THE SAGAN SERIES - The Long Astronomical Perspective
It might be a familiar progression, transpiring on many worlds:
a planet, newly formed, placidly revolves around its star;
a kaleidoscopic procession of creatures evolves;
intelligence emerges which, at least up to a point,
confers enormous survival value;
and then technology is invented…
In a flash, they create world-altering contrivances.
Some planetary civilizations see their way through,
place limits on what may and what must not be done,
and safely pass through the time of perils.
Others, not so lucky or so prudent,
This is one reason that in the long astronomical perspective
there is something truly epochal about “now”…
This is the first moment in the history of our planet
when any species, by its own voluntary actions,
has become a danger to itself,
as well as to vast numbers of others.
We humans have already precipitated
extinctions of species on a scale unprecedented
since the end of the Cretaceous Period.
has the magnitude of these extinctions become clear,
and the possibility raised that in our ignorance
of the interrelations of life on Earth
we may be endangering our own future.
Of course we must keep our planet habitable
— not on a leisurely timescale of centuries or millennia,
but urgently, on a timescale of decades or even years.
This will involve changes in government,
in industry, in ethics, in economics, and in religion.
We’ve never done such a thing before,
certainly not on a global scale.
It may well be too difficult for us.
Dangerous technologies may be too widespread.
Corruption may be too pervasive.
There may be too many quarreling ethnic groups,
for the right kind of global change to be instituted.
However, we humans also have a history
of making long-lasting social change
that nearly everyone thought was impossible.
We have often, despite our diversity,
pulled together to face a common enemy.
Our leverage on the future is high, just now.
much more willing to recognize the perils before us
than we were even a decade ago.
The newly recognized dangers threaten all of us equally.
No one can say how it will turn out down here.
But this is also, we may note,
the first time that a species has become able
to journey to the planets and the stars.