This line in “Earth in Human Hands“* got me thinking:
We need visions of a future in which we have applied our infinite creativity […] to enhance the survival prospects not just of humanity but of all life on Earth.
Survival to me obviously means being multi-planetary. How might we help all life on Earth become multiplanetary? And, to put it bluntly, what the first species we’ll take along for the ride?
So which species will it be?
- Bacteria — probably a bunch of species at once. Every human has 500 – 1,000 species of bacteria in our gut. Bacteria get a free ride. So in the same moment humans become multiplanetary, so do bacteria.
- The Dynastic Clam: The longest-living animal species on Earth, living to an estimated 500 years. Ming the clam died at the ripe age of 507 years old. If I were starting a multi-generational trip off of Earth to travel hundreds of years in space, the Dynastic Clam would be a sort of Big Ben of the journey, helping people keep track of time passing across multiple generations
- A Pine Tree: Pinus Longaeva, the longest living plant species on Earth, living to an estimated 5,000 years. Same reasoning as the Dynastic Clam. Gather round and count ma rings, kiddos.
- Red romaine lettuce: The first food grown and eaten on the ISS. I’m guessing that red romaine lettuce continues to persist as grown-in-space food, mostly inspired by my loose understanding of the Lindy Effect.
There you have it. #1 is bacteria, because we can’t get anywhere without them. Beyond that, it’ll be something that we pick (#2 and #3), or something we eat (#4).
I’ve often wondered about the first spaceship to leave the solar system. My image was so clear — staring eye to eye with other passengers, hearing what language was spoken, feeling what religion held? Now I realize there’s a lot more than humans onboard. There are trees, clams, what about giraffes, and ants. As I look around the spaceship isn’t sterile white…it’s a jungle world.
* Thought I like this particular quote, the book pushes a lot of my buttons. “Enhancing survival prospects” isn’t what gets me out of bed in the morning.
Also read my post “When will we be a ‘multi-planetary’ species?“