It seems that every day we are edging closer and closer to the science fiction worlds envisioned by countless authors
and artists. From 3D-printed edible flesh, to eerily silent drones dropping both bombs and Amazon parcels alike, such scientific progress is sliding an increasingly apocalyptic future into the collective 21st-century subconscious. However, not all recent discoveries are so ominous. The discovery of three Earth-like planets orbiting Trappist-1, 39 light years away from our own sun has sparked debate and excitement for a potential life beyond our own solar system, with many jumping at the possibility of a fresh new habitat for our own kind. But are these wishes selfish; are we deserving of a new world?
Although it would take us hundreds of thousands of years to get to these planets, (white) western society’s affliction for ‘discovering’ land and deciding they are permitted to live on it means that it’s already a genuine consideration to one day step foot on these planets. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t an appealing thought to leave our current mess of a planet; Trump’s presidency, Brexit, and multiple capitalist-fuelled conflicts plaguing our civilizations are not exactly great selling points to stick around for. With the potential for a climate disaster or nuclear disaster on the horizon, it’s a comforting thought that one day we could maybe pack up and start afresh a couple of light years from our little blue planet. Why bother cleaning up the mess when a glowing, new orb lush with vegetation could be ripe for the colonial picking?
I’d like to hope that the planets orbiting Trappist-1 are inhabited by peaceful, empathetic aliens who value the life of all of the creatures on their planet as well as the well-being of the planet itself and that they’d be more willing to take in human refugees than humans are — perhaps pitying our sad, but self-inflicted, circumstances. I am reminded of Ursula K Heise’s essay From the Blue Planet to Google Earth, where she analyses the short sci-fi story Vaster than Empires and More Slow, telling of a group of scientists landing on a new planet only to discover a conscious species of interconnected plants that have no function other than to share collective emotion with every living organism it touches. How could our flawed species possibly comprehend such a thing? And how dare we disrupt it?
I am skeptical as to whether the human race is truly deserving of a welcoming new home. While we fantasize about these galactic ventures, we are slowly draining Earth of her life. Even as we’re on the brink of a true global disaster, with vast and spontaneous changes in temperature all over the globe and with the first mammal going extinct as a direct result of climate change, still, big businesses and conservatives continue to ignore climate change. Many people refuse to make any changes to their lifestyles, regardless of what consequences their actions may have for generations to come.
The most frustrating thing about our destructive forces is how plainly in sight and easily avoidable they are. While the obvious perpetrator may be something like the oil industry, animal agriculture actually presents the largest threat to our environment, accounting for around 90% of the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest and about half of the global contribution to greenhouse gas emissions, compared to the 13% contributed from all forms of transportation combined. Despite its detrimental impact on our planet — not to mention the animals — environmental organizations won’t speak out about this because doing so could put them in genuine danger with the bloodstained fingers of those who maintain animal agriculture business.
There have been efforts to shift these seemingly concrete systems, largely by marginalized groups. For example, feminism has actually been tied to vegetarianism since the suffragette movement. A protest to what they believed to be a masculine, aggressive element of everyday life, meat was rejected from many women’s diets. This intersectionality of activism against non-human and human suffering has branched into many forms — from ecofeminist theory of the late 20th century to the stereotype of lesbians preferring a vegetarian lifestyle. In my personal life, I have found a lot of the feminine LGBT+ people I know do happen to be veggie or vegan and have an interest in environmental issues. In my opinion, the intersection of being a part of at least two different minority groups has the potential to instill more empathy for others in members of this group, and more widely, the planet we exist on.
Activist, artist, and singer, Anohni has focused on the concept of a new feminized system of civilization to be a potential antidote to the planet’s demise. In her introductory lecture to Future Feminism, an exhibition-cum-manifesto in collaboration with noted female artists such as Lorraine O’Grady, she discusses the hope in a potential eco-feminist governance:
“…for me, hope looks like feminine systems of governance being instated in […] the major religious institutions and throughout corporate and civil life […] imagine how quickly you accepted the idea that the ocean is rising and the ecology of our world is collapsing. We can actually imagine that more readily than we can imagine a switch from patriarchal to matriarchal systems of governance.”
Such concepts are precious and often ignored by the mainstream, drowned under a sea of capitalist/patriarchal noise. But if we are to have any hope for a future on this globe we’ve called home for 200,000 years it’s time to start listening. We have the power to save our own world, so we don’t have to dream of another one.