Turning humanity into a multi-planetary species is something that many have waxed poetic about for a long time. Ever since it became apparent that there is a new world way beyond our stars and we can actually reach it, people have dreamed about the possibility of occupying these other worlds.
The sentiment has been especially stronger recently, with Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk calling for humanity to expand beyond the Earth and become multi-planetary.
Earlier this year, Musk explained that humanity needed to move beyond the Earth and conquer lands unknown. Speaking at the launch of SpaceX’s Crew 2 mission in April, the billionaire pointed out that it has been almost half a century since humans last set foot on the moon. As far as he is concerned, that time-space is just too long for what is the most advanced species yet discovered.
Many have criticized Musk and others who dream about being multi-planetary. The primary point of criticism has always been that many of these “dreamers” seem to be giving up on the Earth, and it will only take a few generations before the other planet humanity reaches becomes just like this one.
However, there are significant points and reasons why being multi-planetary is a necessity not - more than ever. Proponents like Musk or Jeff Bezos might not necessarily spell these reasons out, but they exist.
Our Fragile Earth
As anyone would expect, the first and most important reason why being multi-planetary is necessary is the fact that the Earth just isn't durable as it used to be. Our planet has become fragile, and humans continue to engage in activities that harm the planet and its future.
Today, climate change remains the long-term problem that we face. Sadly, not everyone is even willing or ready to admit that this problem exists. The long-term consequences of inaction regarding climate change are simply too extensive for people to grasp. Some understand that humanity’s actions have damning effects, while others don’t see the problem.
Combating climate change will require collective action at every level. Sadly, humanity doesn’t have the structures to do anything about it - primarily because we still haven’t agreed. Industrialists whose actions pose the biggest threat have invested billions in climate change denial, funding research, and propaganda to deny that climate change even exists. With them in full force, it will be impossible for anything to be done.
Governments across the world will need to collaborate to tackle climate change. While several intergovernmental organizations and agreements like the Paris Climate Accords have established policies to tackle climate change, enforcement hasn’t been encouraging. Most countries only see these policies as secondary, and it’s understandable if they don’t abide by them - it’s not like there are real consequences.
With democracies changing regularly, politicians and government officials will need to have proper foresight into climate change. They need to ensure that policies to tackle the problem are designed and that an incoming administration doesn’t upend the work done by its predecessors.
Still, the worst-case scenario here is the Earth deteriorating and becoming uninhabitable. For us to survive this catastrophic - yet highly possible - event, being multi-planetary is beyond necessary.
The Growing Nuclear Threats
Today, the threat of nuclear war has risen to the level it was during the Cold War. Nuclear weapons have proliferated over the past few decades, with more countries beefing up their nuclear arsenals and ensuring that they are well prepared for any strike. Others who haven’t been able to build nuclear weapons have struck deals with those who have, ensuring that their protection stands.
Up until now, it’s been impossible to understand the impact of nuclear weapons on the Earth. But, one thing remains certain - it will be devastating. Global superpowers like the United States and China are at loggerheads, and these conflicts tend to escalate periodically. If they get to the level of nuclear conflict, the entire planet will suffer the consequences.
While many have dreamed of nuclear disarmament, this objective is much easier said than done. Governments will be less likely to destroy their nuclear arsenals than implement climate-positive policies. With the potential for smaller and less stable countries also getting their hands on nuclear weapons, there is a growing risk of nuclear war.
Any weapon fired has the potential to destroy the planet. Again, if this happens, it will mean that the entire world will be put in danger. Nuclear war will immediately lead to an uninhabitable Earth, and being multi-planetary is the only way to keep the human race alive.
Progress Despite Challenges
Today, world governments have a monopoly on policy and weaponry - two of the biggest threats to the survival of the Earth. However, they don’t necessarily have a monopoly on space. People need to invest in aerospace and the eventual colonization of another planet. While governments can support the mission, it will be dangerous to leave them as the sole stakeholders.
There has already been some progress on this front. Companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin are leading the way in space exploration, and they’ve been making headway overall. However, the truth remains that humanity is decades away from being multi-planetary. These companies, with the vast resources behind them, have only been able to do so much.
Colonizing another planet and making it habitable for humans will take years of work and a significant amount of investment to be done. These visionaries and their companies are truly just beginning.