By Syed Rahim
“Mankind was born on Earth. It was never meant to die here.” So goes the tagline of the blockbuster 2014 film Interstellar. In it, the Earth is suffering from a catastrophic crop blight, inflating food prices and leaving millions in poverty. Under the leadership of handsome scientist Matthew McConaughey, a group of hotshot scientists embark on a not-so-stellar expedition across the cosmos to save humanity from extinction.
Spoiler alert: we survive! But not because we found a magical cure for our crops. Rather, we packed our bags and set up shop somewhere else.
Though Interstellar is a work of science fiction, it’s not out of the question to consider the future it shows. Though our circumstances aren’t exactly as dire as portrayed in the film, they’re not a far cry from the potential future scientists are predicting.
And what hellish, apocalyptic future might that be? For one, melting glaciers and rising sea levels means coastal areas being flooded. As ocean water absorbs excess heat and carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, coral reefs housing millions of planets will die.
As for the direct effect on humans, estimates by the The Internal Organization for Migration report the displacement of 200 million people by 2050.
“Between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected to cause approximately 250,000 additional deaths per year, from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhea and heat stress,” according to the World Health Organization.
At the root of those pesky doomsday scenarios is Global Warming, the term used interchangeably with Climate Change. According to the Oxford Dictionary, Global Warming is defined as “a gradual increase in the overall temperature of the earth’s atmosphere generally attributed to the greenhouse effect caused by increased levels of carbon dioxide, chlorofluorocarbons, and other pollutants.”
You may be asking, “All this sounds terrible. Where is the good news?” Well, there is none. The point is that things are only getting worse, and where to go from here is up to debate.
The accepted solution among climate scientists is to limit the emission of greenhouses gases that are warming up the atmosphere. This means cutting emissions from coal and natural gas to reverse our planet’s crash course to superheating. But what if the solution isn’t meant to be found here, on Earth?
The problem with space expansion is the cost involved in sending people out of orbit. Every pound sent out using the Space Shuttle costs $10,000. The launch of a Space Shuttle costs about $450 million.
With the proliferation of private space companies like SpaceX and Virgin Galactic, the process of sending average people into orbit will become much easier and less expensive in the future. Dozens of earth-like planets are being discovered every year, some of them not farther than a couple of light-years.
“Our only chance of long-term survival is not to remain inward looking on planet Earth but to spread out into space,” remarked renowned astrophysicist Stephen Hawking. “Our only chance of long-term survival is not to remain inward looking on planet Earth but to spread out into space.
Once the fight for limited resources begins, it’s only a matter of time before war and disease kill millions. And once our planet has totally been exhausted, there really is no reason to hope for a future.
That being said, don’t worry! There’s no point in being pessimistic. Space travel is expensive, but research and development is driving down the cost every day.
As long as humans have been exploring the Earth, we’ve been looking up at the sky. Our ancestors before us were not only explorers of the seas, but of the stars. As corny as it sounds, the survival of the human race could very well depend on our exploration of the universe. To quote Matthew McConaughey, “We used to look up at the sky and wonder at our place in the stars. Now we just look down and worry about our place in the dirt.”