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Impetuous and sometimes uncontrollable progress in all spheres of science, the growth of population around the world, ecological problems, wars, and many other crises modern humanity faces nowadays raises a question about whether Earth will remain capable of being home for us as a species in the nearest future. There are measures taken to soften, slow down, or even negate the effects human civilization causes to our planet, but some of the problems seem to be unsolvable.

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One of them is population growth. People can discover new energy sources, learn how to grow food from nothing, or invent thousands of new appliances to improve the efficiency of everything, but it is not a fully effective way to stop the global population from growing. For a long time, the solution was to expand the territory on which this population is living. However, it is not enough; measures such as constructing artificial islands, terraforming, or innings, are relatively effective, but unfortunately they cannot impact the situation with overpopulation on a global scale. Besides, some of these solutions affect the environment in destructive ways.

There is, however, yet another way to deal with overpopulation: an ambitious and daring project, which, in case of its success, can start a new era in humanity’s history: exploring and colonizing distant planets. Space colonization is a controversial, debated, and expensive method, but it is probably the best we have for now, for a number of reasons.

First of all, there is always a danger of a cataclysm that humanity will not be able to predict or defend itself against. Every year, the media publishes messages about “killer asteroids” approaching Earth, but all of them have been missing our planet so far. One day, humanity could be less lucky; be it an asteroid, technological catastrophe, or some kind of ultra-intensive sun flare, one day there could be something we will not be prepared for—like it happened to the dinosaurs more than 60 million years ago. “The dinosaurs died out because they were too stupid to build an adequate spacefaring civilization. So far, the difference between us and them is barely measurable,” says Tihamer Toth-Fejel, a research engineer at the Advanced Information Systems division of defense contractor General Dynamics (Popular Science). Since it is impossible to be prepared for everything, setting off from our planet and travelling to other planets seems to be a more efficient option in terms of preserving human culture, gene pools, and civilization in general from total eradication, in case something goes terribly wrong. As the saying goes, it is better to not keep all eggs in one basket.

Another reason might seem a bit far-fetched, but it is neither less strong, nor less significant to human civilization. Leaving Earth and colonizing new planets and star systems will probably become the greatest achievement of our species. The Universe is not just huge, it is fact endless, at least in relation to that tiny piece of space humanity occupies in it; as such, it would be naive to assume there were or are no other sentient civilizations we could one day come in contact with. And even if we do not, would not it be great or even sublime to leave a trace in the history of the Universe, even if we, as a species, will disappear? So that when some alien archaeologists would visit a distant planet somewhere on the outskirts of the Andromeda galaxy, they would find the remains of our architecture, art, technology, history? So that those alien scientists of the future would study us as we study the ancient civilizations of Babylon or Greece, and would admire our achievements, the great expanse of our genius? I know it sounds probably too solemn and proud, but is it not what the purpose of a civilization is: to leave a legacy? Would it be better to reach the population of 100 billion people in the next two centuries and choke on our own toxic emissions, crowdedness, fight for free space, and starve to death? Because this is what awaits humanity if it does not venture to space.

This (meaning a drastic finale for human civilization) is confirmed by several influential scientists, Stephen Hawking, in particular. “Our only chance of long-term survival is not to remain inward looking on planet Earth but to spread out into space. We have made remarkable progress in the last hundred years. But if we want to continue beyond the next hundred years, our future is in space,” Hawking says (Tree Hugger).

In addition, colonizing other planets would solve not only the problem with overpopulation, but would also create additional working places, establish brand new economical systems, such as space tourism, and finally solve the ever-existing problem of natural resources. There are numerous opponents of this motive for colonization, mostly among “green” citizens. “Why do we need to move to other planets to excavate even more resources? Why do we need to exhaust other planets beyond our own?” they ask. Because, first of all, colonizing other planets would prevent us from sucking Earth dry and completely destroying it. Because, secondly, too many people in a tiny space (and Earth is already becoming tiny in terms of available living space) will inevitably lead to conflicts over whatever becomes precious in the following years: oil, free space, clean water and air, and so on. And thirdly, because there is no guarantee that a civilization that is advanced enough to fly around space will, by that time, treat ecology the same way it does now.

Colonizing space is perhaps the only “win-win” solution humanity can come up with in order to solve the problem of overpopulation. It would not only insure our civilization from oblivion in case of any kind of global catastrophe (be it total war or giant asteroids), but would also solve the problem with natural resources, create working places, stimulate the economy, and contribute to the overall scientific, cultural, and industrial progress of humankind. And, which is the most important, it will help humanity leave a trace in the history of the Universe; instead of remaining and probably disappearing as a small local civilization on the outskirts of the Milky Way, it will become a galactic phenomena, leaving its relics all over the explored space, a legacy for future generations. Whatever happens to humanity, this would be its grand finale.

Works Cited

  1. “After Earth: Why, Where, How, and When We Might Leave Our Home Planet.” Popular Science. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Nov. 2016. .
  2. Messenger, Stephen. “Humans Must Leave Earth to Survive, Says Hawking.” TreeHugger. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Nov. 2016. .
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