“Space can be mapped and crossed and occupied without definable limit; but it can never be conquered.”
– Arthur C. Clarke
Humans, curious creatures that we are, can’t help but explore. After millennia of mapping and crossing and occupying Earth, last century we turned our attention to space. The final frontier.
For many, there was hope that we might find another habitable planet – somewhere we could move when we had exhausted poor planet Earth. To date, there is just one possible contender: the Red Planet, a water-free wasteland that boasts no life, an average temperature of -60°C, and less than one per cent of the atmospheric pressure on Earth. Undeterred, several bored billionaires have plans to colonise Mars, despite the many and varied challenges, not least of which is the fact that “we are not going to survive in deep space in our current biological form”, according to neurophilosopher and geostrategist Nayef Al-Rodhan.
The focus on colonising space reminds me of Ancient Greek philosopher Democritus’s warning some 2,500 years ago that we should not be “like the dog in Aesop’s fable”, a hapless creature that loses what he has by chasing something that is not there.
There is but one Earth; there is no Planet B. We should heed the moral of the fable to “catch not at shadows and lose the substance”.