Who am I to question renowned cosmologist. Stephen Hawking…………. but…….. sometimes what he says seems to be influenced by what he “believes” more than what he scientifically “knows”. Yesterday, ABC’s news site ran this alarmist headline, “Hawking: Humans Will Not Survive Another 1,000 Years ‘Without Escaping’ Earth” . This piece quotes Hawking as saying that he does not think humans will survive another 1,000 without “escaping beyond our fragile planet”. Now, within that little statement lies a wealth of questions – is our planet really “fragile”? Here’s a news story from 2009 quoting a Caltech team that thinks the earth might be habitable for another 2.3 billion years. So, somewhere between these extremes might lie the answer, let’s say humans have a billion years (give or take a few), well, a lot can happen in even one century – unimaginable things. In 1900, if we had been sitting around the kitchen table eating dinner (my favorite location for family discussions), do you think any of us would have ever dreamed that by the year 2000 we would have gone to the moon, had personal computers to share information, tackled a wide array of deadly diseases, among an almost endless list of inventions, discoveries and innovations that dramatically changed our daily lives?
I’ll mention a situation from my childhood, yes, back to those rural PA backwoods again. Palmerton, PA, located in NE PA was home to a smelting factory belonging to the NJ Zinc Company. Before you even reached Palmerton, the barren mountains where all of the trees had died, alerted you to the pollution, minutes before you actually saw the smokestacks billowing pollutants into the air. Now, I am not one of those green types, but when even weeds and grass won’t grow in people’s yards, that should be a clue that something is amiss. Over a decade ago, I drove through Palmerton and due to a lot of scientific know-how, a reforestation program appears to be working – the mountains are green again. Here’s a detailed report from the Fish and Wildlife Service. While way too many people on both sides of the political aisle automatically jump to their side on all issues, perhaps, we should view each situation on its merits. Yes, the right always cringes whenever we hear about the EPA (because of so many overreaches by politically-motivated folks), but sometimes it’s important to put limits on industrial waste. This one little example demonstrates that people can make both good and bad impacts on our “fragile” earth. As a child, I “believed” those mountains were dead forever and when I saw the new growth decades later, it struck me as another example that with determination and an innovative spirit, people can accomplish things that seemed impossible only a few years before.
I often think that many times what people say they “think” really is more about what they “believe”. He’s a “believer” in global warming – Hawking was warning about the dangers of global warming back in 2006 – here’s a USA Today story. His language, to flow with the politically-motivated, semantical tap dance, now uses the all inclusive, so you’re never wrong, “climate change”, but it still seems more about political beliefs rather than scientific facts to me. I’ll stick to my faith in the human spirit, which knows no bonds, beyond those which we accept as insurmountable obstacles. And yes, if at some point 1,000 or 2.3 billion years from now, earth is in its death throes, I “believe” that people will have acquired a means to find us another habitable planet to move to – such is the indomitable human spirit:-)