Saturday, May 20, 2006

The Call of the High Frontier

Why does the LUF support the settlement of the high frontier? This article from explains some of the reasons. One of the core values of the LUF is saving the Earth from ecological destruction.
Just as the Human Genome Project is mapping out the intricate details of our genetic code, there will need to be the equivalent of a Gaia Genome Project to take inventory of the varied ecosystems across Earth, mapping out the interaction between the environment and its inhabitants. It may be that certain soil bacteria, insects, and plants are critically important in as yet unknown ways.
As the NASA environmental page states, space technology is a very important tool for understanding, protecting, and repairing the global biosphere. There are various satellites in orbit that constantly keep track of what's occurring on Earth. As terrible as Hurricane Katrina was, it would've been much, much worse without space technology to monitor every single movement of the storm. The satellites also keep track of pollution, ozone depletion, climate, agriculture, diseases, quakes, potential places to drill for oil, etc.

Well, space can help save the Earth's biosphere, but that still does not justify the settlement of space. Of course, anything that argues "the case for space" is incomplete without a discussion of solar power from space and declining resources on Earth.
As the initial tide of space colony interest waned in the late 1970s, there was less talk of visionary ideas and more about economic justifications. The main industry was seen as mass-production of solar power satellites, collecting energy in space and beaming it down to antenna farms for use on Earth. When the second round of 1970s oil shortages hit at the end of the decade, the idea looked even more attractive. But this was in the day when oil was rising from $15 a barrel to $37 by 1980. By 1986, oil was down to $15 again, and the sense of urgency faded. Today, with oil running over $50 a barrel and the supply a constant source of uncertainty, such a novel energy source could begin to look more inviting again.

A Great Theme of establishing a permanent human presence in space—as a way to develop new energy sources to maintain high standards of living for the growing population of Earth, and as a way to back up Earth’s living populations and preserve our collected knowledge, and to create new living spaces for those wanting new ways of life—would provide a guiding principle for vital policy decisions.

As long as we live in a world where limited resources must be allocated among a growing population, we are ultimately doomed. All our efforts to increase food production and extend individual longevity will end up trading a sooner catastrophe for a later one of greater scope. So far, we are succeeding in a kind of pyramid scheme with Earth’s resources, but in time the pressure of human numbers will strain and drain them. When resources become scarce and populations dense, individual freedoms are unaffordable luxuries.
These are some of the reasons that space activists typically use when justifying the space program, exploration, and settlement. Doomsday arguments, however, are not sufficient to justify the exloration and settlement of space. Economic arguments, as above, are often sufficient, though. Besides, expeditions to the New World, and most settlements in the New World were justified on economic grounds. Columbus promised the Spanish monarchy plenty of gold. The Jamestown settlement than began early in the 17th century was justified on economic grounds. Besides the doomsday and economic justifications, there are better reasons to settle space.
There are now practically no new nations created on Earth without episodes of bloodshed. Short of revolution and war, there are few options available for those who dream about establishing a new society somewhere, as various ideological and religious groups have historically done. But even today, there are many people who would welcome the chance to settle a new frontier, where new ways of life could be tried. If enough people believed there was an opportunity to leave whatever they didn’t like about society behind and start over with a new nation aligned to their shared passions, I believe that could stir the pioneer spirit that still slumbers in many.
Since the beginning, the LUF has had a vision of a new form of democracy that offers more freedoms and more liberties than representative democracy, and a new economy that offers vast material wealth and a life of mostly leisure. The dream of creating new societies with new rules has long been a drive for exploration and settlement of new lands. This drive was present even in Biblical times, when Moses led the Hebrews to the Promised Land. The creation of pilgrim and separatist settlements in the Northeast US during the 17th century exemplifies this drive. Even today, people are designing and creating new nations. The main problem is, of course, the lack of available land. Creating oceanic and space settlements would meet the demand for the dreamers and visionaries around the world. Those new societies that work very well will be copied, while those that didn't work so well will be discarded. Imagine trying to start a nation with US values in the 18th century had we not yet settled America. Starting such a society in already overcrowded Europe would've been exceedingly difficult. Perhaps, that's why the American Revolution was largely successful while the French Revolution degenerated into despotism and a continent-wide devastating war. Are you someone who still believes that socialism can work? Are you being persecuted for your beliefs or your physical attributes? Do you dream of a new society, but would rather avoid bloodshed if possible? Then starting a new society on virgin land would be very attractive. This is enough of a reason to create space settlements.

No comments:

Post a Comment