A renowned astronomer offers a cautiously optimistic take on the future of Earth and humanity—so long as we are willing to wisely use science and technology to protect the planet and its people.
Experts estimate that by 2050, the world will be host to 9 billion people, and “even by 2030 Lagos, Sao Paulo and Delhi will have populations above 30 million.” In these next few decades, we will also see advances in powerful technologies such as geoengineering, artificial intelligence, space exploration, and cybertech. These technologies have the potential to create enormous good for populations across the globe—and yet they also have the power for destruction on massive scales. In his measured and cleareyed analysis, Rees (From Here to Infinity: Scientific Horizons, 2011, etc.), who has served as the Astronomer Royal, a senior post in the U.K., since 1995, argues that both technological acceleration and restraint are needed for humanity to flourish in the long term. He pulls no punches in his criticism of the short-term thinking and localized politics that are common in today’s discourse. Moreover, he asserts that scientists and thought leaders must collaborate across disciplines and actively seek to engage members of the public. Only an expansive and inclusive plan can ensure that sustainable options exist for food and energy production. On the other hand, the author fears that without forward-thinking, sensible, and international initiatives to combat global threats such as climate change, nuclear weapons, and biological warfare, future generations may be left with “a depleted and hazardous world.” Rees is hardly the first to issue a stern warning about what lies ahead if complacency and consumerism rule, but his lucid, well-reasoned explanation of the stakes and inimitable prose lift this manifesto above the rest.
An impassioned call to action from one of the world’s foremost scientists. A book to be read by anyone on Earth who cares about its future.