I love nature and I love the environment. I've dragged my family to a beautiful corner of the world here in South East Queensland where we can walk from our door into rainforest (complete with a great variety of snakes and wildlife), gum forest (complete with koalas) and even the beautiful and contradictory 'dry rainforest' that adorns the higher parts of the local mountains.
When I hear people talking about the environment, I can never resist pointing out that the only hope for us is... space. In response they generally look at me like I'm a bit strange but I'm used to that.
Our acquisition of the ability to get off the planet into space is the most important thing that has happened to any species on earth ever. Why? It means that we can now look forward to nature surviving and living species diversifying indefinitely without periodic mass extinctions and little long term future. Make no mistake, we are a part of nature and we will only breach the final frontier by taking nature with us.
We simply cannot save the environment on Earth without either committing mass suicide, imposing forced world wide birth control, or getting off the planet. I don't want to die and I don't think I have the right to tell someone I've never even met that they can't have children.
We have the technology and the capacity right now to begin colonising space. It wont be economical in the short term because of the high cost of elevating people and equipment but it will become very economical as soon as a critical offworld population mass is reached (a few thousand people) allowing serious off world production to begin. This is not science fiction. Most of the technology has been around since the sixties when we landed on the moon. At that time the entire computing capacity on the planet was less than that embodied in a few hundred of today's laptops and we couldn't build a car that didn't go rusty in five years (unless it was a Delorean).
Sadly, most people picture real space living in terms of the current space station - weightless, claustrophobic conditions suited only to a few very dedicated scientists or tourists.
However, the moment space is seen as our future, as the frontier we have to breach if humanity and the world's nature is to survive, we can perhaps look back (and forwards) to the way that current technology can provide livable habitats in space replete with forests, parks, and even beaches. Habitats where there is a choice of stable variations in climate, gravity and living style that will help us live long happy productive lives. Habitats where there is no issue with recycling because we would have energy in abundance making recycling economic from the start. Habitats where waste and pollution would never be an issue. Habitats far safer than anything that could ever be built on a planet where if the earthquakes and volvanic activity weren't enough, the planet's gravity makes it effectively a huge suction machine dragging lethal asteroids towards it guaranteeing the eventual destruction of all life upon it.
There is enough raw material scattered about in convenient asteroids to recreate the entire living surface of the earth a million times over in space habitats so, once the frontier is breached we can expect a large exodus from earth to the relative luxury and stability of living off world. Those who do remain, either through poverty or choice, will find themselves much richer and less crowded as a result of the exodus. Their relative increase in wealth will increase their chances of surviving the inevitable earthquakes and global changes which are increasing in frequency right now, probably as a result of the exponential growth in human population and its associated inevitable waste output.
In terms of space, our entire solar system can be likened to a single grain of sand on one beach when compared to the universe. There is a lot of breathing room out there, rich in resources with unlimited energy and easy, safe, indefinate waste recycling and disposal. The big question is why we're not there already... I think the answer to that one lies with the high initial cost of getting people and materials into space.
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