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Now I think I know. I’ve come to believe there really are no UFOs, no highly-advanced civilizations capable of cranking out Earth-destroying robots, no starship Enterprises cruising the galaxies or slipping through wormholes.
I still imagine there are other planets inhabited by lifeforms more advanced than flatworms. I just don’t think any have managed to figure out space travel. And I don’t think any ever will. It’s that travel at the speed of light problem.
The nearest planet to Earth is 10.5 light years away. No one is suggesting it’s inhabited. A light year is a very, very long way, 9.46 million million kilometres, if you must know. The fastest thing shot into space so far reached speeds of about 250,000 km/h. You do the math.
Two years ago, Dr. Franklin Felber presented research suggesting near light speed space travel might be achieved by the end of this century. I’m not certain we’ll be around that long but I am certain we’ll find other ways to spend the money it would take to bring his theory to fruition. There are undreamed of wars to squander the funds on, Horatio.
I am pretty certain the crushing weight of modernity, the unquenchable thirst humans have demonstrated for new and easier ways to make Earth uninhabitable by their own species and our seeming inability to solve problems far simpler than speed of light travel will conspire to keep interstellar travel a pipedream. At least until such time as we join the dinosaurs as extinct, past rulers of the planet.
And I suspect the same is likely on any other planet that ever became technologically advanced enough to ever spark an interest in visiting Earth.
That’s because the technological advancement and intelligence to even begin to contemplate the solutions to the barriers to space travel leaves a lot of detritus in its wake. Things like energy production, factories, cellphones, burgeoning populations and the very impressive array of BIG trucks hitched to BIG trailers filled with BIG snowmobiles parked in the lot behind my hotel room in Revelstoke. We’re smart enough to pave and power our path to our own extinction, we’re just not smart enough — at least so far — to stop ourselves from closing in on that destination.
The crux of the problem is our difficulty distinguishing between things we can do and things we should do… or more to the point, things we shouldn’t do. We can, for example, figure out how to catch fish. We can’t, it seems, figure out how to stop ourselves before we fish species to extinction. We can figure out how to build nuclear power plants, we can’t figure out what to do with the waste. We can contrive esoterica like financial derivatives, we can’t figure out how to keep ’em from bankrupting us.