Monday, November 21, 2011
Future This -- Writer's Poke #340
“Is it the end of the world, Daddy?”
My daughter, Tavi, is 4, and she has been asking me a lot lately about the end of the world. I’m not sure where she picked up this question, but she’s my little gothic girl, and she’s quite interested in death.
“When we’re dead, we’re skeletons. Right?”
Death isn’t something she fears, and she’s certainly too young to fully comprehend what death is, but it’s a topic that she’s clearly working on.
Last week, she started talking to me about Mars. I’m glad that she’s interested in space, but the link back to death and the end of the world was still on her mind.
“Daddy,” she said, “when we need a fresh new planet, let’s go to Mars. We can kill all the aliens and make it our home.”
I used this conversation as a “teachable moment,” explaining to her that most aliens are probably friendly, and if any live on Mars, we would need to be gracious guests, and gracious guests don’t commit genocide. It just isn’t the neighborly thing to do.
Life is fragile and uncertain. Even a four-year-old can pick up on that. Tavi knows the “Goldilocks” story by heart, but soon I plan to teach her about the scientific idea of the “habitable zone,” which is sometimes called the “Goldilocks Zone.” The universe most likely has billions of planets, but how many of them are situated at just the right distance from their suns to sustain intelligent life? In our own solar system, for example, the Earth is perfectly placed, and it is the only planet that is situated at just the right distance to sustain life. Mars, actually, is a little bit too far away. Human beings may use it as a place to camp some day, but I doubt that we’ll ever live there – at least not the way that we live on Earth. Mars will never be a place to call home.
Even life on Earth as we know it wouldn’t exist without our moon. The size and the distance of our moon are basically “perfect.” We have a relatively big moon, and its gravitation pull helps to control the tides. Moreover, it just might have something to do with the tilt of the Earth’s axis and the rate of the Earth’s rotation.
The conditions for life on Earth seem natural to us, and most of us probably don’t give them a single thought on a regular basis, and perhaps that’s part of the problem. We shouldn’t assume that life exists on purpose; nor should we assume that life exists no matter how we choose to act or live. If we have the power to affect the Earth’s mean temperature by just a few degrees, we can change our planet from Earth to hell, and from what I’m told, going to hell is a non-refundable, one-way ticket.
What do you view as the greatest threat to human life on Earth? What can you do to help ensure that society works together collectively to address this issue?
“Stop acting as if life is a rehearsal. Live this day as if it were your last. The past is over and gone. The future is not guaranteed.” – William Dyer