habitable planet out there is. We can learn from it perhaps, research and make scientific progress- but this is home, and this is where, I for one, will always stay.




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