From Earth Emotions, to be published by Cornell University Press in 2019:
“There are some, including many leading public figures and intellectuals, who think that the situation is already so bad that humans should seriously consider leaving the Earth to colonize new planets. They suggest, for example, that mining of virgin resources on nearby asteroids will be able to sustain humans back on Earth. Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, has stated that: “We have to go to space to save Earth… We kind of have to hurry”. Other well-known men, such as Brian Cox, Elon Musk, Richard Branson and the late Stephen Hawking, see the tierracide coming, and speculate that space colonizing refugees will be the only survivors of mass economic and agricultural failure on Earth. Hawking has concluded; “[s]preading out may be the only thing that saves us from ourselves. I am convinced that humans need to leave Earth”.
According to this current crop of space invaders, while some of us are still rich, we must plan and execute our escape from a failing Earth and its failing humans. What an irony it is, as Jeff Bezos becomes the richest man on Earth, and Amazon Inc. expands worldwide, that the Amazon Basin is contracting at record rates. These public figures in science and business are in a position to be intellectual leaders, yet their strong advocacy of the extra-terrestrial, at a time when ‘Terra’, the Earth, is in big trouble, marks them all as in need of strong challenge on ethical grounds.* The current ‘extra-terrestrial’ patriarch pack of the Anthropocene are failing us. Projections for the future of the Earth, from the impacts of climate change alone, suggest to me there is no justification for directing huge amounts of wealth, public or private, into anything but the total mitigation of the threat of climate chaos its various forms of Armageddon (flood, heat, fire, disease, tempest).
Note: I admire people like Brian Cox and the late Stephen Hawking for their scientific contributions. I am also a supporter of space exploration and discovery. What I oppose is space exploitation and the idea that it is necessary to “save the Earth”.
Excerpt from the Leigh Sales interview with Brian Cox on the ABC Thu 2 Nov 2017.
LEIGH SALES: The Australian Government has recently announced the creation of a national space agency here. Is that something worth getting into, when you look at what’s happening globally?
BRIAN COX: It’s undoubtedly one of the growth industries and iIf you think about the challenges that we face on Earth, then the challenges are challenges of limited resources, the challenges of environmental damage we caused by accessing those resources, and we need to square that with the need for economic growth.
So how do you produce an exciting civilisation that can grow and have a frontier that attracts people to and challenges us, at the same time as protecting this planet, which Jeff Bezos always says is by far the best planet we know of anywhere in the universe.
And the way to do it is to recognise the fact that there are unlimited resources available to us above our heads, and not too far away.
The asteroid belt, which is accessible, we’ve been there. We know how to land on those things, we know how to mine them if we want to. There’s a great number which is there is enough metal in the asteroid belt to build a skyscraper 8,000 storeys tall and cover the Earth in it – if you want!
Now we don’t want to cover the earth in a skyscraper, but the resources effectively unlimited resources, unlimited power from the sun – everything is up there.
In this response to the question posed by Sales there are a number of seriously deluded comments offered by Cox:
- The “need for economic growth” is asserted without any justification. The economist Herman Daly argued that on the basis of the laws of physics, humans should create and live within a Steady State Economy . If damage to the biosphere, including its climate, due to economic growth cannot be “squared” against the damage it is doing, then the desirability of further economic growth of this kind must be questioned.
- It is possible to have an exciting civilisation without “growth” and the idea of a “frontier” takes us back into the period in human history where the mentality of perpetual parasitic expansion at the expense of traditional people and their lands was the dominant paradigm. There is more than one way of being human.
- The idea of “unlimited” resources “above our heads” is another delusion in that the energy needed to acquire, refine and recycle or dispose of them is at further cost to planet Earth. By failing to figure out how to live within the resources available on this, “the best planet we know of”, takes our attention and investment away from protecting and conserving the foundations for life here on Earth.
- Dangerous and meaningless growth is no better exemplified by Cox’s example of a “skyscaper 8,000 stories tall” covering the earth. He says we don’t want to do this, but more imported resources for growth during periods of rapid climate calescence (warming) and the 6th Great Extinction of life on Earth is like feeding your cancer steroids.
- The very idea that unlimited resources can be taken from “up there” and be used to continue unlimited growth here on Earth is an idea more deluded and dangerous than the Cargo Cult mentality of the traditional people of Papua New Guinea. There are not unlimited waste sinks ‘down here’ to deal with current levels of pollution.
- Unlimited resources, unlimited power … these are the deluded titanic thoughts of a mind that has yet to understand the basis of life here on Earth.
- Brian Cox, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Richard Branson and Stephen Hawking are in a position to be intellectual leaders in the Anthropocene, yet their strong advocacy of the extra-terrestrial at a time when ‘Tierra’, the Earth, is in big trouble, marks them all as ethically bankrupt. With power, wealth and leadership comes ethical responsibility. The extra-terrestrial patriarch pack are failing us.
- There are two major errors being perpetrated by humans right now, one is the “head in the sand” attitude of denialists and obfuscationists and the other is the “head in the sky” titanism of the space invaders. I am not sure now which is the more dangerous for the future of life here on this Earth.