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Friday, January 29, 2010

Global Warning! (mine them, don't fear them)

There is a danger facing us on this planet perhaps even more severe in its implications for humanity than the global warming. It concerns the global depletion of resources and the impact this will have other seemingly ever increasing population.

Sustainable development has been an issue for decades and yet we do not seem to have made much progress in dealing with it. When I was a teen report was published by the Club of Rome called ' The Limits to Growth ' (1972). This has been updated at least twice since other writing is still on the wall. We cannot keep on living as we have without endangering the ecosystem upon which we depend, but if we must as a species continue to grow numerically and economically, then we cannot look to the earth as an infinite resource for us to plunder indefinitely.

I think we need to advance on two fronts. We must learn to live within our needs upon the earth so that the human family might flourish safely whilst at the same time recognising that if we are to have a long-term future there will come a point when we have to look for resources elsewhere. It is either this or we radically reduce population size through mandatory birth control or we let disease famine and war achieved the same result. Neither alternative is at all acceptable in my view. At the moment everyone is talking about sustainable development and this is right and good. It must be where we concentrate our efforts both to avoid the excesses of global warming and to be morally responsible agents of care for creation. However the other question that we must address is where our future resources are to come from if we are not to regress into a low maintenance Stone Age society. We have nearly exhausted the Earth’s treasures already, so the inescapable conclusion has to be faced. In the future our natural resources will have to be sought ' off-world '.

The solar system is the new frontier. Eventually there will be new prospectors but this time the untamed wilderness will be the asteroid belt and the sands of Mars not the wild West. Many people are curiously reluctant to face this issue but the logic of expansion is inescapable if population collapse is to be avoided. One thing is for certain. These new frontiers will not be opened up by governments. History has shown that whereas governments have often funded such ventures, (think of Columbus and the King of Spain), it has always been intrepid explorers and entrepreneurs that have broken the new ground.

We need now not only to curb our greed but to extend our reach. There is no incompatibility between these options. There seems no logical reason why the human enterprise should not continue to expand to the stars. Indeed our divine destiny might be precisely this: to be priests of the WHOLE of creation; to co-work with God in a transformation of truly cosmic proportions. Preserved by divine grace and energised by human dreams, is this not a worthy goal for our species 10,000 years hence?

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