Rivers wonders if the over-population of earth is what is going to drive us into space and living on some other planet.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

November 18th, 2017



A reader recently suggested that we might have to leave this planet should the consequences of climate change become overbearing. Fortunately for him astronomers have been working on that very solution.

They have located a planet which just might do the job as our next residence – a new earth for us after we have filled-up all the proverbial ashtrays here. It is an unfortunate human condition for too many of us – move on rather than clean up the teenager’s bedroom we live in.


The Planet Ross B

The planet Ross 128 b has a temperature not unlike ours, today. And it is only 11 light-years away – too far for the daily commute but, at only 65 trillion or so miles, it might be close enough for the hardiest and youngest among us to relocate. And the really good news is that, being about a third larger than our earth, it will be that much longer before we’d need to move again.

To expedite this kind of travel, scientists are working hard to invent a functional working particle transport mechanism, like the one used to ‘beam them up Scotty’. That would allow space cadets to avoid those deep-sleep chambers which Stanley Kubrick imagined in his travels with HAL back in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Of course I am expecting any day to hear that the amazing Elon Musk has developed a new Tesla which can reach warp speed.

Starship Enterprise

The Starship Enterprise – many of us were raised on the story of that adventure. Was it just a peak of what is to come?

Kubrick’s flick dates back to the late sixties, well before most of us had even heard of global warming. But now it is over two decades since the global science community came together in Rio (1992) to really ring the alarm bell. Brian Mulroney should always be remembered for the leadership he showed in bringing his minsters on-side, back then, with all things environmental including the changing climate.

In fact most of Canada’s political leaders have done more than just pay lip service to the environment. Pierre Trudeau led the fight against acid rain, Mulroney expedited the clean-up of the Great Lakes, and Chretien signed onto the Kyoto climate agreement, though he did little about actually implementing it. But Stephen Harper was the odd man out, pulling the country out of Kyoto and eroding other environmental protection safeguards.

GW Bush must have been Harper’s mentor, for they were in lock-step on tax cuts for the rich and the war in Iraq, as well as global warming. In the end Bush was so reviled by his peers and party that he wasn’t even invited to attend the GOP leadership conventions. Who would have thought America could have had a worse president, at least until Mr. Trump showed up?

scheer - big smile

Andrew Scheer, leader of the federal opposition

And now Harper’s protégé, the thirty-something Saskatchewan. MP Andrew Scheer has taken over the reins of Canada’s second party. Scheer is not yet a household name so has embarked on an advertising campaign to that end. But the early ad I watched was just fluff, the safe stuff all politicians are guided to spout – where’s the beef? He has been labelled a social conservative and today that tag represents some of the most divisive aspects of social policy, particularly when it comes to gender politics, a woman’s right to choose and the environment.

Coming from the prairies it is unsurprising that this young Diefenbaker mostly echoes the tired ideology of Brad Wall, the province’s outgoing Premier – oil is king and never say yes to a carbon tax. But Saskatchewan is yesterday’s Alberta, at least when it comes to energy and climate change. How ironic that this home of Canada’s socialist party, the NDP, is being led by the neo-con Wall.

Scheer might want to mimic the approach his former colleague and once fellow Harper-era MP Patrick Brown has employed since he became leader of Ontario’s PC party. Brown has seen the light, is a changed man, and from what he has been saying about policy these days almost sounds like a Liberal – a far cry from that last extremist Tory leader. Brown has done a one-eighty degree turn on classroom sex education and a woman’s right to choose. Of course that is not how he campaigned to the party faithful back when he was running for the job.

Something about the climate, and I don’t mean the weather report, is on the front page almost every day now. So Canadians cannot help but think about what is happening to our world. Hopefully the security of our planet will be among the highest priorities of the next Prime Minister to be elected in 2019. And that would mean a real carbon reduction strategy, including a conservative policy on population.

Even back in my day most folks who cared about the environment restricted themselves to simple replacement, a two child family. That wasn’t because we didn’t love children – but because we did – and cared what kind of world we were leaving them. It is estimated that a third child for a family in America would add almost ten thousand tonnes of extra carbon into the environment, almost twenty times more than could ever be saved by any of us turning down the thermostat, adding more insulation and driving hybrid-electric cars.

Tesla recoverable rocket

Tesla SpaceX recoverable rocket. No longer will vehicles go into space and disintegrate when the re-enter earth’s environment – they can now be brought back to earth. The grandchildren cam visit at Christmas.

Indeed the single most effective way for any of us, of child bearing age, to reduce our carbon footprint would be to restrict ourselves to having only one or two children. The consequences to this planet of having as many as five children would be literally astronomical – and would indeed force astronomy and all things related to astronomy to become our highest priority.

Rivers hand to faceRay Rivers writes reguloarly on both federal and provincial politics, applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat to his thinking.  Rivers was a candidate for provincial office in Burlington in 1995.  He was the founder of the Burlington citizen committee on sustainability at a time when climate warming was a hotly debated subject.     Tweet @rayzrivers


Background links:

New Planet –    Kubrick’s Movie –   Coal Phase Out

Climate Change –    Scheer Ad –    More Scheer –    Harper Climate Change

More Harper –    Climate Deniers –    Even More Harper –   Reducing Carbon Footprint

Over Population –    More Over Population

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3 comments to Rivers wonders if the over-population of earth is what is going to drive us into space and living on some other planet.

  • Ray Rivers

    Mike – thanks for your comment and thanks for reading my book. The west has to diversify its economy- longer term demand for oil will be falling off anyway – so it won’t even be a matter of choice. I don’t see comments as bashing the west – I am very supportive of Alberta’s new government (pipelines as well as coal phaseout) in their desperate struggle to restructure their economy, even though the odds are that Notley will still lose the next election.

    The equalization program has extraordinarily long lag times – Ontario should have been a net contributor a while ago – though it is true that Ontario taxpayers contributed more to the federal treasury than they get back, including equalization payments. I’m not sure about Quebec today but hear their economic health is improving, which perhaps helps account for the lack of separatist sentiment.

    Thanks again for reading and commenting.

  • Mike

    Ray, another interesting weaving of topics. One stands out for me which is your ‘west bashing’. As a typical of ideologues (especially on climate change) you take issue with the west focusing on their economic capability as the reason for their lack of support for climate change. Ok, let’s put them out of this ‘dirty’ business. So where will the feds get the replacement revenue – remember the government does not create net economic gain as it is not a business. One example of this revenue impact is the Equalization Program. Based on the federal finance info (https://www.fin.gc.ca/fedprov/mtp-eng.asp) the total amount for 2017-2018 is $18.254 Billion. Broken down as follows:
    Quebec – 11.081
    Manitoba – 1.820
    Nova Scotia – 1.779
    New Brunswick – 1.760
    Ontario – 1.424
    PEI – 0.390
    NL – 0
    Saskatchewan – 0
    Alberta – 0
    British Columbia 0

    Now you might say, fine but where does the revenue come from. Based on data I could find from 2009, it shows a similar Equalization payment spread (although ON has gone to the have not side thanks to the current and previous governments).

    2008-2009 $Billion
    Province Federal Total
    Revenues Equalization
    NL 3.811 0
    PEI 0.739 0.322
    NS 5.034 1.495
    NB 3.693 1.584
    QC 39.677 8.028
    ON 85.239 0
    MB 6.453 2.063
    SK 7,074 0
    AB 35,990 0
    BC 27,221 0

    Nice idea but it would cause QC to leave Canada as we’d have to cut back on their federal welfare and then we’d be into a scenario like you laid out in your book. Not a pretty picture, but it was a good read.

  • Excellent, and comprehensive. The initial question has been with us a long time. But, terra-forming Mars is a lot easier than moving a meaningful portion of Earth’s population 11 light years away.

    The current strains on this planet clearly indicate Replacement Reproduction (two children per couple) is no longer viable. Negative Population Growth, one child or less per couple, is the answer. Given this, it is interesting that the American Republican Party (GOP, or Greed Obsessed Parasites) pushes fossil fuel consumption while trying to outlaw population control measures such as abortion and even access to contraceptives. They are truly suicidal in their greed and in their desire to ensure a desperate population willing to accept low wages and brutal working conditions or, enlistment as cannon fodder to die in the next imperialist wars. What amazes me, more than the ongoing progress in science, is the inability of the American people to see how they are being played.