The message on the fanatic’s sandwich-board – most of us saw them only in cartoons – used to make us smile. It turns out that it is, indeed, later than we used to think, and few of us are smiling as the Amazon burns and the ice of Antarctica plunges into the sea.
Before ecologists began, in the last couple of years, to tell us we have till 2030 or at best 2050 before we are engulfed in an apocalyptic, global, end-of-the-world disaster, an eminent French scientist, Director of Research in the prestigious Institute of Astrophysics in Paris (“Science et Avenir”, July, 2008) told us we need to plan for exiting Earth. Questioned about how long we have left before we need to leave to settle on another planet, he replied : “In one hundred or several hundreds of years, we will have nothing in terms of resources.” Hence the absolute necessity, he said, of allowing our species to survive by developing the technology that will permit a tiny fraction of humankind to move to Mars or to one of Jupiter’s moons, Europa (he is a scientist, so he never even mentioned exoplanets). He believes that our first emergency exit is closer to home – the vast oceans of our planet. He seriously envisages humans living on the ocean floor, to give us time – a thousand years at best – to develop the means of a definitive departure into space and one of the rare planets with enough water to allow our species to survive.
The idea is not entirely new. One hundred and fifty years ago, another Frenchman, who was not a scientist but a novelist, Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880) wrote : “When the Earth is worn out, humanity will leave for the stars”. Science fiction ? Apparently not. We are living the End-Times.
Believers and unbelievers must surely wonder about God’s supposed rôle and intentions in all this. A minuscule number of human beings may survive. We have long known that whatever about biblical prophecy, our world is destined anyhow to disintegrate and disappear … in five billion years. We now have to revise the estimation of the time we have left. We, personally, you and I, will not be around to worry about this a century of two (or perhaps just decades) from now. But surely this scientific projection is a wake-up call for those still naïve enough to believe in God and Intelligent Design. The majority of people, however, will probably dismiss all this as absurd. And believers who recognize the reality of impending annihilation, will beg their loving Father in Heaven to deliver their descendants if not from Hell on Earth at least from the other one.
But many non-atheists and their godologians will buy the following “reasoning” : the demise of the superb planet God gave us is our fault, not His. It’s the Garden of Eden all over again, only this time , after our disobedience and sinful waste of His precious gift, He does not expel us; we expel ourselves. He is not only a God of Love but the God of Justice. If we are so stupid as to ignore His commands to care for the Earth, to love one another and to share His gifts with our brethren, we have only ourselves to blame. Q.E.D. None so blind as those who will not see.