The overarching theme for this year’s World Environment Day 2022 is that the Earth is unique in our galaxy and universe.
The sentiment behind this statement is admirable, however, over in pedants corner, it does feel a bit sweeping…. In 2015 NASA announced the discovery of “Earth’s cousin”, the planet Kepler -425b. Kepler is the first rocky planet we have discovered orbiting a sun-like star within the habitable ‘Goldilocks’ zone that would support human life. Even our closest neighbour Mars is likely to have once had an atmosphere and liquid water on its surface.
There are billions of stars in the Milky Way and pure probability means that it is highly likely that there are other planets which could support human life.
However, finding these planets, and then getting to them represents a significant challenge… (as a sustainability consultant I don’t use significantlightly). Kepler -425b is 1,800 light years away, currently Mars is a barren rock in space with average temperatures of -60C.
We also cannot be sure how habitable a planet is until we get there. Any future interstellar exodus of humanity could be a very long, hostile walk, down a very windy beach, to a café which shut millions of years ago….(credit to Bill Baily for that metaphor).
And this meander leads to the point of this article. The earth is an unbelievably special place. We are unbelievably lucky to be living on it, and we depend on the richness and diversity of life for our own survival. At present humanity appears to be doing its level best to squander what we have. I hope that World Environment Day can be a channel for positive stories and inspire people to take more actions to conserve what we have.