A digital interview in the ASU Interplanetary Community in a Box project
Building sustainable off-world communities will require every ounce of our collective knowledge, expertise, creativity, and imagination. This is part of a series of Q&A with people from a wide range of disciplines and expertise that challenges them to think about what they would put in a metaphorical “community-in-a-box” to help kick-start an extraterrestrial community, and why.
Who are you?
I am a graduate student in the ASU School for Earth and Space Exploration (SESE) and I study planetary geology. My research ranges broadly, from studying volcanoes across the solar system (including on Earth) to understanding how humans might react to extraterrestrial life. I became interested in geology after discovering how it uses many different disciplines to understand the worlds around us, though I mainly focus on how chemistry relates to geologic processes. I also write stories and poetry, and am an avid reader. I am currently on an Ursula K. Le Guin kick, though I am waiting to read “The Expanse” by James S. A. Corey before the new season comes out. I love watching movies, television shows, playing with my cat, and heading outside in my free time. I think exercising, spending times outdoors, and reading are the best ways to keep my brain healthy, and I use my brain the most for my job, so I have to keep it feeling good! I became the Senior Editor of the “Community in a Box” Medium Publication in December of 2018, and I’m excited to see where it goes.
What, in your opinion, are some of the most important things that a group of people would need to know in order to set up an off-Earth community?
People will need many tools in order to form a successful off-Earth community. At the most basic level, they need shelters and food and water sources. However, as we know from experiments looking at human isolation, humans need a lot more than sustenance and safety to be content.
I believe that stories are the most useful thing that humans could bring from Earth to another planet. Stories have helped humans survive thousands of years of strife, teaching meaningful lessons and even skill sets that help people survive. These stories should be a combination of every type of human thought process. Some books should detail the benefits and downfalls of communism, while other books should detail the benefits and downfalls of capitalism.
Some books should describe scientific methodology and thought processes, and others should describe the history of religion. Education will be the most beneficial part of society to new generations, in my opinion. People in an off-world society will need to be educated in an unbiased manner in order to best develop what their society should look like.
While this community cannot be separate from Earth bound humans, they should be allowed to decide for themselves what their society looks like. The best way to do this is by providing materials from every side of the problem, letting them read such material, and decide for themselves what they want.
What does your particular expertise bring to establishing vibrant and sustainable communities in space?
An understanding of planetary geology would help an off-world community decide the best place to settle and what locations on a new world would be best for finding resources. If a community can gather most of their own resources, they will be less dependent on Earth. This would allow them more freedom to decide what kind of society they want to develop.
I am also an advocate for reading, writing and education. Prioritizing stories and education can help people decide which materials would provide the most relevant insight and balance to their thinking, and help the offworld community adapt to new situations quickly. I also am a huge proponent of recreation and movement, which help people stay mentally and physically healthy.
What are the top three things you would put in an Interplanetary Community in a Box, and why?
Imagine a scenario where 100 people are going to another planetary body in our solar system (e.g. Mars, or the Moon). Now imagine they are taking a “box” with them that contains all the knowledge they will need to build a vibrant and sustainable community — a kick-starter “Community-in-a-Box”.
- Humans need contact with not only humans, but also other species (like pets!) in order to develop empathy and care-taking skills. We should allow humans to bring other species onto a new world, as long as humans control the populations of these species so that they do not become invasive. These species should include animals that are able to live in confined spaces and get along well with humans. Likely dogs will not do well in this space, unless they are pocket pets like chihuahuas. Cats probably would do better, as they do better in confined areas and have fluid-like properties. In addition, plants should also be included in this offworld community so that humans who do not like animals are able to take care of another living thing. Plants that help recycle carbon dioxide into oxygen should be prioritized, as they will help provide clean air for respiratory animals, such as humans on board.
- The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin should be included in this box. This book demonstrates the benefits of and issues with a communist anarchy in comparison with a capitalist oligarchy. Basically, the book addresses two different methods of governance, and criticizes and compliments both ways. If people on a new world were to read this book, they would have two very well thought-out examples of human governance, and be able to decide between these two types reasonably unbiasedly.
- Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari should be included in the box as well. This book describes how humanity got to where it is today. I believe this book would teach all generations of off-world humans the history of their ancestors in a clear, honest light. The first members of the off-world community would read about how their ancestors failed and be able to learn from their lessons as the first people off-world create their own systems. Later generations would get to learn about the successes and downfalls of the people on Earth, again learning from their mistakes and also pulling from their successes. It is also important for off-world humans to know their history and where they came from.
For more from the ASU Interplanetary Initiative Community In A Box Project, check out our Medium Publication