I don't know how the statement came up now: Hawking's been saying it for at least the past four years. He says that, with our intelligence, we have the ability to affect the environment for good or ill, but with the rate of population growth and resource depletion, plus human tendencies towards greed and aggressive behaviour, we have little choice but to work towards a propulsion system that approaches the speed of light and prepare to move out.
At first, I thought it was hyperbole: something to shake people up and spur them to action on issues affecting the Earth. But then, reading Prof. Hawking's interview, it appears he's serious and believes it is possible to build a propulsion system that can approach light speed and carry a whole lot of people to new frontiers.
How about that? A man-made Rapture -- an interesting variation on the false Christs Jesus warned us about. Mind you, all I saw in the interview was Prof. Hawking saying that mankind is capable of coming up with the technology to do it: I didn't see anything about how much money would this cost and who would pay for it -- heck: ever try to get a rapid-transit system built?
Nor did I see how six billion (the last I checked) people would be moved out. Maybe he's punting that question over to the ethicists for one of those delightful angels-dancing-on-the-head-of-a-pin discussions -- who would be allowed to colonize? who would be left behind on the scorching, uninhabitable planet?
(My answer: those with faith enough to see that this is not, nor cannot be, sanctioned by God.)
One observer on Twitter summed up what many environmentalists may be thinking: "or," he said, "clean up the mess we have".
Good retort -- which is why I thought maybe Prof. Hawking was trying to use a shock tactic. But there's a third option: get right with God.
Let's take a look at the current scorecard:
- lethal heat wave in Russia
- devastating flooding in Pakistan
- largest landslide in BC history
- earthquakes in Chile, Haiti, China, California
- underwater oil gusher in the Gulf of Mexico
- a new "superbug" hitting Europe
and there's a lot more I can't think of, offhand.
Environmentalists look at these and claim that it's proof of global warming. But the last three in that list have little to do with global warming (although I read a couple of months ago that some scientists were looking to see if there was a link between earthquakes and climate change: the idea that, if glacial ice melts, then the glaciers become "lighter" and exert less pressure on the earth, thereby making it "easier" for earthquake action to take place; even one of the researchers says it's a MAJOR stretch to make that reasoning).
Remember: I'm not a climate change denier -- although I prefer to call the situation "global weirding". My issue is that we're using ineffectual tools to fight this battle -- we're looking in the wrong places for solutions, and for whatever reason, a lot of us don't want to acknowledge that the right place to look even exists.
See, God does not want His creation to be destroyed, and in fact, His word promises that it won't be. He loves the Earth and the Earth loves Him back (Psalms 96 and 98 make that clear). He's also stated that He plans to come and live here, and we have a job to do, taking care of the Earth and everything that's in it.
What's more, He promises that, if only we turn to Him and repent and go back to seeking Him, He will heal the land (2 Chr. 7:13-14). And if we've sinned and offended Him by the way we've treated the Earth -- using its resources beyond our ability to replenish them (Gen. 1:26, 28) -- Jesus' sacrifice on the Cross allows us to repent of those sins and move forward with a clean slate.
We need to stop obsessing on the environment. Yes, we've had a lot to do with the environmental trauma that appears to have escalated over the past few decades. But now we have to recognize that there's very little we, as a species, can do in our own power to fix it. We've already found that out: after 60 years of concerted, well-meaning, earnest action (I'm going back to the Cold War days, when efforts started to escalate to save mankind from himself), by all reports, things are getting worse.
We need a new paradigm and we need to admit that we can do nothing by ourselves -- not even Jesus could, don't forget (John 5:30). Praise God, that "new" paradigm is actually the oldest one around: His Word and His promises. And the bottom line is, we have to admit our powerlessness, place it all before God, and re-focus on what Jesus instructed us to do: "occupy till I return".
That means, love one another; love God above all; do good works so others can see God's glory; trust in the Lord and don't lean on your own understanding; do not judge. And when it comes to the environment, assert the authority God gave us back in Eden: be fruitful, multiply, replenish the Earth and subdue it. And that does not mean worship it.
And here's a challenge: if God leads you to do something and it appears to run against conventional environmentalist thinking ... go with God's leading and trust that He'll mitigate any environmental impact. He will not tell you to do something that damages His Work.
And remember those human tendencies towards greed and aggressive behaviour that make Prof. Hawking believe we can't survive on Earth? Yeah, like I want to be cooped up in a spacecraft for several years with greedy, aggressive people! But as we turn towards God and walk closer with Him, we bring those tendencies captive in Christ. I know: a lot of my own "human tendencies" came into captivity once I met Jesus.
Considering that Jesus warned us there'd be days like these -- filled with the signs He said would foretell His return -- there's a certain urgency to our re-focusing on Him and re-committing to The Great Commission.
And whether He comes back in 2030 -- 2000 years since He was crucified -- or before I finish writing this, we can't afford to roll over and play dead and wait for the Rapture (the real one, I mean): we have to get busy -- but get busy doing what God told us to do -- not what the world keeps telling us to do.