This Island Earth

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It was a banner day for anyone weary of this world’s antics last week when NASA astronomers revealed they spotted seven Earth-sized planets orbiting a nearby dwarf star—all or some of which could harbor water and potentially life.

The dim star (TRAPPIST-1), small compared to our sun, is in the constellation Aquarius just around the corner in our cosmic neighborhood, less than 40 light-years or 235 trillion miles away from Earth. NASA will now focus its most powerful telescopes at these seven exoplanets (planets observed outside of our solar system) to see if they have atmospheres in which biological life could survive.

I could make a snarky comment about this news coming at the perfect time, as the habitability of Earth is increasingly mired in a downward spiral. I could make that comment, but I won’t. Instead, I’d like to take a moment to thank congressional Republicans, who recently called for a “rebalancing” of NASA’s budget.

This maneuver could take much of the $2 billion currently funding NASA’s Earth Sciences Division and redirect it toward space missions. That means cash used in the study of Earth’s problems (climate change, for example) would instead be jettisoned into the far reaches of the galaxy.

I suppose this is a smart move. With a climate change doubter at the helm of the country and construction on the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines green lighted via executive orders, our natural habitats have been put on notice that environmentally conscious thought will not provide the same protections as it once did.

But that’s OK because now we have at least seven options for the relocation of our species. What blind luck. If you plan to set fire to your own home, you’d better have at least a vague idea of where you might move next.

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