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Revision as of 02:42, 29 December 2008 by ABC (talk | contribs) (→‎Is there a problem?: added Sagan, Rees, rephrased, separated the point for continuation here in paragraph for emphasis)
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Life is wonderful. The realization of our own existence creates the hope that others will continue to share it.

Is there a problem?

Perspectives on the survival of civilization on this planet for even a few hundred more years tend to be pessimistic. History provides plenty of examples of collapsed civilizations and we have consumed most easily accessible resources. There are no signs of technical civilizations on other planets within several hundered light years around us, which suggests that maintaining such civilizations for extended periods is not easy.

Nature demonstrates effortlessly how the biosphere can survive, evolving over billions of years. Whether we can maintain civilizations capable of providing benefit to their members in the long term is less certain. Carl Sagan, Martin Rees, Stephen Hawking and others maintain(ed) that our only chance of long term survival is to spread into space (see e.g., Dr. Hawking's talk at TED 2008). Their concern is about the survival in this century rather than billions of years.

If feasible, jumping solar systems and consuming planets would be a longer phenomenon than just staying on earth until we've used it up or destroyed our civilizations in conflict. If those making the jump went on like we did, however, livable places in the galaxy could be expected to be consumed essentially as quickly as people can travel (in the order of millions of years, not billions) and such consumption would be at the expense of beings that could develop there otherwise. Unless, that is, some civilization, somewhere found and implemented ways to continue civilizations while conditions favorable to life exist. This would offer a longer perspective and would postpone a miserable ending for those left behind almost indefinitely. If we started here on earth, it would also leave much more time to make a jump feasible.

Why this perspective? asks what follows if one assumes that civilization(s) manage to continue. This hopes to engage large numbers of people in thinking about the requirements for sustainable civilizations. The perspective of looking back from a future assumed as almost infinite hopes to make conclusions on some issues a lot easier and convincing than they would be based on projections. Just starting the process of thinking along these lines clarifies the concept of sustainability, the goal of survival of civilizations and the value of life, future life. Such a perspective should contribute to a frame of reference by which to define design objectives and policy initiatives and assess proposed solutions independently of particular agendas. With many minds contemplating the subject from a well defined perspective, we could hope for the emergence of viable visions about how civilization could continue beyond the next few generations. Such visions in turn may be more readily adopted and appropriate actions taken if the goal were understood by many. We may find that continuing civilization could actually be feasible after all. It would be worth a sincere effort.