Earth has a new cousin!
Last week’s announcement of the discovery of life on planet Kepler-186f has scientists jumping for joy. This planet, a mere 500 light years (2.9 quadrillion miles) away is in the constellation Cygnus. It’s an exoplanet, which means its outside our solar system, is about the same size as Earth, and in the “Goldilocks zone- neither too not or too cold, convincing scientists it may support liquid water and a hard, rocky surface, two qualities needed for life.
Don’t be too quick to don your hiking shoes; there’s much work to do before we know what’s really there. Thinking that there could be an earth-twin, though has set my imagination reeling. Long the turf for science fiction writers, the idea that there’s life beyond us is incredible. I do wonder—have they made such an ecological mess of their planet as we have of ours? Has their history been plagued with wars and unrest? Their cultures divided by bigotry and distrust?
It’s Earth Day. We celebrate all the wonders of nature and use the time to examine what we’re doing to protect so many resources that are finite. We discuss global warming as we turn on our air conditioners. We debate mass transportation funding as we drive everywhere. We bemoan the costs of water or the lack of water pressure as we let the tap run and take long showers. We recycle if it’s convenient.
Renowned biodiversity scientist E. O. Wilson proposes a radical approach. He contends it’s time to end what he calls the “Anthropocene Epoch, the age of man.” He’s not calling for human extinction; he’s warning we need to take better care of Earth now and set goals to maintain the ecosystem.
I remember celebrating the first Earth Day in 1970 on a camping trip with my family. We attended an eco-fair that showed the importance of recycling, the necessity of saving water, the need for trees. A lot has changed since then: unleaded gas, stricter regulations for industry, attention to climate change. There’s much more to do.