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Will We Need to Evacuate Earth?

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The easiest way to feel at home is to stay there.

Anonymous

The idea of finding a new planetary home seems to be “up” more than usual lately, and possibly for two reasons. One is anxiety over the possibility of nuclear war generated by the treaty negotiations with Iran. The other is NASA’s discovery announced on July 23 of Kepler-452b, a planet orbiting a star in a relationship much like our own with the sun.

No telling how complicated it would be to settle another planet, but I haven’t heard of any effort to find a threesome in outer space that would be comparable to ours with sun, moon, and earth. It is as though the moon is expendable, like all we will need in a new home is water, a similar crust, and the orbit around a star that would create day and night and seasons of comparable length. So let’s detour to a fantasy, future moment.

***

Under an enormous dome on a new planetary home, two NASA directors, a man and a woman, sit having a packaged lunch in the cafeteria. They are the leaders of one wing of a massive organization dedicated to colonizing the planet, and the two directors manage the team that will reconstitute earth’s plant life outside the dome.

The man has brought up difficulties with the young women trying to organize the timing of planting corn, beans, and squash. “It’s like they all have PMS,” he chuckles. Suddenly the woman lunges across the table and slaps him. She stands up, face staving off tears.

“I’m sorry,” she says in a ragged voice as she turns to walk away. “We’ll talk later.”

***

It would take an entire book on ancient archaeology to explain to the man the nerve he has struck–the impact on the women of the loss of a sense of rhythm, like the beat of a drum, that the moon had maintained for them back on earth. Would that they could experience PMS. In this new reality, many have ceased to cycle at all, and they have not had decades to prepare emotionally for the untimely manifestation of the inevitable.

Science has not proven the connection, but the menstrual cycle does correspond closely with the moon’s 29.5-day cycles. In her book The Moon: Myth and Image, Jules Cashford writes that the connection is so close that it may have been women who made the first reckoning of time. And in the beginning of human history, goddess religions closely associated with the moon reigned. Women looked to the moon’s cycles to know when to try to conceive and give birth and to provide guidance on ideal times to plant and harvest. In fact, the latter principles endure today in biodynamic farming.

So the point is that the moon not only played a very important role in human development in general, but may also be especially meaningful to the feminine at some mysterious level. In pursuing this line of thought, my research turned to the moon’s origin, and I was amazed to discover what a long shot its existence–and as a result possibly ours–was. It’s a humbling realization at a time when humility might help us stabilize a civilization at risk.

An Artist's Rendering of the Planetoid Collision with Earth

An Artist’s Rendering of the Planetoid Collision with Earth

So here are some highlights of our shared history, according to the prevailing theory:

  • About 4.5 billion years ago, the moon was formed from coalescing particles when a planetoid the size of Mars collided with the earth.
  • The earth was largely molten for millions of years after this collision.
  • The earth spun so fast in the beginning that a day was only a few hours long, but the friction of the tides caused by the moon slowed it down.
  • Over about a billion years, the earth cooled off enough for cellular life to form.
  • Anatomically modern humans appeared 250,000 years ago.

Clearly, our relationship with the moon is of recent origin. And one can theorize that if the moon hadn’t been present to slow the earth’s rotation, the history of life on earth would have been very different, if it had been possible at all. And remember the theory of cycles impressed on the human psyche by the moon? It’s very interesting that scientists are warning now that global warming is hurrying us and other species toward extinction. Earth was too hot for us in the beginning and may become so again.

The idea of cycles is in play in another way, too. It seems that the risks humanity now faces have emerged during the time of a patriarchy distinguished by conflict, the drive for wealth, and the exploitation of earth’s resources. Wouldn’t it be funny if, when the dust clears from the resulting chaos, feminine leadership re-emerged? And one mission would be, through an equal partnership with the masculine, to restore the proverbial garden that the earth had once been. The moon has taught us, you know, that it is sometimes necessary for an old way to die so that a new and better way can be born.

Just a thought, an idealistic thought no doubt. But renewal would be so much easier than being forced to evacuate to another, probably moonless planet, where life would be really, really weird. Earth has been a wonderful place to live, and maybe our species will figure out how to stay here and flourish. The full moon rising on Friday could give us hope, if we pay attention.

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