The Geopolitics of Alien Intervention
…Or a question of whether you feel like you’re being watched?
By Micah Hanks
If aliens were to invade planet earth, what might be their reason for doing so? Also, how might they do it, and would we be able to defend ourselves?
Admittedly, we see this scenario quite often in films, and it’s almost always the result of the same, predictable sorts of patterns we’ve watched ourselves fulfill throughout history as humans, super-imposed onto the silver screen. These involve mean-assed aliens that consider planet Earth a disease-ridden mudball crawling with parasites; we, of course, are those parasites, and the aliens arrive as intergalactic exterminators to save our otherwise lovely terrestrial landscape from its bothersome residents. Another popular one: they’ve destroyed their home planet, and now the alien squatters have arrived to establish themselves like cosmic family members going through hard times, begging to crash on the couch for just a few weeks. This seldom is really all they want (again, following stereotypical Hollywood treatment of the subject), and eventually their plans of kicking us out and moving themselves in permanently unfold. Still another scenario that incorporates the “we destroyed our home planet” motif would have the aliens arriving from afar to harvest our resources, having expended their own. Hence, again, they’ve come to run us off, grab our goods, and go… or be squatters again, depending on the film, novel, or other fictional treatment in question.
Indeed, these sorts of representations of resource depletion, colonialism, and other past scourges on humanity are rife within the science fiction portrayals of alien contact. There must indeed be a deeply-seeded fear within us—especially among academia—that if aliens and humans were ever to become acquainted, it could turn out for the worse on our end of things. This is based primarily on our observations of history, of course; we have seen time and time again the way settlers in new lands have treated indigenous cultures. Almost in every instance, those inhabiting a given locale, when encountering more advanced foreigners moving into the area, have suffered as a result of their technological shortcomings.
Then again, Cortez and his kindred were looking for conquest when they arrived in Mexico, and no doubt with interest in the kinds of riches rumored to be hidden away in the Middle Americas: namely gold. Advanced alien beings who might be capable of drawing energy from the vacuum of empty space (we’ve even got a hypothetical name for that sort of thing: it’s called zero point) may have far less interest in the kinds of Earth-based resources we could offer. One exception might be helium-3; a rare isotope that some scientists have claimed may be useful in achieving fusion. However, this element is found in its greatest concentration among the mare plains on the dark side of our Moon, rather than anywhere here on Earth.
But thinking outside the box about legitimate reasons for an alien invasion, there can tend to be some rather interesting theories that begin to arise. Take, for instance, a recent paper that deals with this subject, titled “Would contact with extraterrestrials benefit or harm humanity? A scenario analysis” by authors Seth Baum, Jacob Haqq-Misra, and Shawn Domagal-Goldman. In their thesis, a number of scenarios are examined, among them the rather unique concept that space aliens might seek to wipe out life on Earth to protect other civilizations in the cosmos. But why on Earth—or anyplace else, for that matter—would humankind be considered such a dire threat to any aliens nearby… especially since we know that “nearby” in the relative cosmic sense could mean up to dozens—if not maybe hundreds—of light years away?
One reason the authors have cited has to do with the debate over climate changes on Earth, and how these sorts of earth changes might indicate our rapid growth and expansion as a species, thus bringing potential for threat to the intergalactic economy. “A preemptive strike would be particularly likely in the early phases of our expansion because a civilization may become increasingly difficult to destroy as it continues to expand,” the paper’s authors say. “Humanity may just now be entering the period in which its rapid civilizational expansion could be detected by an ETI because our expansion is changing the composition of the Earth’s atmosphere, via greenhouse gas emissions… These scenarios give us reason to limit our growth and reduce our impact on global ecosystems.”
As politicized as the debate over climate change and anthropogenic global warming can be, there is rationale for this argument, even in the interstellar sense. The authors of the paper describe limiting our carbon footprint as a means of preemptive protection, “since atmospheric composition can be observed from other planets.” Nonetheless, despite the fact that a number of noticeable Earth-changes really are underway, many argue that there is little that can be done to change some of these, due to there being extra-planetary factors involved, just as well as those that humans may be presenting.
The recent atom-smashing exploits of the CERN project in Geneva have resulted in some interesting data pertaining to climate change, and especially what role the Sun may play in all of it. A study published in the journal Nature recently described the CERN group’s use of a large stainless steel chamber, designed to recreate Earth’s atmosphere, which demonstrates how cosmic rays contribute to the formation of molecules conducive to manifesting clouds in Earth’s atmosphere. This, in turn, also managed to highlight a direct link between temperatures here on the planet in relation to cosmic rays and solar activity in general. While casting some doubt on the entirely human-oriented explanations for rises in global temperatures over the last several decades, what this also could indicate is that reversing some observable trends regarding Earth’s climate—especially those that could advertise our presence to hostile aliens—may be out of our hands.
Then again, if such things as global warming trends are indeed the result of a complex combination of terrestrial activity and heliospheric phenomenon, then it stands to reason that other planets with a geological and biological makeup like ours, also in relative proximity to their nearest Sun like we are, would exhibit similar climate trends. Thus, maybe our carbon footprint would be less noticeable to aliens than the authors of this study have suggested. But while the forces of nature may have far more to do with climate change here on Earth than we possess the ability to control, our global economic situation, while arguably a manmade mess that really is out of control, nonetheless remains something we can manipulate and gain foothold with: provided that souring international affairs and deconstructive partisanship don’t derail any hope for progress. Arguably, if geopolitical and global economic trends continue as they have done in the last decade or so, problems associated with scarcity and troubles over finding and harnessing renewable energy and other resources could indeed become more apparent to any potential extraterrestrial civilization keeping an eye on us. As fantastic an idea as aliens intervening over our global economic woes may sound, given the circumstances it might seem at least as likely as any serious notion that they would wipe out humanity over concern about our carbon footprint. While we may not be entirely in control of what climate changes are occurring around us, humans have a direct relationship with the expense of Earth-based resources; a number of these, particularly those involving nuclear technology, are most certainly the kind that could be monitored and observed, even from someplace outside the planet.
Despite all this, for many it will likely seem like a waste of time in general to expend precious brainpower on doomsday scenarios involving space aliens. Sure, I take all this with a healthy grain of salt myself, and when it comes to the subject of UFOs, for instance, I for one try to be careful about even entertaining the idea that such craft might be the result of extraterrestrial intelligences similar to ourselves. While this remains a distinct possibility, given the variety of unknown elements the enigma presents us with, it is important that we not jump to conclusions, given the range of possibilities so far as tangible explanations behind the UFO phenomenon. Regardless of what UFOs may really be, since there is at least a potential for there actually being alien visitors from space behind the scenario, it is somewhat justifiable to consider potentials this might involve; especially those where threats to humanity might be concerned. Referencing again the aforementioned report on alien risk assessment, the authors state that, “considering the potential scenarios may help to plot the future path of human civilization, avoid collapse and achieve long-term survival.” Indeed, speculation of this sort—however strange or unsettling—should at least be afforded careful, serious thought… if only to err on the side of caution, in case one of these apocalyptic “what if” moments were ever to actually transpire.
Micah Hanks is the organizer of the Paradigm Symposium OCTOBER 17-20, 2013 at The Historic St. Paul Union Depot, St. Paul, Minnesota http://www.paradigmsymposium.com/
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