Recycling fundamental to preserving our existence on Earth

With the title “Cosmic sustainability: the Universe is a Recycler”, BIR’s latest Keynote Address was delivered by Lucy Hawking - journalist, novelist, educator and, perhaps most famously, daughter of Stephen Hawking.

Having explained that everything on Earth was the product of recycled dust from exploding stars, she quoted the following words from Dr John Hogan, an environmental scientist in the bioengineering branch of NASA’s Ames Research Center in California: “It’s become very clear to me over many years now that we really are on a space ship – it’s not metaphor – and that recycling is the way this system works.”

“Recycling is such an important thing for us to do to maintain life on Earth,” Ms Hawking went on to insist.

Stephen Hawking, who died in 2018, had been an early advocate of “the need to take climate change seriously”, his daughter recalled. “He spoke about it and wrote about it way before it really entered the public consciousness. He saw the science and he saw the evidence, and he realised where it was going.”

In speaking of her father’s fascination with travel beyond our own planet, Ms Hawking said that iconic photographs of the Earth taken from space had served to “raise awareness .. and help to promote this idea that we have just one planet, that it is vulnerable … with finite resources”.

In an echo of the mounting concerns over marine littering, Ms Hawking spoke of the “depressing” array of debris circling in Low and Geostationary Earth Orbit. More encouragingly, plans are under discussion to capture some of this debris and repurpose it for future space missions. “It would certainly take recycling into a whole new dimension,” she concluded in her online presentation today.


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