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Russel Crowe as Jor-El (Superman's father in "Man of Steel") surveying the destruction of Krypton

The Superman origin story to me is the ultimate cautionary tale for our own planet. Like Krypton, the Earth exists in a hostile universe that threatens to consume us at any moment -- even without comic book intergalactic bad guys bent on our destruction. The Earth is not likely to explode in a dramatic fire ball like Krypton, but out gassing from a supervolcano, for example, could indeed be the end of civilization as we know it, and perhaps result in extinction of humankind. That's not the only catastrophe that could do us in, of course. Other end-of-the-World threats include, but are not limited to, asteroid impacts, solar eruptions, global pandemic, nuclear holocaust, and maybe even a superstorm.  

The fact that we are not treating global warming as a crisis in need of drastic changes in public policy around CO2 emissions is frightening, and far too similar to the way that Kryptonians ignored the warnings of Jor-El, the father of Kal-El (aka, Superman). Eerily like the leadership of Krypton, our own global leaders are mostly taking a blind eye to this existential threat. 

What makes our situation worse, in my opinion, is that we don't seem to have anyone like Jor-El building a spaceship that could take at least some of our population away from the planet should the need arise. If this world should go up in smoke unexpectedly, we have no fall back plan--or no lifeboat as my friend William E. Burrows would say. Maybe Mars One could be the beginning of that kind of lifeboat ,or ark, for humankind. But, how embarrassing that the survival of our species may be left to private citizens. Where are the elected leaders on this issue?  I am surprised, but also I'm not surprised, unfortunately. 

We need a global commitment to space settlement within 50 years. Not missions to Mars, not a base on the Moon, not asteroid mining. The goal must be settlement. The rest of it is just the stuff we do on the way to that goal. Nothing less should be acceptable because the status of settlement implicitly means that the colonists could, if necessary, continue to exist and thrive should the supply lines to Earth be cut off without warning. So let's be clear. If we ever do get in trouble the way Krypton did, there just isn't another Earth-like planet with a friendly population where we can send one or more of our survivors (even if we did have a ship to put them in). That Earth-like place, if it is ever to exist, will be created in the void by human hands, sweat and treasure. 

I know Superman is just a kid's comic book created by a couple of New York nerds in the 1930's. But, there is wisdom in that simple story we should heed. Our world is a fragile marble in the sea of space, and now that we have the means to build lifeboats beyond our world, we simply must begin to do so.

The children we send out into space to find new homes will indeed be supermen and superwomen in their own way. Whether it's flying under their own power in low gravity space habitats, or lifting object with ease on Mars that on Earth not even the strongest man could budge. What we sorely lack, however, are the Jor-El's of this world to send them on their way.

 


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