Are we too ready to move out?


A look into how the hopes of finding new habitable planets may be making us complacent to save our present

We have already set the world in motion to our inevitable extinction with the way we treat it. Increasing number of factories expelling toxins everywhere. Trees being mass murdered for our materialistic wants. Cohabiting lifeforms put in hazard due to our indifference. None of these show any sign of stopping; instead, they seem to be on the rise with our ever-growing population. Though we may perceive minor attempts coming forward to combat them, there do seem to be increased efforts in searches for a new home- a relatively unexploited, suitable planet. Is the eject button our only option, or are we trying to look for an easy way out?

Each population has what is called its habitat’s ‘carrying capacity’. Once we attain this capacity, the population begins to decline due to insufficient resources. If you think this applies only to the wild animals we study, you are dead wrong. Scientists estimate Earth’s carrying capacity to range between 9 billion to 10 billion people, not very far from where we are at this point. According to the United Nations Population Division, we will reach 9 billion by 2050 and the 10 billion mark by 2100. Though it has been predicted that this may take longer due to the recent decrease in fertility rates, how long can we push it? A hundred more years? The fact that droughts are becoming more common and sea levels are rising to soon occupy land mass do not make matters any simpler. The human race is facing two imminent issues: Land scarcity and Food shortage; both of which are already prevalent. At this rate, it seems like we would be living through a replay of the movie Elysium soon enough.

Stephen Hawking had predicted that with the rate of increase in global warming, Earth would become uninhabitable in about 600 years. “We are close to the tipping point where global warming becomes irreversible,” he says, predicting it could become as dire as Venus’s conditions. Global temperatures show no sign of falling; leading to unpredictable climate changes, crop failures and melting ice caps. To make matters better, we are polluting and exploiting the little resources that we do have left with us. If there is one thing he is sure about, it is that we have to forsake Earth at some point, initiating the Breakthrough Starshot project to find a replacement Earth.

Being hopeful and bold enough to think that we could transfer the world’s population to another planet is great. But is it this same hope that is causing us to pick up another plastic bottle and leave the light on through the day? Are we so sure we have a solid backup plan? The project to just find another home is still underway. To actually discover one AND have an adequate and resilient mode of transportation for what would be a journey for generations is a far reach at the moment. Let’s face it- Star Wars is still fiction. We have the ideas and the brains, but it won’t happen in a day.

When you wake up in another 50 years and walk out in the streets only to think you’re in the Industrial London of the 1950’s, you will regret not doing anything today. We can be imaginative enough to envision a much more sophisticated future, but if we don’t act now, there won’t be one. A space odyssey will be the inevitable future for us at some point. For now, we just have to make sure we can get ourselves till there to live the dream. We’ve hurt our planet enough; however, we haven’t destroyed it yet so let’s keep it that way. Like Dumbledore said, “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live”. Live today and live smartly.

-Sruthi Vijayakumar

Volunteer Organizer, TEDxNITTrichy



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