Easter Sunday 2014 and together with Mrs C I am walking along an almost completely deserted beach on a nature reserve near Knysna in South Africa. Almost deserted except for a couple of folk line fishing from the beach (should they be doing that in a nature reserve – who knows). We walked on way past them and sat on a log to rest, gazing at the pounding surf so beautifully emerald green and white, and the azure sky with just some flecks of high cloud. The gull colony were just sat on the sand sunbathing and to our right the river for which the reserve is named emerged from its valley to meander through a small lagoon into the sea. And a thought occurred to me.
A Yale astronomer has estimated the number of stars in the galaxy, and the number has so many zeros that it’s impossible to grasp. So staying more local, the Milky Way, our own galaxy, has up to an estimated 400 billion stars. And each star has it’s own system of planets, so that there are 400 billion times the number of planets per star opportunities to find life elsewhere in our galaxy alone, without all the gazillions of others. So, where is the evidence for this life? Well of course there isn’t any or at least none most rational people would accept. Why not? There are several possible answers.
We haven’t found it yet.
It may be there, and has already found us but doesn’t want to reveal itself.
It could be there but not as advanced, if that is the correct term, as us, or in a different form.
It was there but is now extinct.
We are alone. Our beautiful Blue Planet is the only one in our galaxy or even the universe with that precise set of incredibly complex random conditions that has allowed life not just to start but to develop and flourish.
My thought was this. Each of the above is possible and statistically almost as likely, but if the last one is true should we not be taking more care of what we have instead of following fantastic notions of flying off somewhere else when we have finally made Earth no longer habitable by man or animal?
We already have 7 billion people all wanting a “Western” lifestyle and that is simply not possible. The Blue Planet just does not have the resources to support 7 billion, never mind the 10 billion we will inevitably reach before 2100. So not only must we reduce our numbers, but we must all reduce our lifestyle expectations. Those already enjoying a “Western” lifestyle must be prepared to give up some of it, or even quite a lot of it. None of which will happen until politicians are brave and honest enough to face the challenge of convincing their electorates that less for fewer is a good thing.
For example, Nigel Farage of UKIP doesn’t think that there is any such thing as man made global warming. He’s an idiot. Here’s a photograph of the smog over Cape Town first thing in the morning taken on my last visit this month.
Where the hell does he think all this crap will go? It’s the result of too many cars and commercial vehicles in a poor state of repair, too much poorly regulated industry and too much domestic pollution. Simple common sense implies that if it just carried on building up at ground level we’d all have choked to death by now, and it can’t go down so it presumably goes up or into the sea. Is he really suggesting that 250 years of industrial revolution spewing increasing amounts of human generated emissions have no effect whatsoever? And Cape Town is one of the world’s cleaner cities. Farage is a dangerously persuasive man full of warped ideas, and like many such men in history before him, with an increasing appeal to a disillusioned and largely badly informed electorate. He is indeed a complete and dangerous idiot. But I digress.
If our beautiful home planet is alone, if not in the universe then in the galaxy, we have a clear duty to preserve its resources and diversity of flora and fauna for the future. By that I do not mean saving everything. Having recorded their existence, species at risk naturally through the selection process must be allowed to die. That’s just the natural order. But the damage we are causing through our own greed and profligacy, our arrogant disregard for nature and belief in our own superiority, that we are the ‘chosen’ of some divine super-being and other ignorance and superstition really must end.
Don’t you think that The Blue Planet deserves better from us.