OGLE-2005-BLG-390Lb to Save Humankind?


Ten years ago I picked up a book called Our Ecological Footprint: Reducing Human Impact on the Earth by Williams E. Rees and Mathis Wackernagel. A modest volume, but was to have far reaching implications for the future of mankind. In short, the authors suggested that if all humans were to realise the lifestyle enjoyed by those in 'western' countries, then we were grossly exceeding the capacity of the planet to sustain life. Indeed they concluded that if we 6 billion lived like westies then we would need another 3 to 5 more Earths. Many said "Don't worry, science will find an answer." And how right they were. Astronomers from 12 countries have just discovered another planet that "has several characteristics needed to support life" including a gravity like ours. And the great news is that its 5.5 times bigger than Earth. Woo hoo. Problem solved. But don't buckle up for blast off just yet. It's a bit further away than the corner shop — 20,000 light years to be roughly precise. And remember to take a scarf and gloves, coz it's minus 225oC (-337oF) on the surface. Given such hurdles, might we suggest simply taking care of this one precious planet that we do have. (If you want to learn more about eco-footprinting try a simple quiz here, here, or for a really quick one: here.)