Friday, December 4, 2009

This Island Home

I was surfing the web this evening and an article about the declining quality of television included a quote from a July 2009 op-ed piece by Tom Wolfe, which reminded me of a quote from Babylon 5, voiced by Commander Jeffrey Sinclair. I remember the excitement over Alan Shepard's maiden flight in Freedom 7 (which lasted about as long as it took me to get from home to school that morning), John Glenn's flight in Friendship 7, and of course Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins in Apollo 11. In those days I read a lot of science fiction—though still not keeping up with the prodigious output of Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein, Ellison, Sturgeon, et. al.—and I fervently believed that the destiny of the human race lay beyond our little solar system. Now, I'm not so sure.

"Ask ten different scientists about the environment, population control, genetics, and you'll get ten different answers, but there's one thing every scientist on the planet agrees on. Whether it happens in a hundred years or a thousand years or a million years, eventually our Sun will grow cold and go out. When that happens, it won't just take us. It'll take Marilyn Monroe, and Lao-Tzu, and Einstein, and Morobuto, and Buddy Holly, and Aristophanes, and - all of this - all of this - was for nothing. Unless we go to the stars." ~Commander Jeffrey Sinclair, "Infection," Season 1, Episode 4

"I remember him saying something like this: 'Here on Earth we live on a planet that is in orbit around the Sun. The Sun itself is a star that is on fire and will someday burn up, leaving our solar system uninhabitable. Therefore we must build a bridge to the stars, because as far as we know, we are the only sentient creatures in the entire universe. When do we start building that bridge to the stars? We begin as soon as we are able, and this is that time. We must not fail in this obligation we have to keep alive the only meaningful life we know of.'" ~Wernher von Braun, as recalled by Tom Wolfe

If we really believed that this precious Earth is the only place in the entire universe that supports sentient life, would we continue to treat it the way we have been doing?

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