“Today, as we gaze into the future, we see that the events that took place seventy-five thousand years ago may actually be a dress rehearsal for future catastrophes.” (2)
So writes Michio Kaku in his recent tome, The Future of Humanity. Kaku, professor of theoretical physics at the City University of New York and sought-after futurist speaker, dedicates much of his time to theorising how (and why) we humans may need to give serious consideration to inhabiting other planets: to make them liveable like Earth — something termed terraforming, because, as he points out, “if we scan all the life-forms that have ever existed on the Earth, from microscopic bacteria to towering forests, lumbering dinosaurs, and enterprising humans, we find that more than 99.9% of them eventually became extinct. This means that extinction is the norm, that the odds are already heavily stacked against us.” (3)
That’s a sobering thought, and it makes me wonder: are we preparing the next generation for this? Acknowledging the realities of how much we’ve developed technologically — and emphasising how much more lies in front of us over the next 20 to 30 years, Kaku believes that we (as a civilisation) will be in a serious position to terraform Mars by the end of the century. That means that the kids we’re educating now, especially in primary school, will be the ones who propel us toward bona fide terraforming. The effects will be myriad, from helping our bodies cope with completely different gravitational effects (hard on the human body), to growing food and producing potable water and breathable air, there is much to do. Yet it may be inevitable, and what’s more, eventually it may be just another option for “ex-pat” (“extraterrestrial” to be precise) families who will need to attend an intergalactic school, the next stage of growth for international schools.
Kaku is optimistic, however easy it may be to become rather alarmed by his analysis of Earth’s history and future. I commend his tome to you; it gave me great pause on a number of occasions. We tend to become so granular about our own school-existence, curriculum and assessment, and so on, that we might be forgetting to allocate ample time to consider the “what if’s” of the next generation. What if, for instance, it becomes a worldwide imperative to terraform another planet? How might we marshal our efforts and resources around this task? Education and skills will undoubtedly play a critical role, yet how would we make such a momentous shift?
Are we thinking beyond our own stars?