TVIW Scholarship Essay – Alex Tharpe

Why Should Humanity Become An Interstellar Species

Planet Earth is becoming too small for the human race to stay for much longer. Our current population of seven-point-fifty-three billion people is rising exponentially, and living space with other species is getting equally crowded. Ninety-five percent of the world’s population is concentrated on just ten percent of the world’s surface, due to the existence of large cities and towns. Ten percent of inhabited land does not sound like anything significant; however, another eighty-percent of the planet’s surface is well connected with man-made infrastructure: roads, highways, farmlands, etc. For an area of land to be remote, it has to be more than forty-eight hours from a large city. That is a mere ten percent of the remaining land area of the planet. In short, humans actually inhabit ninety percent of the world’s land, leaving only ten percent for the natural wilderness.

The relationship between the human race and our world is analogous to the relationship between a parasite or virus and a host. A parasite takes advantage of the host’s body for survival at the expense of the host. That expense can be inconvenient, uncomfortable, irritating, ghastly, and all the way to outright lethal without the parasite being addressed in ample time. Humans, the parasites, have took advantage of the planet, the host, and its resources and have caused critical environmental damage to the planet in the process. The damage has amplified by our exponentially growing population. This damage includes vast wildfires, vast deforestations, growing desertification, water pollution, air pollution, soil pollution, rapidly declining animal populations, and climate change. The list goes on.

However, unlike parasites, whose damage to the host does not have an adverse effect on themselves, the damage we humans have done to our planet will and is having an adverse effect on us. We depend on the soil and waters to grow healthy crops and to sustain the health of the animals and their byproducts we consume. Almost every organism on the planet depends on a healthy atmosphere to breathe or to stabilize the climate and oceans. Detrimental effects on any of these aspects of the natural has detrimental effects on the health of us humans. We are essentially and carelessly terraforming our world into something that will eventually lead to our own demise.

Should humanity entertain the idea of becoming an interstellar species? Yes. The people of Earth must understand that travelling into space is the best hope for humanity to continue its existence and to insure the restoration of Earth. Yes, moving some of the population off-world is important and will surely be difficult, but there is also the possibility of allocating other planets to serve individual purposes. By having whole planets dedicated to different purposes, humanity can thus relieve Earth of some of the dependencies that human have so that the natural environment can be allowed to heal. With the planet relieved of some of the stress of human development, the people of Earth can assist the planet with the environmental healing process. Inactive farmland could become replanted forests. More efforts could be made to clean the soil, waters, and air. Declining populations of animals could be assisted in making a comeback.

The idea of different planets across the galaxy serving individual purposes is well illustrated in the acclaimed Halo video game franchise. As humanity spread out to distant worlds, certain planets were assigned roles to maintain the stability of a civilization spread thin across the Milky Way galaxy. In the real world, humanity would have to follow suit.

One planet famous in Halo lore, for it was the first human world to be attacked by the franchise’s antagonist alien empire known as the Covenant, is called Harvest. As the name suggests, Harvest was dedicated to agricultural production for the solar system it was located in. In the real world, Earth does not have an issue with food availability for seven-and-a-half billion people, since we have far advanced our methods of agricultural production, controversial practices included. A planet sized farming operation in the future could feed a solar system several times over.

Many planets could be designated as mining worlds, as many that we have discovered are unable or that we will discover are most likely to be unable to support life anyway, allowing for operations to degrees that would be considered invasive and destructive on worlds with diverse biospheres. Whole planets could be harvested to the satisfaction of any proprietor without any backlash from planetary environmentalist. Mining would not be restricted to just planets. Asteroids would also be prime sources of minerals and metal ores.

Distant planets could harbor resources and organisms that humans can make use of that are not found on Earth. The cure for diseases and illnesses and enhancement drugs that may not be found on Earth could possibly be found in abundance on other worlds. The cure for cancer could be developed from the biochemistry of an extraterrestrial plant or creature, if we have not already discovered it by then. The properties of extraterrestrial minerals and chemical substances could allow for the invention of new technologies that otherwise may not be possible to develop on Earth. For instance, a metal could be discovered that causes a significant distortion of the gravity around it, allowing for the invention of anti-gravity lifts or floating vehicles or structures.

The fascinating prospect of meeting other intelligent life is one of the most important reasons for humanity to become an interstellar species, if not the most important reason. Beings of higher intelligence than humans could shed light on some the universe’s deepest secrets. Their technologically advanced knowledge could be taught to us, for our own use. Their knowledge and connections of other intelligent life forms and habitable worlds could be shared with us so we could come to know them. Intelligent extraterrestrials that have conquered the challenge of traveling between galaxies could share their methods with us for even more unknown possibilities. If they have not quite mastered the art of intergalactic travel, then both of our species could work together to crack that puzzle. Humanity traveling amongst the stars could answer the question of whether other intelligent life exists or if humanity truly is the only intelligent species in our entire galaxy, and I am unsure of which one is more unnerving.  I hope that I am around to find out.

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