Sunday, July 30, 2006

Stephen Hawking and "The Great Escape"


Physicist (Astro-physicist?) Stephen Hawking gave a speech in Hong Kong a little while back in which he said "It is important for the human species to spread out into space for the survival of the species. Life on Earth is at the ever-increasing risk of being wiped out by a disaster, such as sudden global warming, nuclear war, a genetically engineered virus or other dangers we have not yet thought of."

He was then a guest "questioner" on Yahoo Answers, which apparently has been publicizing their service by having people like Hawking, Al Gore and Bono ask big questions on the site for the general public to answer. Hawking's question was - "In a world that is in chaos politically, socially and environmentally, how can the human race sustain another 100 years?"

So what does it mean that Hawking, who is arguably the Einstein of our era, is recommending a "Great Escape?" That he's saying we've doomed the planet and that we better find a way to live in space - SOON - if the human species is to survive?
Well, it probably means that we're doomed.

Here are two stories that came out recently that prove we're doomed:
Ontario Hydro today said that while people are receptive to the "conserve energy" message, they generally don't, because it means inconveniencing themselves. I wonder if the word "inconveniencing" was used deliberately by the Hydro spokesman, as a reference to Al Gore's recent movie.

The other one is a Globe and Mail article by Margaret Wente which I mentioned briefly yesterday, and which annoys me more and more as the day passes. Generally, she's saying that because there are no transportation alternatives as good as the car, people will refuse to switch to public transportation. And, if people refuse to switch, then let's find ways to make driving easier.
This is her first paragraph: "The other day, as I drove to my exercise class (yes, yes, I know there's a contradiction there), people on the radio were telling me to take the TTC. There was a smog alert, and I was contributing to the problem. But it's next to impossible to get to my class by bus, so I drove."

This is what she thinks the poor should do: "As for lower-income people -- supposedly the main beneficiaries of public transit -- they have an alternative, too. It's called used cars."

Conserving energy being too inconvenient, and a major newspaper editorialist recommending we just do more of the same to solve transport problems, make me think of Easter Island, which I wrote about last month. That civilization happily ruined their natural environment due to tradition, and we're doing it out of laziness.

We know better than this. We've known for nearly 30 years. Read Jimmy Carter's 1977 speech regarding energy conservation.

"We must not be selfish or timid if we hope to have a decent world for our children and grandchildren.
We simply must balance our demand for energy with our rapidly shrinking resources. By acting now, we can control our future instead of letting the future control us."

But are the Jimmy Carters, Al Gores, David Suzukis listened to? No, because we're too lazy, and because the poor can still afford to buy used cars.

Here's what we're going to lose:
earth
And here's Carl Sagan on our Pale Blue Dot.
"Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity -- in all this vastness -- there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. It is up to us."

6 comments:

colinsky said...

It's time for Wente to Goe. Truthfully, though, I think that G & M must know what an odious little woman she is, and love her for it. Raising ire to sell papers is an old journalistic tradition.

And Hawking? The idea that we've destroyed this planet (which wasn't easy -- it took a long, sustained effort) so we should go find a few more to wreck? Please. If we can't fix our mess, we deserve extinction.

Colin

selsine said...

Hey Chris, I like your environmental politics, but why no mention of your dude testing positive in the Tour De France?

Also for people being concerned about the environment, becomming a vegetarion or decreasing the amount of meat that you eat is a great way to help out.

Tuco said...

Hey mark, I know! I'm going to write about vegetarianism sometime soon. A report actually came out of the University of Chicago (I think) about how the vegan diet combats global warming.
It's actually stuff we knew already, but it will serve as a launchpad to a veggie post on the blog.

Tuco said...

Oh yeah, and Floyd's second sample hasn't been tested yet. I'm with-holding judgement and comment until we see that.
Fingers crossed - his mom would be heartbroken, she's full-on bonnet wearing mennonite stock.

vickers said...

"We've known for nearly 30 years."

Whenever I think about oil in the seventies, I think Tower of Power's "Only So Much Oil in the Ground."

If only Carter had harnessed TofP's mind-blowing funk! They could have been his back-up band.

Miss Jenny said...

I love your blog and your dedication to conservation and educating people about it. The reliance on cars is one of the things I really hate about living in NC. I tried riding to work one day, just to see if I could do it, and it was TERRIFYING! Roads with no shoulders, tons of traffic, people yelling things out the windows. There appears to be no good route from where I live to where I work. Any suggestions you have for alternates I might not have thought of would be great!