Hawking end of the world

Logan Mcdonald

Do you think the end of the world is coming?

If you’ve seen enough of Roland Emmerich’s most recent films, you might be counting down the days until 2012. Or if you’re a diehard follower of Tom Ridge and the Department of Homeland Security, you may have done a lot of investing in duct tape and plastic sheeting. Or maybe your basement is filled with water and you have to swim to work.

It seems as if mankind has had this unshakable fear of an apocalypse for quite some time: from the great floods with Noah, to knowledge of the massive extinctions 65 million years ago, to a computational error that truncated a four digit year to two digits, to a raucous group of four equestrians.

And then in the news you have stories about the polar ice caps melting and North Korean missiles. Then you have the preachers on the street corners saying that this is a sick old world and that these are the end times. Once you hear enough about the many ways that mankind will perish, it becomes just as easy to brush away as the sky is falling from Chicken Little.

If only we had some voice of reason to dispel all these crazy stories and theories, right? Well, last week Stephen Hawking, renowned physicist, weighed in on the future of mankind. Hawking’s verdict: abandon earth and spread out into space or face extinction. Not exactly the reassurance I was looking for.

He goes on to say that the number of mankind’s near brushes with death are enough to convince him that we need to start looking elsewhere to live. He says that the “human race shouldn’t have all its eggs in one basket,” meaning that a singular reliance on Earth is a dangerous outlook for humans.

Hawking predicts that if we are able to avoid destroying ourselves over the next century, we should have a great chance of escaping the mire known as Earth. So if we are doomed, shouldn’t we be looking at ways to get out into space? Sure.

George Bush’s 2004 New Vision for Space Exploration called for greater manned exploration of space over the next 20 to 30 years. This would have lead to the completion of the international space station, creation of a manned space exploration vehicle, and increasing efforts to sustain habitation on the moon and later on, Mars.

All of this sounds great and would definitely be great first steps towards Hawking’s vision for the future, had there been real effort for follow through with the “New Vision.” In February of this year, the Obama administration announced that it was cancelling Bush’s project to go to the moon and that it was moving towards the privatization of space travel. Now we’re back to square one.

If leaving Earth is what it takes to keep mankind going, it looks like we are going to have a long wait for that to be a glimmer of a possibility. In the mean time, we are left with the issues at hand. Global warming, natural disasters, famines, drought, AIDS, and aliens are all threats to the future of mankind. While there isn’t much that can be done to prevent some of these events, there is a lot that can be done to help others.

Even if the world is ending, it doesn’t mean we should end research and education on AIDS or stop efforts to curtail carbon emissions. As long as we’re still here, we should make the best of what we have. There are plenty of resources for increasing the quality of life for humans around the world, whether they come in the form of monetary aid or peacecorps volunteers.

If the world is going to end, do you really want to spend your last days sealed in your house with bottled water and dust masks? I say get out there and do something worthwhile. Whether its biking to work or becoming an aerospace engineer, we can all do something to make these end of days just a little better.