The Weekly Review

by Chris Bowler

You may have come across this article from last fall at some point. It’s a long, well thought out piece by Kim Stanley Robinson exploring the actual potential for humans to be able to live on a planet other than this one. His prognosis? Not good!

As someone who spends a lot of time lamenting what we’re doing to this planet, I appreciate a science fiction writer taking the time to add a dose of reality to our consciousness. As he starts out, he reminds us that interplanetary travel is an idea that has been around for not all that long:

Humanity traveling to the stars is an ancient dream, and a late nineteenth and early twentieth century project, proposed quickly after the first developments in rocketry. The idea spread through world culture, mainly by way of science fiction

Since then, due to the explosion in popularity of science fiction, this idea has become a rather integral part of our culture. Not to simply travel to another planet (getting to Mars is obviously feasible), but to find one that could support human life and then begin to colonize it. It’s to the point where most of us believe it’s just a matter of time. Robinson basically takes a detailed approach to say, “Maybe not.”

If you spend much time at all reading about climate change, you may be concerned about timelines. On the one hand, the time it will take us to find and colonize a inhabitable planet has not shrunk much at all (perhaps it’s even expanded). On the other, the timeline where the earth’s environment becomes uninhabitable seems to shrink every time you read about it. We would appear to be running out of time.

Let’s hope a lot of the new science fiction is focused on renewing the state of this planet. It seems to be a far more likely chance of success. Personally, I try not to fret too much, for I have another hope. But I do want to make choices that reflect reality, not fiction!