Tens of billions of years from now…the sun will have shrunk to a white dwarf, giving little light and even less heat to whatever is left of Earth, and entered a long, lingering death that could last 100 trillion years…
I’m worried. Really worried.
Not about what we’ll have for dinner tonight. Or whether to lease or buy our next car. And I’m not talking about larger societal issues like pensions and healthcare. For all the wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth, these things will likely work themselves out to the extent I give a rat’s ass.
Even bigger issues like global warming or that much-anticipated cage match between Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin don’t cause me to lose sleep. Sure, we may end up causing calamitous changes to the planet that will displace billions of people and cost trillions of dollars. But even with all that, mankind will survive in one form or another…at least for now.
No. What’s got me worried, so worried I can barely get out of bed in the morning, is the ultimate, seemingly inevitable end of all life as we know it.
I’m not referring to the inexplicable popularity of Dancing with the Stars. I’m speaking, of course, of the ongoing expansion of the universe. While most of us blithely carry on as if we’ll be here forever, the universe keeps reaching further and further into space at a staggering clip.
If the universe keeps expanding forever, then eventually everything will end up in a static, freezing death not unlike my third marriage. In other words, we’ll all be cosmological freezer pops.
Now the good news is that this end of the world event isn’t happening any time soon. You and I will be able to go to our graves without watching the apocalypse (subject to that one-in-a-million Earth-shattering asteroid). But is it really fair to do nothing and leave this problem to our far distant successors to deal with — even if, by that time, they have evolved into three-foot-high blue trapezoids that bear only limited family resemblance to us?
That’s why I’ve decided to start stressing now. Maybe my worrying will be one small step in the long, hard task of helping to stop the universe from dying. Or maybe it will be the beginning of a movement to come up with new solutions for this devastating problem.
I take my membership in the human race seriously (though my membership card was briefly suspended during one drug-fueled stretch in the early seventies). It may seem like a daunting task to change the course of the universe, but I say that it is our obligation as a species to at least try.
If the universe is headed towards an everlasting freezing death, then it’s my responsibility to do what I can to heat things up now. That’s why I have a coal-fired home furnace, keep my lights on 24/7 and have just purchased my third SUV.
For some, global warming is a huge problem. For me, however, it’s a giant global opportunity. The hotter we can get this planet, the longer we can delay that freezing death thing that awaits us just around the astronomical corner.
Some scientists postulate that the universe will stop expanding, will fall in on itself and eventually lead to another big bang. They envision a never-ending series of expansions and contractions much like my brain on that purported Purple Haze that Fred Zeffner sold me in 1973.
In that case, maybe we as a race can determine if there’s some planetary sidetrack where we can park ourselves temporarily until the latest expansion or contraction passes us by. In order to do that, I think it’s only wise to expand our nuclear capabilities at a breakneck, some might foolishly say reckless, pace. After all, if we’re going to be able to move this planet quickly, we need nukes and lots of them.
These are questions worth thinking about now, not billions of years from now when it may well be too late. Let’s set up interstellar think tanks and pan-galactic commissions to grapple with these issues and hopefully come up with some answers to save our successors.
If we all pull together then I’m sure that we can start the ball rolling on the biggest project of all time — the preservation of our planet and life itself.
Unless, of course, the scientists are right that climate change will destroy us all in a century or two. In that case, forget it; we really are screwed.