A Good Planet is Hard to Find

One’s too hot and one’s too cold;
One’s too young  and one’s too old;
It either turns too fast or slow;
A good planet is hard to find.

The gravity’s too weak or strong;
Night can last a whole year long;
That’s not much fun for living on;
A good planet is hard to find!

It’s very seldom they appear
With a friendly atmosphere,
Those little things that we hold dear.
How can I make it clear?

 It seems so easy in our mind.
And movies do it all the time.
But listen to the bottom line:
A good planet is hard to find.

You could roam the universe,
All your life or even worse,
Just looking for another earth.
A good planet is hard to find!

I’ve got to get through to your mind.
A good planet is hard to find.  (repeat)

Words & music ©Doug Hendren 2015

What’s it about? We have long held a fascination with other worlds, dating back at least to Jules Verne.  Star Wars, Star Trek and many others give the impression that habitable worlds in the universe are a dime a dozen. Perhaps this mistaken idea leads us to overlook what a rare jewel of a planet we live upon, and how elegantly terrestrial biology (including us) has evolved over many millions of years to live in Earth’s exact conditions. Sadly, these are rapidly changing. Human activity is altering the very conditions on which our comfortable, civilized lives depend.

The global scientific community has established that human civilization is gravely threatened by progressive climate chaos. This is the result of Earth’s gradual warming (so far only 1.5°F or 0.8°C above pre-industrial levels, but heading much higher). Global warming in turn is due primarily to the rapid increase in CO2 (from 280ppm to the current 400ppm) caused by fossil fuel combustion. Other big contributors include increasing human population as well as beef consumption, which has led to the destruction of much of Brazil’s rainforest for cattle grazing and soybean cultivation for cattle feed. Half of all living species on Earth are expected to be gone by the end of the century due to climate change. Ocean acidification (from CO2) has already caused a 40% decline in global phytoplankton, the foundation of the oceanic food chain.

Less well known are the devastating impacts of climate chaos on human populations. It is more than just “extreme weather” events such as severe droughts, floods and snowfalls. Loss of predictable rainfall threatens agriculture and drinking water in the US and around the world, setting the stage for food and water shortage, social desperation, mass migration of “climate refugees” and attendant worldwide national security risks.

To any clear-minded observer, the basic solution to this situation is self-evident: We need to rapidly cut back on the combustion of fossil fuels driving climate change.  Fortunately, we have the means to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy today. Renewable energy is economically competitive with fossil fuels right now, and the cost is going down every day. With renewable energy, you don’t pay for the fuel – only for the “receiver”. The energy is free, and there are no hidden environmental or medical costs.

The primary obstacle to a rapid clean-energy transition is the raw power of fossil fuel interests over the US Congress, preventing the policies which can lead the country (and the world) into a viable future. Such policies include an immediate halt to all fossil fuel subsidies, a halt to ongoing fossil exploration (we already have 5X more reserves than we can burn), and a carbon tax to offset the “negative externalities” of burning fossil fuels. Such a carbon tax is identical to the tax on cigarettes enacted years ago to offset the medical costs of cigarette smoking. If done correctly, a carbon tax costs the public nothing while providing jobs and stimulating the economy.

Though the solutions are straightforward, we still hear preposterous discussions of complex, high-tech “solutions” such as artificially reflecting the sun’s rays with mirrors in space, and looking for other planets to escape to. We tend to forget how poorly we understand complex systems, and tend to overlook the incredible gift of the natural world.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. We have only one planet Earth. Better take care of it!

Want to be part of the solution? Check these out:
          350.org
          Citizens Climate Lobby

Some more info about planets:
          Planets – Zoom Astronomy
          Why is Venus so hot? Too much CO2

Comments

  1. It is so strange how humans behave. We value things like gold and diamonds. Gold and diamonds cannot be eaten. We can’t drink or breathe gold and diamonds. Air, water, and food should be considered the most valuable blessings. As Doug has illustrated, the Earth is the rarest gem. If treated correctly, it will support and sustain us. Many people have become so disconnected from the real world, constantly in the “virtual” world, that they don’t understand where their water comes from. I believe that they imagine water being mixed in some sterile laboratory. These environmental problems can no longer be ignored. Thank you Doug for keeping the subject in the forefront. Hope you are well.

    • Doug Hendren Doug Hendren says:

      It’s funny, Chris. Classical economics used to talk about “land, labor and capital” as the basic elements of the economy. Somewhere “land” (i.e. the natural world) was dropped. We tend to forget that everything we do or make ultimately depends on an intact natural world. As one writer elegantly put it: “The land is our capital – everything else is interest”. Destroying the very stable, friendly climate of the last 10,000 years will very likely send us back into a kind of “Dark ages 2.0”. Like the fairy tale, it would be killing the goose that laid golden eggs!

  2. roseann potter says:

    That is wonderful Doug

    You are a force in this world.

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