Saturday, June 24, 2006

Mirror of their fears

Open the Future: Stephen Hawking, Global Warming, and Moving Out
Last week, at a talk in Hong Kong, Stephen Hawking made what struck me at the time as being such a reasonable and obvious observation that I didn't think it needed commentary:
''It is important for the human race to spread out into space for the survival of the species,'' Hawking said. ''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.''

To my surprise, Hawking's comments have been taken by otherwise intelligent peple to mean that Hawking believes that the Earth is, or should be, "disposable," and that moving into space would be a way to escape global warming rather than mitigate or reverse it.

Hawking's comments weren't calling on us to abandon efforts to keep the Earth healthy, or to plan to abandon the Earth, period. They were a reminder that sometimes maintenance fails, and that if human civilization is worth keeping around, we need to think big.

I too have a hard time seeing how a desire to move out and settle places other-than-Earth imply a desire to trash the place. Some people will look at any issue and see only a mirror of their own fears.
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