Unification News for June 1997
Planets from Scratch - Part One
In this two-part article we're going to look at humanity's situation here on Earth, and at what the cosmos may hold in store for us. In the second installment we'll consider how we might grasp those possibilities.
Each year the world celebrates Earth Day, with events ranging from neighborhood cleanups to diplomatic conferences. More significantly, if with less fanfare, we Unificationists celebrate the Day of All True Things.
This concern for the environment, and for our planet as a whole, is a sign of God's advancing Providence. While the wealthier nations have made great strides in curtailing pollution, the former communist world is only now coming to grips with the massive contamination of their lands.
Many Third World nations are exploding in population. They're also striving hard to industrialize. Some environmentalists speak darkly of the "massive consumption and waste" that an increasingly wealthy Third World will generate, comparing their typical villager's spartan lifestyle with the profligacy of an American.
In reality, pollution in the Third World is already severe, and they must become wealthy too-so that they can afford to clean things up.
Humanity has been impacting the environment for a very long time. Human-set fires have kept open the teeming tropical grasslands for tens of thousands of years. Primitive hunters wiped out the woolly mammoth and many other creatures.
Scientists, drilling deep into Greenland's annual snowfall layers, found evidence of terrible contamination. Years ago, the globe was blanketed with toxic heavy metals. Who did this? Industrial England? Stalinist Russia?
No, it was Classical Greece and her ancient neighbors. Their metal smelters belched noxious clouds, while so much wood was cut to feed the forges that entire forests disappeared, and the land eroded. Even today much of the Mediterranean remains scrub land; the trees never grew back.
The American government is constantly debating whether to fund "birth control" for poor nations. In reality, prosperity is the surest brake on population growth. Where children have an excellent chance of reaching healthy adulthood, parents can plan their family, and offer their kids the best upbringing possible. But in famine-stricken areas, a woman will bear numerous children, and consider herself lucky to see half of them survive, and grow up to labor stolidly in nearby fields.
Is the world overpopulated? Anyone who's flown across the United States knows just how vast-and largely empty-this nation really is. Some areas of the Great Plains are actually depopulating, as family farms decline and the land reverts to prairie.
Parts of Asia are much more crowded. Still, the ongoing "Green Revolution" has enabled China and India to feed themselves. (Note: most recent famines were caused by socialistic policies, not a lack of foodstuffs.) Ocean farming is opening up a new food supply, and microbial genetic engineering will soon provide another.
True Father applauds large Unificationist families. He explains that, in nature, parents raise all the offspring they can, as best they can. Many religions frown upon birth control.
There are limits. Roughly, the Earth has fifty eight million square miles of land area, and six billion people. That comes to about six acres per person.
But this includes Antarctica and Greenland, mountain crags, sand dunes, Arctic tundra and other inhospitable areas. Leave those out, and the available area shrinks. On average, then, each family of four "has" about a dozen livable acres. That's counting the vast, bitterly cold, northern taiga forests.
To a family with a minuscule city dwelling, several acres may sound big. However, that dozen acres also includes parks, and the farms which provide food, fabrics, etc. Modern farming requires large, open spreads.
In the Third World, most people live in villages scattered amongst small agricultural plots. But increasingly, they're crowding into cities, usually to find work.
How much further can the population expand? Futuristic tales depict a planet covered by towering structures, the bedrock honeycombed and the oceans drained. Several trillion people could fit into such a "world city," and if the population continues to grow at its present rate, they may have to!
Unpleasant as that sounds, there's another bad side to it. True Father teaches that it is unhealthy, physically and spiritually, for children to grow up in cities. He says they should come of age surrounded by nature. (The traditional objections no longer apply, because technology can facilitate jobs, and a good education, for even the most isolated family.)
But is this fully possible? If every family decided to head into the wilderness, those areas would instantly vanish, literally blanketed with a sea of humanity. "Empty stretches" only remain because of crowded urban areas.
Already, then, this planet is too small. What can we do?
Historically, when things got too crowded at home, folks would strike out, seeking new territories. It's hardly been a hundred years since the "wild frontier" days of the American West, South Africa, Australia, and elsewhere. (In Brazil, they're still expanding into the Amazon basin.) In every case, the aboriginals were driven back, or worse . . .
Now those frontiers are gone. Yet in that same hundred years, we've developed aviation, then space flight. New worlds beckon.
There are many reasons to spread out. Deadly plagues have swept the world before, and could again. The dinosaurs were wiped out by a gigantic asteroid that struck the Earth with the force of millions of atomic bombs. It could happen again.
A famous scientist said, "The Earth is our cradle, but humanity cannot remain in the cradle forever." Centuries ago, Galileo studied Jupiter and its four larger moons, which are worlds in their own right. Mars and Venus are nearest-and most similar to-Earth, but no one could live there without substantial protection.
Buck Rogers and Captain Kirk have been "visiting alien worlds" for decades, but only in the past two years have astronomers actually confirmed the existence of planets around other stars. So far they've only been able to spot Jupiter-sized planets around nearby stars. New discoveries are coming in frequently.
When better space telescopes are developed (and funded!), they'll be able to observe smaller worlds. Liquid water forms at just the "right" temperature. In Earth's atmosphere, the oxygen and free nitrogen are maintained by life forms. If these are detected on another planet, we can be fairly certain that life exists there also.
Debate surrounds a now-famous Mars rock, which may contain evidence of life. Recently the Galileo space probe confirmed that Jupiter's moon Europa has water oceans beneath its icy crust. Closer to home, geologists have pushed back the date of the first known Earthly life by hundreds of millions of years. Life developed here very early.
It may be that, under the proper conditions, life will arise quickly on any planet. Possibly those conditions are a lot broader than we've supposed. Imagine animals with plastic bones, breathing a chlorine/oxygen atmosphere. Or creatures living in an ocean of ammonia slush. How about fish with silicone blood, swimming in a sea of sulfuric acid? Or creatures that metabolize carbon monoxide, flourishing on a world with iron carbonyl rivers? (It gets even more bizarre. Read World-Building by Stephen L. Gillett.)
Is life common in the universe? We'll soon know!
But what if those other worlds are already settled? For several decades, astronomers have operated SETI programs, listening carefully for extraterrestrial radio messages. (Earth's own transmissions could now be picked up a hundred light years away.) They have detected nothing. Zilch.
Despite the Hollywood hype, there is no solid evidence that any alien spacecraft has ever visited this planet. None. Claimants are either confused, or they're frauds, or they have a screw loose. They may be having spiritual experiences. (The Air Force is, in fact, testing secret "wingless" aircraft.)
Several famous New Agers claim to be "in telepathic contact with the Pleiadians." Others insist that aliens are mainly interested in fooling around in human women's bedrooms. That tells us more about the claimants than it does about the supposed aliens!
If there are any technologically advanced beings out there, they're leaving us the hell alone. Perhaps rather literally . . .
"Life" does not imply intelligence, much less technology. After all, Earth itself was without both for %99.999 of its history. (Not counting the theory that dolphins, whales, chimpanzees, giant squids, etc. are intelligent.)
Barren, lifeless worlds won't be terribly appealing to prospective settlers. We could "terraform" such planets, making them habitable, even pleasant, but that would require centuries at least. As noted above, we'll soon be looking directly for verdant, earth-like worlds.
But any such worlds are very, very far away. Next month we'll discuss how we might reach them, and how best to settle them once we do.
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