It was a combination of Jules Verne (From the Earth to the Moon), H G Wells (The Time Machine), and C S Lewis (Out of the Silent Planet) that got me hooked into science fiction literature in the early 1960s. I was soon putty in the hands of the likes of Arthur C Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, and many others. The romance of travel to distant stars and encounters with super-intelligent robots and alien races was intoxicating. I loved it all, and looked forward to the real space age.
So it was with a feeling of déjà vu that I saw the news that NASA has awarded Elon Musk’s Space X the contract to fly astronauts to the moon. Next to the story was an illustration of his proposed Moon-lander. There is no atmosphere in space or on the Moon, so streamlining is entirely unnecessary; the Apollo lander was a chunky almost amorphous shape dictated entirely by the practical needs of the craft. The Space X lander looks like something straight out of 1950s science fiction magazines—a smooth, streamlined rocket with a pointed nosecone sitting upright on its end. Real-life engineering imitates science fiction …
Musk wants to go to Mars; he says he’d like to die there. He also wants to travel to the stars. ‘Futurist’ Michio Kaku, he of the long white hair and plonking Californian drawl, insists we must travel to other planets. He says we need a ‘backup plan’ in case something goes wrong with the Earth. Even the blessed Stephen Hawking declared that we need to colonize planets in other star-systems because of climate change, overpopulation, and dwindling natural resources.
It pains me, therefore, to say that all of this is complete moonshine. What is most surprising, is that someone with the wisdom, knowledge, and insight of Hawking was willing to lend his name to such nonsense.
There is no Planet B. Practical travel to the stars is impossible, and the none of the other planets or moons in the Solar System are in the remotest way habitable by human beings without impossibly expensive life-support systems. It seems that Musk, Kaku, Hawking and others have failed to understand that science fiction is just that--Fiction. There is talk among them of ‘warp drives’ and ‘terraforming’. I’m surprised that no-one has mentioned dilithium crystals …
We have to preserve Planet A. Even now, it may be too late. Global warming is a double whammy. As the sea heats up, it expands and the sea-levels rise; higher temperatures melt more glaciers further raising the sea-level. Low-lying countries will be inundated. As the climate gets hotter, weather patterns will change—possibly even ocean currents. If we lose the Gulf Stream average temperatures in this country will plunge, even as the rest of the world gets warmer. The changing weather will affect agriculture yields. And how long, I wonder, before the first water wars?
Three billion people, nearly half the population of the planet, rely on fish as a primary source of protein. There are virtually no sustainable fish species left due to overwhelming demand and industrial methods of over-fishing. Fishermen will tell you that the size of the individual fish they catch has been steadily declining; the fish they do catch are younger and younger. It cannot go on.
The real problem, driving all other issues to do with the health of the planet, is the size of the human population. This currently stands at 7.8 billion, and increases by more than the population of the UK every year. It is what drives the ever-increasing demand for water, food, energy, and raw materials. Pressure on governments to reduce the emission of carbon dioxide only address the symptoms of the problem. The only real, long-term solution for saving Planet A, is a massive, world-wide programme of birth-control. Until we do that, we are doomed to end up fighting over dwindling resources in an environment becoming ever more hostile to human life.
Welcome to the Mirli Books blog written by Peter Maggs