Following the recent death of Professor Stephen Hawking with the last interviews and his final paper attention has been given on his prediction for our planet and his recommendation that we start looking and planing for a way out via another planet or planets.
Obviously no one, certainly not myself, would challenge the thinking of such a great person but I think there is a danger here of leaving human kind an “option” to ignore its moral and practical obligations.
Hawking’s reported rationale was that humankind would eventually fall victim to an extinction-level catastrophe – perhaps sooner rather than later. What worried him were so-called low-probability, high impact events – a large asteroid striking our planet is the classic example.
But Hawking perceived a host of other potential threats: artificial intelligence, climate change, GM viruses and nuclear war to name a few.
In 2016, he told the BBC: “Although the chance of a disaster to planet Earth in a given year may be quite low, it adds up over time, and becomes a near certainty in the next thousand or 10,000 years.”
My fear is that the “other planet option” may be counter productive in the same way that some people consider zoos could act as some sort of “arc” housing species whilst letting then become extinct in the wild.
I hope that people will read all the interview that Professor Hawkins gave including the final paragraph. The day we can evacuate humankind ( and the flora and fauna of our planet) are in his words well over 200 years away. Even the most optimistic climate scientists understand we are far closer to dramatic and disastrous change at our current rate of CO2 emission measuring it in decades or less.
The Professor was confident that humans would spread out into the cosmos by that time (given the chance), but added:
“We will not establish self-sustaining colonies in space for at least the next hundred years, so we have to be very careful in this period.”