Our species’ ability to be so environmentally destructive, our appetite for violence, and our wanton cruelty towards the animals with which we share our planet cause me no small measure of anxiety. In the grand scheme of things our behaviour makes no sense. Humanity’s tremendous intelligence has given us an understanding of the universe and our place in the cosmos unknown to any other creature. We are, in this corner of creation we call ‘the known universe,’ the greatest miracle in space. Here on Earth we have discovered the true precariousness of our existence. Were it not for a mere six inches of topsoil we would never have had evolved, and were it not for the exact position of our moon and our precise distance from the sun there would be no life on our planet at all. Our location in our galaxy is important too. Our solar system is at the tail end of the Milky Way. Were we closer to or further from its gravitational centre our star may not have formed.

In every respect of our material existence we are in the Goldilocks Zone; everything is just right for our star, its planets, our planet, its land and water, and all life to exist. Given all the thousands of trillions of variables over the whole expanse of cosmic time and space all of these factors make us damn lucky to be here. As far as we can see, and as much as we are able to detect in the void of space around us, we are alone. We are seven billion and some human beings, on a rock teaming with other lifeforms, looking out into the darkness wondering if there is anyone or anything looking back.

I assume that we are not alone. Calculations like the Drake Equation; taking into account the sheer scale of the time involved in the expansion of the universe – known and unknown – and its near infinite (to all intents and purposes) size, render it almost absurd to imagine Earth is the only orbiting sphere with life on it. Having said this, I doubt very much that wee green men have ever paid us a visit. All I assume is that somewhere out-there there is life. It may be vast civilisations of super-intelligent aliens, and it may be primitive spider-like things feeding on space flies; who knows? All the same it seems probable – at least to me – that, out in space, there was, or there is, or there will be life other than life on Earth.

So let’s for a moment imagine that we find life on a galaxy far far away. Imagine it’s a happy medium between the super villains of Science Fiction and the mega anticlimactic spider-like things of earlier. Suppose we find six-legged cows on a planet of purple grass with two moons. Their discovery – everything about them and the planet they inhabit – will be a wonder. They will have finally answered for us the question of whether or not we are alone. We most certainly wouldn’t set about the environmental destruction of their planet, and we’d never consider stamping on their heads or setting them on fire for fun. Yet this is an everyday occurrence on the one world which we are aware of on which there are billions of living things. Our destruction, violence, and cruelty in the world we live should shock us and make us anxious. Why would we never consider it on another world? Is it is the case that the grass is always purpler the other side?

Jason Michael
Blog Author

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