I was in Korea recently sharing the stage with futurist Jim Dator. He’s head of the Research Center for Future Studies at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Privately he told me he thought signs were very bad, that we probably would not make it, that is, that humanity and the biosphere would undergo catastrophic collapse taking all his futuristic dreams with it.
Then I gave my slide show about ecologically healthy cities, cities to run on one tenth the energy and occupy one fifth the land of conventional cities, cities with zero or near zero cars and that much less paving and demand for oil, or that much less demand for any other energy source for that matter and wherever the energy came from it would be renewable the city with room for agriculture and other natural critters.
Then Jim said the marvels of space tourism would be upon us soon. For around a million dollars you could, before 2020, orbit the Earth. I drew an 8” line representing a million dollars across the top of the note page in front of me and divided it by ten: $100,000. That was down to just over ¾ of an inch. Then I cut it down to one tenth of that: $10,000, which was getting proportionally really small. Then I imagined a real bargain trip to Europe for $1,000 and it was a line about as long as a period on the page is wide. That shows almost nobody is going to be a space tourist and how amazingly wasteful the idea really is, how destructive the dream is at this time in history, maybe any time in history.
It’s time to leave the cradle. We are a space faring species, he declared.
That got me thinking. The Earth is hardly a cradle with humanity as babies basking in warm, soft blankets, helpless and in the care of loving forces smiling down at us. The Earth is a wild-ass exterminating angel of volcanoes, earthquakes, hurricanes, freezing blizzards and desiccating deserts, of rattlesnakes and deadly diseases. It’s the exploding fireworks of billions of sexual orgasms, achingly beautiful sunsets, rainbows and happy babies. It’s bathing in warm seas and falling asleep in the arms of your lover. It’s rich, dangerous and inspiring in its own infinitude, anything but a sheltering cradle swaddling humanity in the comforts of inexperience, ignorance and dependence.
But building cities, with tall structures linked by bridges in the sky, towering solar greenhouses and rooftop gardens, restaurants and promenades with spectacular views and all running on one tenth today’s energy demand and one fifth the land, that you can just bicycle out of into the country in ten minutes… That’s futuristic and realistic.