First, as one of the nerdiest and geekiest people I know, I mean nothing negative when I use those terms. With a PhD in astrophysics, having helped build and launch a satellite, and with several patents, I can geek out with the best of them.

Second, for context of what I mean by what we do on Earth, witness this scuba diver's video from near Bali, one of the most beautiful places on Earth:

The diver didn't look for that garbage. It's just there.

People say we can't stop growth on Earth. Human nature means growth, which we don't have to worry about, they say.

Even if the population leveled, they say the economy must grow. Never mind that cultures have endured for tens to hundreds of thousands of years without economic or population growth, yet our culture went from Adam Smith to the video above in under 250 years.

In other words, many people suggest we can't live in equilibrium on Earth.

Space? Other planets?

The solution--necessary, many say, especially nerds and geeks--is to build spaceships to reach other planets, or even to live on permanently.

For example:

Their reasons for these opinions include problems we've created, such as pollution, nuclear war, overpopulation, resource depletion, and so on. You know them because they are here and now.

To be sure, they also cite things like the sun becoming a red giant and engulfing the Earth or an asteroid like what we think killed the dinosaurs (except for birds). These problems occur on almost inconceivably longer timescales: the sun will be stable for hundreds of millions to billions of years; the dinosaurs died 66 million years ago.

The issues on human timescales are human-made. If we don't solve them, the others don't matter for people on Earth. Living elsewhere doesn't get people off Earth.

Besides, our rate of technological advance is so great on human timescales that simply waiting will bring us closer to what can take us to Mars. The biggest problem with waiting isn't the sun expanding or an asteroid approaching.

The problem with waiting is that the problems we created might doom us.

Again, solving our problems on Earth is our best way to outlast the next few centuries and to ultimately to face those distant problems.

Human life out there.

Living in space or on other planets means the people on the spaceships would have to live in equilibrium with their environment for years, lifetimes, or generations.

Some experts suggest we can live in equilibrium with our environment!

Why would we think we could live in equilibrium with a spaceship's environment but not Earth's?

What happened to perpetual population and economic growth?

Suddenly those problems are solvable, they imply. If so, let's solve them. Again, solving today's problems is the best way to stand a chance to face the problems of 100 million years from now.

Even if we could reach other planets, if we can't find a way to avoid trashing this one, what makes us think we won't trash the next one too?

Social solutions to social problems.

If our beliefs, goals, and behaviors are causing the problems worth solving now, then changing our beliefs, goals, and behaviors is necessary to solve them. That means environmental leadership, which the Inc. community excels at, or at least strives to.

Published on: Mar 7, 2018