Why Space Colonization should be a Social Endeavour
Understanding that human capability to travel through space is an ever increasing field. A field that’s now fuelled by commercial ventures like SpaceX, it now becomes important to have a social discussion about the ethical ramifications of space travel on earth and society. Traveling to the unknown frontiers of Mars or some other planet will cost a lot of money and take a lot time, both to get there and to establish a viable settlement. Given the current rate of propulsion technology innovation, it will be quite a while before the technology improves to the point of offering faster and cost effective “commute” times to and from established colonies of Earth. So when we factor in the expected start of Mars colonization in about 5–12 years along with the state and trajectory of earth’s environment, a new planet may offer a lot more long term promise than domestic life back Earth side. Sure, the conditions will be tough at first but with Crispr technology and other interventions like artificial electromagnet fields, flora can be developed and help transform the atmospheric conditions of mars. All the while, Earth is still set to pass the 2-degree warming point, developing an exponential rate of climate disasters and 100 year storm events along with climate refugees, not to mention resource depletion and scarcities. It’s this impending instability that makes space travel start to be an ethical issue worth discussing and asking some questions about.
Who gets to leave the planet? and Why should they be allowed to go?
Some would argue that the technological push to colonize is largely being funded by private investments and corporations, therefore those that can afford it should be able to just buy a ticket and skip off through the cosmos. But given how our economy runs, on (dirty) energy, there’s a fundamental issue here. There are a handful of industries that you can be wealthy in and not explicitly destroy earth’s environment. Except the facts remain: the more affluent you are, the more you consume and deplete the common environmental resources provided by the interconnected ecosystem. Most human activity negatively impacts the environment. Those at the top of the commercial hierarchies often bear more than a lion’s share of the blame and benefits of violating the environment for economic growth and profit, both by professional position and the corresponding level of leisure. This, like the corporate drive to space is a normal understanding. It’s with the advent of a colonization effort that it becomes more important now then ever, that we don’t let the rich buy free tickets of the planet especially when they are the cause of the soon to be uninhabitable conditions of it. There are only a couple solutions to this potential inequality: a) socialize space exploration as an international endeavour or b) require companies to vet the potential colonizers on a scale of degradation impact.
a) Social space exploration
There is international coordination and collaboration in the development of space technology, but it is siloed because of things like national defense and private telecommunication satellites. Unifying space as a collective frontier to be explored as an international effort reduces redundancies in experimentation and observation, removes sole access from one state or another and makes the amount of funding allocated more effective in producing technological advancement. Much of the professional and hard infrastructure exists in respective space ambitious nations, a more interconnected network would make development more linear and streamlined. The major barrier is geopolitics and the disunity of nation states. The use of geosynchronous satellites for military coordination and secure communications is the major reason that space travel and exploration is dominated by the world’s military leaders and the disjointed nature of space programs. The best example of international cooperation in space is the International Space Station (ISS), which houses international crews and is built from collaborative component development between Russia and America. The International Space Station is the minimum that a coordinated effort of space exploration can achieve, but given the current geopolitical climate it’s also the best we can hope for. The lack of Chinese nationals being permitted on the ISS only outlines how economic and military opposition politics stymies space exploration and international coordination.
This issue also rings true to many of the other problems on our planet, the lack of a true international community, in the sense that a community provides and sustains it’s members only harms the global potential. This ideological and practical disconnect, allows for the discrepancies, redundancies and adversarial behaviour to damper the development of human capability. this has left the gates open for the type of destruction soon to be felt from climate change and the subsequent human and natural phenomena in response. The lack of global organization needed to properly explore space is just like the lack of organization needed to keep earth as a viable home planet.
A socially funded colonization effort could best be populated by a voluntary lottery that chooses optimal genetic and educational variables for life on another planet and for space travel. By ranking the adaptability of the human and their potential benefit to a new community; this would ensure that new space explorations are populated with a model for success and have a developmental advantage to growth on their new home world.
b) Degradation impact assessment
In a the more likely event that space travel is dominated by private ventures, colonizing missions should require a degradation assessment. This assessment would measure the impact to the planet any given person has made given their socioeconomic standing, profession and or investments. Weeding out the people that have disproportionately and knowingly destroyed Earth as people who shouldn’t have the opportunity for a second chance on another planet, while other suffer for their actions here. Space travel is a scientific horizon and those that lack the consideration and insight into the most basic natural science system, the biosphere in favour of greed should not be given the chance to escape the impact that they perpetuated. there’s no ignorance to the impact, if you can afford to destroy the planet, you can afford a basic ecology education.
Whatever route humanity takes to move on to a new planet, we must first develop a sense of unity and stewardship, so that the planets last longer and human growth is sustainable. Hopping to planet to planet to avoid environmental collapse is like the hopping from area to area to avoid blight like we see on Earth now. Let’s not bring that reckless short sighted behaviour into space, it’s uncouth.