Work For A Healthy Planet

stephen-hawkingHawking is wrong: Germaine is right

By Bianca Begovich, Environment Correspondentgermaine-greer

Last year I saw Germaine Greer at the Paramount Theatre as part of the Wellington Writers and Readers Festival.  She told the sell-out crowd that Stephen Hawking had said, “The earth is dying – there is no hope but to look for life on other planets.”

For the next five minutes Germaine proceeded to tell us in no uncertain terms exactly how ridiculous she thought Professor Hawking’s comments were.

Her argument was loosely based along the lines ‘why would we seek life elsewhere without first doing everything we can to save the planet we currently live on?’

A year on, and reading last week’s Dominion Post article about Hawking’s BBC Reith lecture, I see he is still delivering the same message advocating abandoning earth to seek refuge on other planets.

The Hawking doctrine

According to him, the only solution for human survival to the threats of climate change, nuclear terrorism and the rise of artificial intelligence over the next millennium is “to continue to go into space for the future of humanity.”

The space shuttle Atlantis lifts off from the Kennedy Space Center Friday, July 8, 2011, in Cape Canaveral, Fla. Atlantis is the 135th and final space shuttle launch for NASA. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
The way to go? (AP Photo/John Raoux)

Setting aside for a moment the ludicracy of burning billions of litres of fossil fuels to leave a planet which is dying from greenhouse gas emissions, all three problems which Professor Hawking says threaten our survival are avoidable, at least to a certain degree.

The threat of nuclear terrorism is completely avoidable, as is the rise of artificial intelligence.  Both threats are man-made and as such, can be entirely avoided by changing human behaviour.

After years of debate, every sane person now also agrees that climate change is at least partially caused by people.  This means there are human solutions to slowing this threat to our fragile planet as well.

Work for a healthy planet

Rather than trashing the earth and then ditching it to find a dubious quality of life elsewhere, wouldn’t it be more prudent to try the myriad of other solutions to keeping this planet healthy first?



Clean technology; protecting our rain-forests and oceans; reducing our reliance on fossil fuels; transparent diplomatic relations; curbing the arms race; fighting inequality and corruption; genuine democratic governance and supporting local economies; will surely not only extend life on the earth but also improve the quality of life here as well?

Are we really so narrow-minded and short-sighted as a species that we can’t consider these solutions, instead of blithely continuing down the road which is killing our host planet?

It is completely irresponsible for someone of Stephen Hawking’s influence to not only be ignoring the real (and completely attainable) solutions to climate change, the rise of artificial intelligence and the threat of nuclear terrorism, but to also advocate further trashing the planet in order to ‘save ourselves.’

How self-absorbed does someone have to be to think the human species is the only thing worth saving on this earth?