What Is Our Future?

A perfect storm? Photo AFP/Getty Images

A perfect storm? Photo AFP/Getty Images

The various topics of this blog, and in Mother Earth, all lead to the biggest and most fascinating question of all for humankind: what is our future?

That can be broken down further, to ask whether the multiple dangers facing our present civilisation will lead to its collapse, and, since that eventuality throws up further, potentially existential threats, if we as a species can continue to ride our good fortune and survive at all. If that sounds fanciful or unduly pessimistic, consider the fact that we homo sapiens are already the last of a number of human species that have lived. The neanderthals and others didn’t make it this far.

In the (very) long run we’ll probably share their fate. If we remain on this planet, and don’t succeed in colonising other worlds, we are unquestionably doomed. Eventually. The earth is around 4 billion years old, and life as we know it is only made possible by the energy of the star we know as our sun; but, and here’s the rub – in another 4 billion years or so it will enter its final phases and turn into a red giant, becoming big enough to reach, and possibly engulf, our earth. Nothing will survive the heat of that encounter, and after about another billion years the dying sun will arrive at its own end in a spectacular explosion known as a supernova, scattering all the atoms making up us, and our little world, back into the vastness of space from whence they came.

I quite like the symmetry of that, since returning to the space dust from which we originated seems to round things off rather neatly, but like you my principal focus is of course more immediate. And of course  the young people of today are entitled to ask: What is our future? That question was the subject of a partly NASA-funded study in 2014, which is becoming ever more urgent if our present civilisation is to survive. It addresses the need for urgent action:

“….to reduce economic inequality so as to ensure fairer distribution of resources, and to dramatically reduce resource consumption by relying on less intensive renewable resources and reducing population growth: Collapse can be avoided and population can reach equilibrium if the per capita rate of depletion of nature is reduced to a sustainable level, and if resources are distributed in a reasonably equitable fashion.”

That strikes me as a good way forward, particularly since we can all play a part by doing as much as we can to reduce our own consumption of energy and resources. If you agree, and would like to read more about this interesting study, here’s the link to the article:

What is our future?