Guestwords: The Day the Earth Stands Still
Someday the Earth will die. The Sun will die and the Earth will follow suit. The Sun will become a white dwarf star. The solar system will be orphaned and eventually sucked into an oblivion-inducing cosmic siphon, like human waste in a toilet bowl.
But long before any of this occurs, mankind will have been forewarned by sequences of environmental and geologic catastrophes, tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and tornadoes that make life increasingly difficult to sustain. Carbon emissions and the greenhouse effect will by this time have already played a role, but it will be minor compared to the consequences deriving from the demise of the mother star.
The biblical tale of Noah and his ark is not only mythological but prescient and iconic to the extent that there have always been and will always be times when man has to escape the existence he has comfortably inhabited and, in the course, find a vehicle in which to do it. There will always be holdouts who complement the old doomsday crowd (who believed in the Mayan prophecy that the world would end on Dec. 21, 2012) and who will refuse to budge from their dwellings, claiming the apocalypse is not here.
For the rest, the coming Armageddon will be betokened by widespread loss of value in things. Money, real estate, oil, precious metals will all tumble in value in anticipation of collapse. And besides the mystics and the nuts, you will witness little of the holding out that, for instance, happened on the part of ethnic minorities who didn’t see the writing on the wall and insisted on staying in their ancestral homes despite the prospect of imminent annihilation by Hutus or Nazis. There will be few who refuse the ark.
The only problem is that the nearest planet suitable for habitation by human beings exists next to a very far away star (“Two Promising Places to Live, 1,200 Light-Years From Earth,” The New York Times, April 18) that, even given the possibility of an advanced form of spacecraft capable of traveling near the speed of light (without turning into pure energy) and navigating worm holes (which are the equivalent of shortcuts in space), will still take many millennia to arrive at.
Thus the crafts leaving Earth will be celestial objects in their own right, self-sustaining biospheres capable of producing water and oxygen in order to allow plant life and all the animals that Noah originally included in his ark. So if Noah had two cows, two geese, we would now be talking about two to the, say, 10th power, for starters, on most ships. Many generations of Earth alumni will not experience a light-filled day. Their only sky will be populated by perennial galaxies of stars.
It is unlikely that our children or our children’s children or their children will be part of the great exodus by which the population of the Earth will be moved to its new home. But there is no doubt that someday it will happen, with life as we know it not coming to an end, but simply taking place somewhere else.
Francis Levy is a Wainscott resident and the author of the novels “Erotomania: A Romance” and “Seven Days in Rio.” A previous contributor to The Star, he blogs at TheScreamingPope.com and on The Huffington Post.