In my last letter, I mentioned that I believe our species will someday live on other planets in the universe. I addressed how the human spirit of perseverance and innovation has proven time and time again that ideas once thought to be impossible often become the norm, and then set the stage for the next quantum leap forward. (You can read that letter and others at Perspective by Bahram Akradi.)
Living in outer space may seem out there right now, but based on the current technology, the exponential rate of innovation we’re experiencing, and the discoveries being made every day, it’s really no longer a question of if, but when.
On the other hand, it’s important to remember that until some big breakthroughs allow us to travel at speeds comparable to the speed of light to reach other habitable places, all we have now is what’s right here: this one planet, which is an amazingly special place.
Earth is located within the habitable zone of our solar system, often called the Goldilocks Zone because our distance from the sun is just right for allowing water to remain in a liquid state and for supporting life. It’s not too hot (as Mercury and Venus are) or too cold (think Mars and planets farther out).
The circumstances for Earth to exist as it does are unbelievably rare, and we’re lucky to call it home — it’s like winning the lottery of all lotteries. We need to take care of it so we and future generations can comfortably live here for as long as possible. Just as healthy lifestyle habits can help us live longer and with more vitality, treating the planet with love, care, and respect can help it enjoy a longer, healthier life, too.
The reality for all living things is that time is finite. Like each of us, Earth will perish someday. We have the opportunity right now, however, to make choices that don’t inadvertently shorten its life or reduce the quality of life for all its inhabitants.
We’re all interconnected, and being mindful of how our actions affect everything in the ecosystem is essential for optimal health. This makes sense philosophically, of course, but it’s what we do every day that truly matters. Our actions — or inaction, in some cases — tend to fall into one of three categories.
1. Big, grandiose ideas. These sound great in theory but are hard to mobilize because they require large-organization or government backing, sophisticated systems, and significant financial support. In most cases, they’re beyond the average citizen’s control and are limited to dinner-table conversations.
2. Total commitment. These big, sweeping changes (like living off the grid) are good for the planet, but usually require sacrificing convenience and things we enjoy in an effort to help. Despite our intentions, the impact is usually minimal unless many people also commit to change.
3. Sustainable, everyday choices. These are things we can do every day without much thought or effort; they don’t involve extra work so we don’t feel like we’re giving anything up.
It’s this third category that has the biggest collective impact. If millions of us choose, every single day, to pay attention to the little things we can do, there’s potential for big change that will improve the health of our planet — and our own health, too.
Imagine, for instance, if everyone swaps out the incandescent light bulbs in their homes for more energy-efficient LEDs, which use 75 percent less energy. Or if they pick up a piece of garbage every time they walk somewhere, or carry their own reusable water bottles instead of plastic and fill them with filtered water. Each of us will enjoy the benefits of a cleaner world, and the impact as a whole will be dramatic.
There are hundreds of other simple things we can do — turning off the water when we brush our teeth, riding our bikes instead of driving when we can. The more we think about them, the more we’ll find. Each effort will help every organism, every ecosystem, and our planet — the only one we have.
So until we find other planets that can support us — and until we have the means to reach them — it’s going to take all of us working together to take care of Earth so it’s healthy for future generations. The opportunity is right here, right now.