The Earth as an Island

What Will We Do Once Our Planet is No Longer Hospitable To Life?

Coronal mass ejection heading for earth



A basic fundamental principal of biogeography is that species, when faced with a change in its environment, has three choices: move, adapt, or die. In the wake of a disturbance, such as a natural disaster, the species must react in one of these three ways. Two of the choices offer survival and if these options are not available, species will face death and possibly extinction.

Humans are now being faced with this dilemma of survival. The effect of the human population has taken its toll on the natural habitat and cycles of the planet in nearly irreversible ways. At the current rate of resource use, pollution output, and overpopulation it can be argued that the planet earth will not exist in its current state for much longer.


Regardless of which type of disturbance occurs humans would be forced to move, adapt, or die. In the likely scenario that a man-made or natural disturbance will force humans to make one of the aforementioned choices, which outcome would be most likely?


Consider also that NASA has stated that the most likely situation for human colonization would be in orbit, not on another planet. In this case, several space stations would need to be constructed to facilitate a human colony and survival. This project would take decades to complete along with billions of dollars. At present time, no plans exist for a project of this magnitude.

The option for humans to move seems highly unfeasible. With no destination and no plans for a space colony, the global population would be forced into one of the other two options.


Humans also possess the ability to adapt. However, unlike other species, humans also need a willingness to adapt. Humans have the ability to choose whether or not to change in the face of a disturbance. Given the track record for humans as a species, it is unlikely that mankind will simply curtail to the will of nature and accept uncontrollable changes.


There is also the possibility of a much-needed fourth option. Humans are the only species on the planet that possess the ability to change their environment. In the past, these changes have been in the name of human progress at the cost of the environment, but future generations may be able to turn that around.

This option would need a global effort with redesigned priorities. The days of individual movements to save the environment and endangered species would need to be replaced by much more holistic views to encompass the survival of all species and biomes.

Humans need to take a step back and realize that the planet they inhabit is very much alive and that they are very much a part of the system of the earth. By seeing the entire picture and taking steps to preserve the planet as a whole, humans may be able to create an option that would allow future generations to flourish.