Halfway through reading an article about sustainability, real sustainability, and population growth I began thinking about the finiteness of the Earth’s resources and the possible reactions humanity would have to the dwindling of those resources. The article focused aggressively on population growth and overpopulation, which I agree are the real problems and combating them in some way is the real solution, but my mind began to wander and focused on space exploration as a solution. I didn’t consciously consider the migration of man into space as the best solution to the problem of overpopulation because I realize that it is entirely unrealistic; the technological breakthroughs required for man to seriously inhabit space as a replacement for inhabiting the Earth would be unachievable before the time we had obliterated the planet with the overpopulation that needs to be solved now.
However, the idealistic, and nerdy, part of my brain pursued the idea of space travel as saviour. First it began thinking about how we could build orbital hydroponic gardens and transport the air and plant food to Earth, then it considered moon bases, then Mars bases and so on but each time I realized that these were not sustainable solutions either as more people would continue to be born and we would simply overcrowd these new habitats and, on top of that, if other species were doing the same in other parts of the universe then this solution wasn’t looking like the saviour I thought it would be. However, I realized that if the universe is infinite, which I fully admit may not be the case and I promise (not really) to research the current accepted theory on the size and nature of the universe (I actually feel like the general consensus is that it is finite but, again, I will check), then this solution would be sustainable. Infinite resources can support an infinite population. Now, of course, this is not a cause someone can realistically support right now, unless you’re Stephen Hawking who totally wants us to move to space, but it made me feel a little better about our environmental worries for a brief period of time.
Naturally, this got me thinking about Science Fiction. I wonder if the appeal of fiction that portrays space as a place where species and societies thrive and cohabitate derives, at least partly, from the concern for our environment on Earth and what we’re going to do with humanity in the future. The mostly blindly optimistic world of Star Trek, for example, is almost certainly a way for Westerners to comfort themselves with their current way of life and outlook of progress and growth. Kind of like if they (we) can just get to space everything will be alright and, luckily for us, technology will surely get us there.