Think Bigger Picture on The Environment | The Bigger Picture


Think Bigger Picture | Discussions About Big Picture Issues That Really Matter
Poverty | The Bigger Picture
Consumption | The Bigger Picture
Corruption | The Bigger Picture
Energy Transition | The Bigger Picture
China & India | The Bigger Picture
Smog & Air Quality | The Bigger Picture
The Environment | Think Bigger Picture
Conflict | The Bigger Picture
Main Page | The Bigger Picture
Think Big Picture on the World | The Bigger Picture
Copyright 2014 Christopher Wicks | All Rights Reserved | Privacy Policy | Terms & Conditions | Contact Us
Discussion #3 - Climate Change

The first point to make, is that planet earth does not care if we destroy ourselves or not. It was here long before we arrived, & will be here long after we leave. It is the human race that's in peril, & we only have ourselves to blame. Yes, there are natural heating & cooling cycles to the planet, but they occur very slowly (over millions of years), allowing life-forms to adapt. The man-made climate changes that we are experiencing are happening far too quickly. It's cute that we like to come up with pet names/reasons for the increasingly extreme weather events (El Nino, Polar Vortex etc.). It helps us to take some of the responsibility off of our shoulders, if we can blame it on a "natural" weather phenomenon.

Unfortunately, we could rationalize away virtually every extreme weather event this way if we so choose. It is extremely difficult to separate what is natural and what is man-made with these events (even with trends), and this is where much of the controversy and confusion is coming from. El Nino is of course a very real weather phenomenon, but it's been going on since the dawn of time, and was barely mentioned prior to 10 years ago. Now it's being blamed for almost every extreme weather event that occurs.

The only extremely intelligent argument I have heard from the "other team" is this: Some believe that our human CO2-producing activities are insignificant compared to the natural producers such as volcanoes. This actually makes some sense until you examine it a little further. It's true that volcanoes have been spewing CO2 into the atmosphere for billions of years, but we humans have been measuring CO2 levels since long before the industrial revolution began. The graph does not start going up exponentially until after we humans started burning carbon dramatically around this time in history. This means that once again, we would be foolish to try and blame mother nature. When you think about the shear volume of cars, trucks, planes, trains, factories, power plants, etc. that have been pumping out CO2 since this era began only 50ish years ago, it's pretty obvious that we are causing this problem, and that we are the ones who are going to suffer from it. The escape hatch of migration to other planets is not reality, it's fantasy.

Another common problem we see happening over and over again, is governments and developers attempting to put wind and solar farms far too close to where people live. The strategy here is to create massive negative public reactions, thus dramatically reducing overall public support for renewable energy altogether. We have to start paying attention to what's really going on here, and start listening to what our scientists are saying. They have far more knowledge on the subject than we do.

We have to stop debating this issue, & start moving forward with action. There is a lot of money at stake here, & those who stand to lose major revenue are fighting back with everything they've got, and are using every trick in the book. They know that as long as there is "reasonable doubt", nothing substantial will ever be done. This is because the average person on the street really doesn't want to reduce their consumption. It's a status symbol, a way of demonstrating that we are a bigger shot in the universe (all 7.6 billion of us). We are all living on this ball of dirt (& molten rock) together, so we really should start looking at the bigger picture on this!

Unfortunately, human beings are biologically wired to be far more concerned about short-term risks and dangers. Also, there is a somewhat gradual "boiling frog" scenario with climate change. Things are changing gradually, and with most in the modern age being extremely disconnected with nature, most are seeing the environmental changes that we are experiencing as being more or less "normal". But by far the biggest reason for most of the "climate change denial" that is going on, is the widespread notion that we are all going to have to pay quite a bit of our hard-earned money to somehow (maybe) solve this problem.

The good news is that most governments are listening to their scientists, and must therefore promote, encourage, and build up the "political will" (of their people) on this issue at every possible opportunity. I do NOT however, believe that we need to increase the frequency or attendance of our "climate summits". I think most would agree we burn enough fossil fuels on these already. There have also been recently, a few high-profile Climate Change "Pied Pipers", who have not really been practicing what they preach. I would really hate to see this also become a major excuse for inactivity on CC.

According to the NASA Earth Observatory in Florida, the natural and human-caused effects on our climate are quite different (& obvious), the man-made being far more dramatic in recent years. A good example of this is volcanic activity, which actually produces less than 1% of the amount of CO2 on average per year, compared to our burning of fossil fuels. Milankovitch cycles (variations in our orbiting around the sun), and the natural variations in the solar output of the sun itself, are very different from our human activities. They have historically produced large variations in temperatures (even ice ages), but slowly over millions of years. Unfortunately, even with all of the scientific evidence/proof, this is a debate that will likely rage on for a few more years. Largely because we humans rarely agree on anything these days.

Many seem to confuse the issue of climate change with the recent issue of the hole in the ozone layer. While they are both important issues, they are not the same thing. The best way to explain the science of climate change in a nutshell, (& in true bigger picture fashion), is as follows:

Our biosphere, which is essentially a large bubble of air (a mixture of various gases) surrounding our planet, would actually be extremely cold at night, (& warm in the day), without the natural "blanket" of greenhouse gases (which includes CO2). The big problem, is that when we burn fossil fuels, we are adding more & more CO2 (carbon dioxide) to the amount that is naturally in our atmosphere, thus increasing the greenhouse effect. The average temperature of Earth's surface without any natural greenhouse gases, would be about 0 degrees Fahrenheit, (instead of the current average of 59 degrees F). The ozone layer, on the other hand, protects us from harmful UV rays from the sun (& is located in the stratosphere).

The term "climate change" is now used far more often than the term "global warming", due to the fact that natural jet streams & weather patterns, are also being disrupted & altered by this "thickening blanket" of greenhouse gases. This is why temperatures are not always warmer than normal, every single day of the year. Sometimes weather patterns are actually colder than normal. Instead of modifying the term "global warming" to "global freaky weather", scientists have decided to use the term "climate change".

Climate scientists worldwide (who benefit greatly from disproving each other's findings), are at a 97% consensus that man-made climate change is very real, and a massive threat to civilization as we know it (not just polar bears and icebergs). All of the aggression in the world is not going to change this. Unless CC deniers have a legitimate rebuttal to this, then it's time to stop debating, and time to start acting. If the entire worldwide scientific community is wrong about this, I would be very surprised.

Discussion #5 - Interplanetary Migration

Many have adopted the idea that once we destroy our environment here on earth, we will just migrate to another earth-like planet, & start the process all over again. The odds of this becoming reality are infinitesimally small. The time it would take to get there would likely be over one human lifetime, & the odds of surviving the trip very low. (Even this is assuming there is such a planet nearby). The astronomical cost of the trip would allow for an "Adam & Eve" type of re-colonization only, & this is not going to save very many people. This entire notion is basically yet another excuse to avoid doing anything meaningful about our environment. Most believe it will only affect future generations, but this is just not the case. It's affecting us right now, & this is just the tip of the iceberg. If this issue is viewed as an obsession shared only by a few environmental fanatics, then we are all going to face some pretty horrific consequences. Like the bumper stickers say, there really is no planet B!

Environmental conditions on all other planets in our universe are far too hostile to support biological life. In my opinion, we should be focusing our energies and resources far more on not destroying our environment here on earth. This may not seem as exciting and adventurous as travelling through space, but is by far the wiser strategy. We have such ideal conditions to support human life on this planet, and the more exploring we do in space, the more we are realizing this. There are much better ways to get our adrenaline fixes in life. There may even be many other universes out there, no one knows for sure, but it just doesn't matter. To us, our environment on earth is all that really matters.

Currently, the closest known "possibly" earth-like planet is called Proxima b, and orbits a star named Proxima Centauri. This planet & star system are approx. 25 trillion miles away from us (40 trillion kms or 4.22 light years), and it would likely take in the neighborhood of 50,000 (human travel) years for us to get there (if it were even possible, which currently it's not). There is a plan to send tiny wafer-thin probes there to send some info back to earth, but it'll take approx. 20 years to prepare for the launch, and another 25 years for the probe journey. Then approx. 4 years to send the info back.

So, approx. 50 years just to find out if the conditions are even remotely similar to earth, or able to support human life. Even the actual existence of the planet is not 100% certain. There is the possibility of a liquid somewhat resembling water being plentiful on Proxima b, but there is also the possibility that this liquid completely covers the planet.

What is quickly becoming painfully obvious to most scientists, is that no other planet closer than 50,000 years from here likely has even remotely similar environmental conditions to earth. Space is much bigger than most originally realized. This is it folks, earth is our home, I'd say we'd better not destroy our ability to live on it.

I find it interesting that many billionaires are so intrigued with the idea of travelling in space, but I question the motivation behind this. While there is definitely a wild "Star-Trek-like" adventure element to it, the reality of space travel is far more extreme and hostile than most of us fully realize. Fear should obviously not stop us from "boldly going where no man (or woman) has gone before", but there has to be at least a remote chance of success and/or survival, or it's basically just a foolish fantasy.

Personally, in my humble opinion, we're wasting precious time and resources on this fantasy. We're using it to avoid dealing with the issues here on earth. We should be focusing far more on making earth, our home custom-made-for-our-survival planet, more habitable for future (& our own) generations. The more we learn about other planets, the more we realize just how perfect & unique the conditions on earth are for all earthly species.

The ridiculous notion some still have, that we'll eventually be hopping from planet to planet in spacecraft, similar to how we hop from country to country in aircraft is complete science fiction. Even the American space shuttle program, which ran for almost 30 years (133 successful & 2 unsuccessful flights), was eventually scrapped. Mainly due to extremely high costs, high risk/fatalities, and no real mission, especially once the International Space Station was completed.

Any planet that is even remotely reachable in a human lifetime (since cryonic preservation doesn't quite work yet), has environmental conditions that are far too different to support biological life. For our species to alter these conditions in any dramatic way, would be absolutely impossible. Even the prospect of creating "bubble environments" is unsustainable, since virtually all of the resources would still have to come from a relatively healthy earth.

Elon Musk's SpaceX company is currently leading the way in plans to colonize Mars, followed by Jeff Bezos (founder of Amazon), then Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Airlines , etc. This new space race to colonize Mars is definitely interesting, but not every celebrity billionaire is jumping on this bandwagon. Bill Gates & Warren Buffett, for example, are investing much of their money into eradicating diseases and poverty here on earth. They currently have no interest in leaving our home planet. Mark Zuckerberg on the other hand, is far more interested in sending unmanned probes to the Alpha Centauri star system, in search of a far more earth-like planet. Stephen Hawking (although not a billionaire), is leaning more toward the moon, and then maybe Mars.

One valid argument made by Elon on this issue, is his concern (along with many others), that we may incur an "extinction event" at some point here on earth. While this is definitely a concern shared by many, there is much that we can control as a species to prevent this from happening. Luckily, we actually do possess the technology to prevent an "extinction-class" NEO (near earth object) from colliding with earth. The most challenging aspect of this process however, is detecting the object early enough. This is, in my opinion, the sort of area that we should be pouring more of our earthly resources into.

Another fun fact, is that some of the world's stockpile of 14,900 nuclear weapons may actually be put to positive use some day, as many would be needed to "nudge" or veer an extiction-class NEO off of a collision course with earth. Even if it were possible to create sustainable colonies on Mars, I question what the quality of life would be like, when the temperature is so incredibly cold, and basically nothing can grow outside of an artificial bubble environment. Outside of this bubble or dome, there would be no nature to enjoy, no air to breathe, very little gravity, etc. Life would basically be confined to these artificial environments that we create.

A few brilliant people, including the late Stephen Hawking, believe(d) that we should flee earth within 100 years. This is largely due to the threat of global nuclear war. The problem, is that these sorts of man vs man conflicts will follow us wherever we go in the universe. It's not the place we live that's the problem, it's us. We need to fix us, or it's pointless to flee anywhere. Stephen also cited global warming as a reason to abandon earth. The problem here, is that we will never reach another planet with even remotely similar atmospheric conditions, in many human lifetimes, without cryonic preservation (which currently does not work). The temperature of earth is indeed rising, but there are still no other planets nearby that can even come close to what we've got going on here on earth.

Here are a few fun facts about the atmospheric conditions on Mars;
The average Martian temperature is a balmy -63C, the average global temp on earth is +15C. There is no ozone layer or magnetic field around Mars, so no protection from solar or cosmic radiation, (only partial protection wearing a space suit). No liquid water, extremely dusty, no life whatsoever can survive on surface without space suit. Gravity is only 38% of earth's, so bone density & muscle mass would be lost. Only trace amounts of oxygen (less than 1%) in Martian "air", so unbreathable. On earth, our air is approx. 21% oxygen. Martian air also consists of 95% carbon dioxide, which is toxic in high concentrations. Earth air contains only about 0.04% CO2. Carbon dioxide is basically what we exhale. But wait, there's more. The atmospheric pressure is so low, that all saliva, lung water, skin mucous, & tears would evaporate if exposed. The red Martian dust is caustic, and would quickly destroy equipment, and likely burn the skin similar to bleach.

As much as we keep hearing about all of these alien sightings and experiences, I can honestly say, that I personally (in my over 50 years of existence on this planet), have never once seen anything that even remotely resembles an alien lifeform. What I'm beginning to strongly believe (and have always basically believed), is that even if there is intelligent life living on other planets, somewhere out there in our massive universe (or a different one), they will never be able to travel far enough, and fast enough to get here (and we there).

It makes me laugh hysterically when I hear people say that the Alpha Centauri star system is "only" 4.22 light years away from us, or that the Ross system is "only" 11 (the two closest to earth which may support life). Most people don't realize that it would take over 160,000 years to reach the closest star system to us, travelling in a space shuttle similar to the ones we've used in the past. Undoubtedly we'll create some faster ones in the future, but we're still probably looking at thousands of years to make one (one way) trip. I'd love to see a travel agent try and sell that flight to someone (even a billionaire)!

The big problem going on right now, is that there are a lot of climate change deniers out there, who still think that it's all just a big scam to suck more money out of our wallets. Then many of those who do believe in human-caused CC, are simply hoping we'll be able to hop on a modern space shuttle, and fly off to the nearest earth-like planet, to escape all of our earthly problems. That doesn't leave a whole lot of people left, who actually want to seriously tackle solving these problems, which in my humble opinion, is the only real way out of this mess.

Our universe is unimaginably massive, with 100 to 200 billion galaxies, each containing around 100 billion planets and stars. Our Milky Way galaxy is approx. 100,000 light years in diameter (one of the smaller galaxies in our universe). The Hubble telescope, along with other increasingly powerful telescopes, are giving us incredible images of these realities. While this fascinating info does put our lives on earth into better perspective, it's ridiculous to think that we humans will ever reach, let alone survive, on any of these trillions of planets.

What scientists are beginning to discover, is that planets are a bit like snowflakes in their environmental conditions. All are unique, which means that none are like earth. Since we have evolved and adapted to the specific conditions on our home planet, all others have foreign and hostile conditions to all species of earth. Planets actually form much like snowflakes, which also helps to explain their various sizes, even within the same galaxy. The universe is expanding, and virtually all galaxies are moving further away from us. The further away the galaxy is from our own, the faster this is happening. In addition, there may even be more than one universe, possibly even an infinite number making up a multiverse. Quite a few independent physics theories indicate this to be more than likely.

These planetary variations also explain why most of us have a sixth sense that's telling us if an alien species ever does figure out, and has an interest in reaching our little planet, they will most likely not resemble us anatomically in too many ways. The big question, after we learn how to communicate with them, would be whether or not we would jive or mesh spiritually with this alien species. Given the fact that we don't always jive all that well between different groups of our own species thus far, I'd say it's a fair bet possibly well, or possibly not.

Keep in mind that historical time advancement would be completely different, so the levels of overall evolutionary stages would also be completely different. To give an earthly example of how dramatic a difference this would likely be, just look at the difference in lifestyles we've experienced in just the last 100 to 200 years. We've gone from being pioneers, to being relatively technologically advanced, (or so we think). This is not a lot of time, in relative intergalactic terms.

This would bring me to my next pet theory, which is that we were/are destined to exist as individuals in our specific eras with purpose and design. In other words, the skills and abilities we possess currently would, in many cases, not be of much benefit or worth to societies 200 or more years ago, and vice/versa. This would give some serious weight to the belief in a creator vs a big bang starting it all.

Discussion #6 - Fracking

Very few people have even heard of this, which is quite shocking in itself. Hydraulic Fracturing (Fracking) is a process where pressurized liquid chemicals are injected deep into the earth's crust, fracturing rock to allow access to oil & gas that is otherwise unaccessible. It has many adverse environmental side effects, & has been banned in some countries. This is just another example of how addicted we are to oil & gas (fossil fuels). We are like junkies that will resort to anything to get access to cheaper energy. The massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico recently, was mainly due to the incredible amounts of pressure from the extreme depth of the well. We are drilling deeper & deeper, because the easy access oil & gas has already been harvested.

Fracking is the best example out there, of just how ridiculous our obsession with fossil fuels really is. Especially when you factor in the meteoric & continuous falling of the cost of renewable energy sources. It's actually already cheaper to produce energy with renewable than with fossil. Even the incredible political pressure from fossil fuel companies will not be able to compete with these falling renewable energy prices in the very near future.
Discussion #3 - Climate Change

The first point to make, is that planet earth does not care if we destroy ourselves or not. It was here long before we arrived, & will be here long after we leave. It is the human race that's in peril, & we only have ourselves to blame. Yes, there are natural heating & cooling cycles to the planet, but they occur very slowly (over millions of years), allowing life-forms to adapt. The man-made climate changes that we are experiencing are happening far too quickly. It's cute that we like to come up with pet names/reasons for the increasingly extreme weather events (El Nino, Polar Vortex etc.). It helps us to take some of the responsibility off of our shoulders, if we can blame it on a "natural" weather phenomenon.

Unfortunately, we could rationalize away virtually every extreme weather event this way if we so choose. It is extremely difficult to separate what is natural and what is man-made with these events (even with trends), and this is where much of the controversy and confusion is coming from. El Nino is of course a very real weather phenomenon, but it's been going on since the dawn of time, and was barely mentioned prior to 10 years ago. Now it's being blamed for almost every extreme weather event that occurs.

The only extremely intelligent argument I have heard from the "other team" is this: Some believe that our human CO2-producing activities are insignificant compared to the natural producers such as volcanoes. This actually makes some sense until you examine it a little further. It's true that volcanoes have been spewing CO2 into the atmosphere for billions of years, but we humans have been measuring CO2 levels since long before the industrial revolution began. The graph does not start going up exponentially until after we humans started burning carbon dramatically around this time in history. This means that once again, we would be foolish to try and blame mother nature. When you think about the shear volume of cars, trucks, planes, trains, factories, power plants, etc. that have been pumping out CO2 since this era began only 50ish years ago, it's pretty obvious that we are causing this problem, and that we are the ones who are going to suffer from it. The escape hatch of migration to other planets is not reality, it's fantasy.

Another common problem we see happening over and over again, is governments and developers attempting to put wind and solar farms far too close to where people live. The strategy here is to create massive negative public reactions, thus dramatically reducing overall public support for renewable energy altogether. We have to start paying attention to what's really going on here, and start listening to what our scientists are saying. They have far more knowledge on the subject than we do.

We have to stop debating this issue, & start moving forward with action. There is a lot of money at stake here, & those who stand to lose major revenue are fighting back with everything they've got, and are using every trick in the book. They know that as long as there is "reasonable doubt", nothing substantial will ever be done. This is because the average person on the street really doesn't want to reduce their consumption. It's a status symbol, a way of demonstrating that we are a bigger shot in the universe (all 7.6 billion of us). We are all living on this ball of dirt (& molten rock) together, so we really should start looking at the bigger picture on this!

Unfortunately, human beings are biologically wired to be far more concerned about short-term risks and dangers. Also, there is a somewhat gradual "boiling frog" scenario with climate change. Things are changing gradually, and with most in the modern age being extremely disconnected with nature, most are seeing the environmental changes that we are experiencing as being more or less "normal". But by far the biggest reason for most of the "climate change denial" that is going on, is the widespread notion that we are all going to have to pay quite a bit of our hard-earned money to somehow (maybe) solve this problem.

The good news is that most governments are listening to their scientists, and must therefore promote, encourage, and build up the "political will" (of their people) on this issue at every possible opportunity. I do NOT however, believe that we need to increase the frequency or attendance of our "climate summits". I think most would agree we burn enough fossil fuels on these already. There have also been recently, a few high-profile Climate Change "Pied Pipers", who have not really been practicing what they preach. I would really hate to see this also become a major excuse for inactivity on CC.

According to the NASA Earth Observatory in Florida, the natural and human-caused effects on our climate are quite different (& obvious), the man-made being far more dramatic in recent years. A good example of this is volcanic activity, which actually produces less than 1% of the amount of CO2 on average per year, compared to our burning of fossil fuels. Milankovitch cycles (variations in our orbiting around the sun), and the natural variations in the solar output of the sun itself, are very different from our human activities. They have historically produced large variations in temperatures (even ice ages), but slowly over millions of years. Unfortunately, even with all of the scientific evidence/proof, this is a debate that will likely rage on for a few more years. Largely because we humans rarely agree on anything these days.

Many seem to confuse the issue of climate change with the recent issue of the hole in the ozone layer. While they are both important issues, they are not the same thing. The best way to explain the science of climate change in a nutshell, (& in true bigger picture fashion), is as follows:

Our biosphere, which is essentially a large bubble of air (a mixture of various gases) surrounding our planet, would actually be extremely cold at night, (& warm in the day), without the natural "blanket" of greenhouse gases (which includes CO2). The big problem, is that when we burn fossil fuels, we are adding more & more CO2 (carbon dioxide) to the amount that is naturally in our atmosphere, thus increasing the greenhouse effect. The average temperature of Earth's surface without any natural greenhouse gases, would be about 0 degrees Fahrenheit, (instead of the current average of 59 degrees F). The ozone layer, on the other hand, protects us from harmful UV rays from the sun (& is located in the stratosphere).

The term "climate change" is now used far more often than the term "global warming", due to the fact that natural jet streams & weather patterns, are also being disrupted & altered by this "thickening blanket" of greenhouse gases. This is why temperatures are not always warmer than normal, every single day of the year. Sometimes weather patterns are actually colder than normal. Instead of modifying the term "global warming" to "global freaky weather", scientists have decided to use the term "climate change".

Climate scientists worldwide (who benefit greatly from disproving each other's findings), are at a 97% consensus that man-made climate change is very real, and a massive threat to civilization as we know it (not just polar bears and icebergs). All of the aggression in the world is not going to change this. Unless CC deniers have a legitimate rebuttal to this, then it's time to stop debating, and time to start acting. If the entire worldwide scientific community is wrong about this, I would be very surprised.

Discussion #5 - Interplanetary Migration

Many have adopted the idea that once we destroy our environment here on earth, we will just migrate to another earth-like planet, & start the process all over again. The odds of this becoming reality are infinitesimally small. The time it would take to get there would likely be over one human lifetime, & the odds of surviving the trip very low. (Even this is assuming there is such a planet nearby). The astronomical cost of the trip would allow for an "Adam & Eve" type of re-colonization only, & this is not going to save very many people. This entire notion is basically yet another excuse to avoid doing anything meaningful about our environment. Most believe it will only affect future generations, but this is just not the case. It's affecting us right now, & this is just the tip of the iceberg. If this issue is viewed as an obsession shared only by a few environmental fanatics, then we are all going to face some pretty horrific consequences. Like the bumper stickers say, there really is no planet B!

Environmental conditions on all other planets in our universe are far too hostile to support biological life. In my opinion, we should be focusing our energies and resources far more on not destroying our environment here on earth. This may not seem as exciting and adventurous as travelling through space, but is by far the wiser strategy. We have such ideal conditions to support human life on this planet, and the more exploring we do in space, the more we are realizing this. There are much better ways to get our adrenaline fixes in life. There may even be many other universes out there, no one knows for sure, but it just doesn't matter. To us, our environment on earth is all that really matters.

Currently, the closest known "possibly" earth-like planet is called Proxima b, and orbits a star named Proxima Centauri. This planet & star system are approx. 25 trillion miles away from us (40 trillion kms or 4.22 light years), and it would likely take in the neighborhood of 50,000 (human travel) years for us to get there (if it were even possible, which currently it's not). There is a plan to send tiny wafer-thin probes there to send some info back to earth, but it'll take approx. 20 years to prepare for the launch, and another 25 years for the probe journey. Then approx. 4 years to send the info back.

So, approx. 50 years just to find out if the conditions are even remotely similar to earth, or able to support human life. Even the actual existence of the planet is not 100% certain. There is the possibility of a liquid somewhat resembling water being plentiful on Proxima b, but there is also the possibility that this liquid completely covers the planet.

What is quickly becoming painfully obvious to most scientists, is that no other planet closer than 50,000 years from here likely has even remotely similar environmental conditions to earth. Space is much bigger than most originally realized. This is it folks, earth is our home, I'd say we'd better not destroy our ability to live on it.

I find it interesting that many billionaires are so intrigued with the idea of travelling in space, but I question the motivation behind this. While there is definitely a wild "Star-Trek-like" adventure element to it, the reality of space travel is far more extreme and hostile than most of us fully realize. Fear should obviously not stop us from "boldly going where no man (or woman) has gone before", but there has to be at least a remote chance of success and/or survival, or it's basically just a foolish fantasy.

Personally, in my humble opinion, we're wasting precious time and resources on this fantasy. We're using it to avoid dealing with the issues here on earth. We should be focusing far more on making earth, our home custom-made-for-our-survival planet, more habitable for future (& our own) generations. The more we learn about other planets, the more we realize just how perfect & unique the conditions on earth are for all earthly species.

The ridiculous notion some still have, that we'll eventually be hopping from planet to planet in spacecraft, similar to how we hop from country to country in aircraft is complete science fiction. Even the American space shuttle program, which ran for almost 30 years (133 successful & 2 unsuccessful flights), was eventually scrapped. Mainly due to extremely high costs, high risk/fatalities, and no real mission, especially once the International Space Station was completed.

Any planet that is even remotely reachable in a human lifetime (since cryonic preservation doesn't quite work yet), has environmental conditions that are far too different to support biological life. For our species to alter these conditions in any dramatic way, would be absolutely impossible. Even the prospect of creating "bubble environments" is unsustainable, since virtually all of the resources would still have to come from a relatively healthy earth.

Elon Musk's SpaceX company is currently leading the way in plans to colonize Mars, followed by Jeff Bezos (founder of Amazon), then Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Airlines , etc. This new space race to colonize Mars is definitely interesting, but not every celebrity billionaire is jumping on this bandwagon. Bill Gates & Warren Buffett, for example, are investing much of their money into eradicating diseases and poverty here on earth. They currently have no interest in leaving our home planet. Mark Zuckerberg on the other hand, is far more interested in sending unmanned probes to the Alpha Centauri star system, in search of a far more earth-like planet. Stephen Hawking (although not a billionaire), is leaning more toward the moon, and then maybe Mars.

One valid argument made by Elon on this issue, is his concern (along with many others), that we may incur an "extinction event" at some point here on earth. While this is definitely a concern shared by many, there is much that we can control as a species to prevent this from happening. Luckily, we actually do possess the technology to prevent an "extinction-class" NEO (near earth object) from colliding with earth. The most challenging aspect of this process however, is detecting the object early enough. This is, in my opinion, the sort of area that we should be pouring more of our earthly resources into.

Another fun fact, is that some of the world's stockpile of 14,900 nuclear weapons may actually be put to positive use some day, as many would be needed to "nudge" or veer an extiction-class NEO off of a collision course with earth. Even if it were possible to create sustainable colonies on Mars, I question what the quality of life would be like, when the temperature is so incredibly cold, and basically nothing can grow outside of an artificial bubble environment. Outside of this bubble or dome, there would be no nature to enjoy, no air to breathe, very little gravity, etc. Life would basically be confined to these artificial environments that we create.

A few brilliant people, including the late Stephen Hawking, believe(d) that we should flee earth within 100 years. This is largely due to the threat of global nuclear war. The problem, is that these sorts of man vs man conflicts will follow us wherever we go in the universe. It's not the place we live that's the problem, it's us. We need to fix us, or it's pointless to flee anywhere. Stephen also cited global warming as a reason to abandon earth. The problem here, is that we will never reach another planet with even remotely similar atmospheric conditions, in many human lifetimes, without cryonic preservation (which currently does not work). The temperature of earth is indeed rising, but there are still no other planets nearby that can even come close to what we've got going on here on earth.

Here are a few fun facts about the atmospheric conditions on Mars;
The average Martian temperature is a balmy -63C, the average global temp on earth is +15C. There is no ozone layer or magnetic field around Mars, so no protection from solar or cosmic radiation, (only partial protection wearing a space suit). No liquid water, extremely dusty, no life whatsoever can survive on surface without space suit. Gravity is only 38% of earth's, so bone density & muscle mass would be lost. Only trace amounts of oxygen (less than 1%) in Martian "air", so unbreathable. On earth, our air is approx. 21% oxygen. Martian air also consists of 95% carbon dioxide, which is toxic in high concentrations. Earth air contains only about 0.04% CO2. Carbon dioxide is basically what we exhale. But wait, there's more. The atmospheric pressure is so low, that all saliva, lung water, skin mucous, & tears would evaporate if exposed. The red Martian dust is caustic, and would quickly destroy equipment, and likely burn the skin similar to bleach.

As much as we keep hearing about all of these alien sightings and experiences, I can honestly say, that I personally (in my over 50 years of existence on this planet), have never once seen anything that even remotely resembles an alien lifeform. What I'm beginning to strongly believe (and have always basically believed), is that even if there is intelligent life living on other planets, somewhere out there in our massive universe (or a different one), they will never be able to travel far enough, and fast enough to get here (and we there).

It makes me laugh hysterically when I hear people say that the Alpha Centauri star system is "only" 4.22 light years away from us, or that the Ross system is "only" 11 (the two closest to earth which may support life). Most people don't realize that it would take over 160,000 years to reach the closest star system to us, travelling in a space shuttle similar to the ones we've used in the past. Undoubtedly we'll create some faster ones in the future, but we're still probably looking at thousands of years to make one (one way) trip. I'd love to see a travel agent try and sell that flight to someone (even a billionaire)!

The big problem going on right now, is that there are a lot of climate change deniers out there, who still think that it's all just a big scam to suck more money out of our wallets. Then many of those who do believe in human-caused CC, are simply hoping we'll be able to hop on a modern space shuttle, and fly off to the nearest earth-like planet, to escape all of our earthly problems. That doesn't leave a whole lot of people left, who actually want to seriously tackle solving these problems, which in my humble opinion, is the only real way out of this mess.

Our universe is unimaginably massive, with 100 to 200 billion galaxies, each containing around 100 billion planets and stars. Our Milky Way galaxy is approx. 100,000 light years in diameter (one of the smaller galaxies in our universe). The Hubble telescope, along with other increasingly powerful telescopes, are giving us incredible images of these realities. While this fascinating info does put our lives on earth into better perspective, it's ridiculous to think that we humans will ever reach, let alone survive, on any of these trillions of planets.

What scientists are beginning to discover, is that planets are a bit like snowflakes in their environmental conditions. All are unique, which means that none are like earth. Since we have evolved and adapted to the specific conditions on our home planet, all others have foreign and hostile conditions to all species of earth. Planets actually form much like snowflakes, which also helps to explain their various sizes, even within the same galaxy. The universe is expanding, and virtually all galaxies are moving further away from us. The further away the galaxy is from our own, the faster this is happening. In addition, there may even be more than one universe, possibly even an infinite number making up a multiverse. Quite a few independent physics theories indicate this to be more than likely.

These planetary variations also explain why most of us have a sixth sense that's telling us if an alien species ever does figure out, and has an interest in reaching our little planet, they will most likely not resemble us anatomically in too many ways. The big question, after we learn how to communicate with them, would be whether or not we would jive or mesh spiritually with this alien species. Given the fact that we don't always jive all that well between different groups of our own species thus far, I'd say it's a fair bet possibly well, or possibly not.

Keep in mind that historical time advancement would be completely different, so the levels of overall evolutionary stages would also be completely different. To give an earthly example of how dramatic a difference this would likely be, just look at the difference in lifestyles we've experienced in just the last 100 to 200 years. We've gone from being pioneers, to being relatively technologically advanced, (or so we think). This is not a lot of time, in relative intergalactic terms.

This would bring me to my next pet theory, which is that we were/are destined to exist as individuals in our specific eras with purpose and design. In other words, the skills and abilities we possess currently would, in many cases, not be of much benefit or worth to societies 200 or more years ago, and vice/versa. This would give some serious weight to the belief in a creator vs a big bang starting it all.

Discussion #6 - Fracking

Very few people have even heard of this, which is quite shocking in itself. Hydraulic Fracturing (Fracking) is a process where pressurized liquid chemicals are injected deep into the earth's crust, fracturing rock to allow access to oil & gas that is otherwise unaccessible. It has many adverse environmental side effects, & has been banned in some countries. This is just another example of how addicted we are to oil & gas (fossil fuels). We are like junkies that will resort to anything to get access to cheaper energy. The massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico recently, was mainly due to the incredible amounts of pressure from the extreme depth of the well. We are drilling deeper & deeper, because the easy access oil & gas has already been harvested.

Fracking is the best example out there, of just how ridiculous our obsession with fossil fuels really is. Especially when you factor in the meteoric & continuous falling of the cost of renewable energy sources. It's actually already cheaper to produce energy with renewable than with fossil. Even the incredible political pressure from fossil fuel companies will not be able to compete with these falling renewable energy prices in the very near future.