Monday, February 14, 2022

Science fiction predicted it. Space exploration is our only chance of survival as a race - by Vijaya Schartz


Recently I saw a French documentary on the state of the agriculture in Europe that got me thinking. In it, a chemical expert for the study of soil and crops (in this case wheat) was explaining that all the chemicals we use to grow crops are killing the ground, interrupting the cycle of renewal through natural decay of vegetal and animal origin.

The elimination of weeds and insects has made the soil sterile. The ground is too compact due to lack of animal and vegetal decay, and doesn’t absorb water. If tomorrow the various chemicals used to grow crops were no longer available, the soil is incapable of sustaining any kind of growth, and could be sterile for decades.

Furthermore, the crops themselves, in this case wheat, have been genetically modified (GMO) to adapt to the new farming style. For example, the stems are much shorter and the harvested grain larger. Which is dandy, except that if we stop using chemicals and pesticides, the new species of grain will not be able to survive a natural environment. After all, mother nature made the stems high to protect the growing grain from natural predators, worms, crickets, floods, etc.

As a sci-fi writer, I can see how this could bring instant famine in a post-apocalyptic scenario, with radical weather changes, or even in a pandemic scenario, where the flow of chemicals is interrupted due to crippled manufacturing or interrupted shipping.

But traditional farming failed to produce enough reliable and bountiful harvests, and there are 8 billion mouths to feed in this world. When I was a child, the world population was only 1.5 billion. Think about it… and the numbers keep climbing exponentially.

The problem mankind refuses to face is that there are too many people on this planet and we are killing it to fulfill our needs, whether for food or with plastic waste in the name of practicality. As the population grows, the Earth will eventually die. But killing mother Earth will not help our survival. So, what’s the solution?

If you are familiar with the Avenger movies, Thanos had a simple solution. Instantly kill half the population of every planet. But he was a supervillain, at least in our minds. So, let’s not do that.

China tried restricting the number of children per couple to two, but it only led to selective breeding. They ended up with an overwhelmingly male population and a steep decline. Now, they allow three children per couple.

Of course, as a sci-fi writer, I also have a solution. Let’s colonize Mars and terraform it. Have you seen the movie THE MARTIAN? It is possible. Let’s build and develop autonomous human habitats on the moon and on Mars. Oh, wait, we are already working on that project.

Let’s build space stations the size of a small country and grow artificial crops in orbit, while preserving natural life on this planet.

Let’s explore the universe in search of Earth-like planets to settle. Let’s look toward the stars for our salvation.

Too farfetched? Not at all. Several countries are already developing such programs. China has a very active space program and is already on the moon. Other countries have their own space program as well. 

And with the privatization of space technology, many companies see profit in space mining and are considering space tourism as a profitable venture. Soon, our news will be broadcasting from space, the new frontier, where pioneers will inspire young people to explore new worlds.

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All this has already happened in my science fiction novels. But despite scientific advancements, the fundamental needs of mankind remain the same. Food, shelter, friendship, love, recreation, happiness.

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Happy Reading!

Vijaya Schartz, author
Strong Heroines, Brave Heroes, cats

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