The planet, earth, as a cosmic entity revolving about its star has gone through many changes and upheavals since its fiery beginnings while the sun was in its infancy. It is estimated that this has been a four and one-half billion year journey. It has been assaulted by asteroids; it has gone through numerous cycles of dramatic climate change including many ice ages. As a planet its continued existence is completely dependent upon the fate of its star. When the sun eventually exhausts its fuel and begins to enter the final stages of its existence, the impact on the earth and all the other planets of our solar system is quite clear – they will be consumed in fire and destruction.
This final event is estimated to be some five billion years away. This is not, therefore, an issue of immediate concern to those living now and in the foreseeable future. If our species, Homo sapiens, is actually extant for that long a duration, I could envision two starkly disparate worlds.
The more optimistic vision would suggest a highly evolved and cohesive civilization that over the course of its evolution had overcome its darker and more self-destructive proclivities and truly embraced the wondrous capacities of the human mind to use high-order thinking and fully embrace the intellect and its ability to reason. In such a reality, humans would have learned to become true stewards of the living world and become harmonious with all of life. In such a world, everyone could pursue his or her true potential and no one would needlessly suffer. If such a civilization existed, long before the earth were to end, humans would have already implemented the planned colonization of other worlds so that the species could successfully continue.
This vision, however, is in such stark contrast to the current human world that is difficult to visualize how such a radical transformation in human behavior could occur. From a darker perspective – one that seems far closer to the reality as we currently understand it – the human condition would be wholly different in the protracted future. Assuming that the species is still extant – this might itself be considered a doubtful prospect, human societies would have remained tribal and violent in their outlook having failed to transcend the darker emotions. The human population and that of many other species would have been decimated by eons of environmental damage as a natural outcome of human activity. In such a world, all the progress and advances made heretofore as a direct result of human ingenuity and scientific and technological expertise would have been but a distant and long forgotten memory.
Of course, there are many alternative scenarios besides the two that I have purposefully chosen. However, the point remains that the present state of human activity on the planet does not suggest a sanguine future. As of yet, humans have been wholly unable to embrace the quality of life for members of its own species and the responsibility of human civilization to retain the viability of life on the earth and, on account of this failure, the future for our descendents remains in serious jeopardy.