What is the Millennial Project?
This book details how we can build toward the ultimate human destiny of leaving planet Earth and colonizing space. It is a project that will occupy us completely for the next thousand years.
The year 2000 is coming up fast. That date marks a special watershed in history. It is not only the turn of the century, it is the turn of the Millennium. The old era is passing away to be replaced by a fantastic new epoch of magnificent challenges. The coming Millennium is like an unexplored continent: mysterious and unknown, but dazzling with the promise of new discoveries and untold riches. I have attempted to sketch the outlines of this New Millennium as I think it must inevitably develop, based on one overwhelming certainty. The one sure thing about the future is that in the year 3000, our descendants will be looking back at the Earth from a vantage point out among the stars. That is the ultimate destination and I have absolute faith that we will get there. The Millennial Project spells out in detail how we can achieve our destiny one step at a time.
You speak of human destiny among the stars. Do you think this has all been pre-ordained?
Not in the sense that everything is already laid out like an unchangeable program. But more in the sense that we humans have a definite purpose, a reason for being, and fulfilling our role on the cosmic stage will mean making our rendezvous with destiny in outer space.
And what exactly is our reason for being?
We are the harbingers of Life. Life is a very special force in this universe. It's really quite impossible that air and sunlight and water can coil themselves up into a rose-bud, but it happens anyway. Life is the ultimate miracle. As far as we know, this entire universe is an utter wasteland. The Earth may very well be the only living planet in the entire Cosmos. It is our place to carry the green spark out into the void. The human race is utterly responsible for the future course of the entire history of the universe. The universe may seem a very old place, but it is really in the merest infancy of its eventual life-span. All the planets around all the stars in all the galaxies are stone cold dead. Very quickly, as time is measured on the cosmic clock, all those myriad sterile worlds will explode into Life. For the rest of the life-time of the universe, the cosmos will be a living place, perhaps even a living being. We humans-for all our petty foibles-are nothing less than the instrument of that transformation. We are talking about the birth of a living universe. The Earth is the seed of that metamorphosis, just as the first cell was progenitor to all Life, and we are the only life form capable of making it happen. We must fulfill our destiny and carry Life to the stars.
But there are billions of stars in this galaxy and there are billions of galaxies. How could ours possibly be the only planet to have evolved intelligent life?
I'm afraid all of the evidence available to date indicates that Earth is the only planet with Life of any kind, intelligent or otherwise. Life is a singular sort of force in this universe. It tends to change its environment in unmistakable ways. There is no way you can look at the Earth from space and not recognize it as a living organism. A thousand years from now, our whole star system will be unmistakably alive, just as the Earth is. In a million years, barely a moment in the life of the universe, we will have completely transformed this entire galaxy. In a thousand millennia you could no more mistake the Milky Way for a sterile galaxy than you could mistake a tropical rain forest for an ice-cap.
So you have to ask: If we can do it so quickly, why hasn't anyone else done it already?
This galaxy is probably close to ten billion years old. Even if it took the first five billion years for a sentient life form to evolve, there's been enough time for the aliens to overrun the entire galaxy five thousand times by now. So where are they? We haven't done it yet either.
True, but our sun is only half as old as the galaxy. Presumably there were planets that were already billions of years old five billion years ago. Those planets had already had enough time to evolve some kind of tool-using intelligence when the Earth was still a cloud of interstellar dust. In this galaxy there should be civilizations that are billions of years old. Such cultures should be of such power and magnitude that their presence in the galaxy should be unmistakable. Some people would contend that UFOs prove they are already here. Nobody wants to believe in little green men more than I do. Aliens on Earth would be the most fantastic thing in history. A visit by ET would be epoch shaking. That kind of thing requires at least some splinter of hard evidence.
Carl Sagan says aliens won't bother to travel by space-ship, they'll just beam radio messages.
The same problem applies. If you project yourself a thousand years in the future and point a radio telescope back at this solar system from any star within a few hundred light years you will be blasted by a hurricane of radio noise. The radio racket raised by a mature solar civilization will be astonishing. You really couldn't fail to notice something like that in the night sky. Right now NASA is conducting a radio search for extraterrestrial signals. That's like searching a haystack for a needle when you are looking for a Battleship.
What are the implications if we are alone?
That is really the ultimate question. The bottom line is that as far as we know we are alone. Until we find out otherwise, it is incumbent upon us to act as if we were alone. Earth may well be the lone reservoir of Life Force in an otherwise sterile universe. As the sole tool using consciousness, the well being of the Life Force is our absolute responsibility. Right now we are in the process of devastating the planet's ecology. That has to be turned around. We must become not only the care-takers of Life here on Earth, but also the ultimate harbingers of Life to an otherwise dead Cosmos. Ours is a sacred duty. It is, I think, the very reason that the Life Force evolved us in the first place. As long as Life is confined to the surface of this one tiny planet it exists under a death sentence. It is only a matter of time before a rogue comet or asteroid smashes into our world leaving it a blasted sterilized cinder. Even if chance spares us that catastrophe, the sun will ultimately swell to a grotesque livid red giant and will boil Earth's oceans, cleansing the miracle planet of Life once and for all. Life may have never evolved in this universe before, and it may never again. This may be its only chance to exist as a universal phenomenon. It is up to us to see that this ultimate destiny is fulfilled. This is the moment that all creation has been waiting for; when Life at long last emerges from the seed planet and runs riot through the star clouds.
Why are you worried about colonizing space when we already have so many problems here on Earth?
The planet is in crisis because of the human population explosion. We have five billion new relatives coming to dinner in the next few decades. What will they all eat? Where will they all live? If the planet's ecosystem is collapsing under the weight of 5 billion people, what will happen to us when there are 10 billion, then 15 billion? At some point, we must expand our horizons beyond the land mass of this single planet. Our survival depends on it.
Are you suggesting that emigration into outer space is the answer to the population explosion?
Yes, but the first step is to colonize the abundant open space here on Earth.
Space colonization on Earth? Isn't that a contradiction in terms?
Not really. Space is where you find it. As we set out to colonize the galaxy we should attempt to colonize the easiest space first. The best place for space colonies is right here on the oceans of the Earth.
Isn't it impractical to live under water?
Life under water is extremely demanding, more difficult by far than life in outer space. But living on the surface of the waters, particularly in the tropical seas is very easy. The first chapter of The Millennial Project describes in detail how we will construct floating islands to house space colonies on the oceans.
So you are proposing to colonize the surface of the oceans?
That's right. This planet is called "Earth", but the surface is mostly water. Learning how to live on the open oceans will be like discovering three brand new planets, each larger than all the continents combined.
So, how will these floating islands be constructed?
Actually they will be "grown" through a process like that used by sea creatures to grow their own shells.
Is this some futuristic unknown organic process?
Not at all. It is a patented, well tested, engineering process. When a conductive metal is immersed in sea water and an electric current is passed through it, dissolved minerals in the sea water will accrete onto the metal, forming a dense deposit of artificial limestone. If metal reinforcing bars are covered with a wire mesh and electrified, a very strong type of reinforced concrete can be grown in place. Using this method, the artificial islands will be grown out of the sea.
And where will the electricity come from?
One of the remarkable things about the seas is that they are vast energy batteries just waiting to be tapped. The oceans act as gigantic solar collectors, soaking up the energy in sunlight and storing it as warmth in the surface waters. The difference in temperature between warm surface water and cold deep water can be used to produce electricity in a power plant. The power can then be used to accrete sea-cement, and after the island is built, it can be used to produce clean burning hydrogen to replace fossil fuels.
Do you think enough of these floating islands can be built to accommodate five billion more people?
Ultimately yes. There is a huge amount of room on the oceans. Even the warmest waters of the equatorial seas cover an area larger than Africa and North America combined. But in the near term, the importance of the marine space colonies is their capacity to feed the billions of hungry people still living on the land. The seas are like whole new desert continents. But these deserts have a hidden bounty. Its as if aquifers of fresh water under high pressure were buried beneath the sands. If you drill a well into these aquifers, the water will shoot to the surface with enough force to produce hydroelectric power. The water can then be used to irrigate the desert to produce a rich and flowering paradise. This is exactly the same situation awaiting us on the ocean frontier.
Are there enough fish in the sea to feed everyone?
No. Aquarius and the other marine colonies will increase the food supply by farming the sea, not hunting out the remaining fish stocks. As it turns out, the deep waters of the oceans are saturated with nitrates and other nutrients. When this nutrient-rich water is brought to the sunlit surface, algae populations explode. The marine colonies will undertake extensive mariculture operations and will even harvest algae directly for use as a protein-rich food supplement. A tremendous bounty of protein can be harvested from the oceans as a by-product of energy production.
Won't this seriously dislocate the ecology of the seas?
Not really. There is no way we can have 10 billion large primates on the planet without affecting the planetary ecology in some way. Ocean colonies are probably the least disruptive way to meet the future population's needs with minimal impact on the environment. We have already appropriated 30% of the primary productivity of the land for ourselves. Any increase in human activity on the land will now come at the expense of other species. On the oceans, however, we have tapped only 2% of the primary productivity. At sea there are resources available that can be used to meet human needs without displacing or eliminating other species. The mid-oceans are biological deserts. This is pristine space, in a practical sense as devoid of Life as the surface of the Moon. By shifting human population pressures to these uninhabited zones of the ecosphere we can accommodate future human growth without annihilating other life forms.
What will be the effect on the global environment?
The sea colonies may ultimately become the only defense protecting us from a runaway greenhouse effect. The colonies produce an abundance of energy without creating any discharge of CO2. To the extent that Aquarian hydrogen replaces coal and oil, the accumulation of greenhouse gases will be slowed. This may not be enough to save the planet however. It may become necessary to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. In the long term terrestrial plants like trees are powerless to aid in this process since they eventually release their accumulated carbon back to the atmosphere. The sea colonies can help accelerate the planet's natural CO2 cleansing process by increasing the mass of marine algae. The sea colonies will also help cool the surface waters to prevent a catastrophic runaway release of water vapor.
What will life be like on these floating islands?
It will be extremely pleasant. The climate is tropical and the colony is engineered to provide for the safety, comfort, and convenience of its residents. In fact Aquarius will be something akin to a super-organism, an evolutionary quantum leap beyond the present state of terrestrial cities. Without the scourge of cars, and powered by clean electricity and hydrogen the marine colonies will be free of pollution. As in all space colonies, systems operate in closed loops so wastes and living costs are minimized. As a society of closely knit interdependent individuals the colony could also be relatively free of crime and other prevailing urban blights.
Aren't you describing a Utopia?
Utopias never really exist. Anytime you have people you have problems. I suggest that if you took a cave man and showed him a medieval village with cobblestone streets, thatched roofs, and butcher shops full of meat, the caveman would have thought he was in Utopia. If you then took one of those medieval villagers and showed him a modern suburb with its neatly trimmed lawns, and snug houses with central heating and running water, he would think he was in Utopia. But if you told one of those suburbanites--struggling with mortgage payments, pregnant teens, and crabgrass--that he was living in Utopia, he'd laugh right in your face. Just so, life in Aquarius will be the next logical step up in the standard of living, but it won't be Utopia.
So the oceans are the new frontier for space colonization?
Absolutely! By living at sea we will learn most of the vital lessons crucial to our eventual success in space. In Aquarius we will perfect some of our basic closed-loop ecological systems, we will learn to coexist in an isolated highly integrated human community, and we will rear a new generation of children accustomed to many of the same rigors and conditions they will face when they leave the planet. By colonizing the seas we also avoid the immediate environmental catastrophes now facing us and at the same time produce huge new sources of power and wealth that will enable us to make the leap to space We will still only have postponed the ultimate population problem. After a few decades we must still hatch from the planetary egg and emerge into space where our species can grow to maturity.