Many people wonder why we are interested in the settlement of space and the oceans. To many, it is a very odd goal to focus on, especially when there are still problems on Earth that need to be solved (this objection will be addressed in a future blog entry). To most who are space and ocean enthusiasts, the answer is self-evident. All of us enthusiasts have our own vision of space/ocean settlement, and they seem to emanate from some inner desire (see Space Settlement: The Journey Inward). But for those of us who do not have this desire, this bears expanation. Of course, there is no one explanation. There are many reasons we can (and often do) use to justify it. In this blog entry, I will use the "City Upon a Shining Hill" argument.
In the book Mining The Sky John S. Lewis writes this:
Who will go into space [and the oceans]? It's not always easy to leave, especially for those with the greatest need to leave. The worst tyrannies want stability at any price...they violently oppose emigration because it fosters the notion that there is a way out; it raises hopes...Space [and the oceans] will at first be largely a haven for refugees. The refugee state is usually a melting pot. New Amsterdam in the late 1600s was an amalgam of Huguenots from France, Walloons from the Low Countries, English dissenters, Puritans, and Sephardic Jews from Iberia. ..they were all there because they were escapees from Roman Catholic or Anglican persecution. Their common desire was to have religious freedom...It was this search for freedom from religious, political, and ethnic persecution that will send the first [settlers] forth into space [and the oceans]. Thereafter, anyone who wants to go will be able to do so.During the 1930s and 1940s, the Jews of Europe desperately sought to escape persecution and eventually mass slaughter. Citizens of the Soviet Union have routinely tried to defect to Western Europe or the United States. Today, the United States and Western Europe attract many of these immigrants from around the world. A lot them have experienced deplorable conditions. They have come from extreme poverty and persecution. But will the US and Europe always be good places to emigrate to? There is growing anti-immigrant and nativist sentiment in these regions. It is not hard to imagine a world in 2012 in which America and Europe shut their doors to immigrants desperately trying to escape genocide.
Things could very well come to a point in the currently developed nations in which people will want (or need) to leave. Perhaps, freedom in these areas of the world could wane. While many think that this can't happen, keep in mind that there is a rising demand for the persecution of Muslims in Europe and in the US. When Bush won the presidential election of 2004 (one that a lot of people believe was stolen), many liberals and leftists seriously contemplated (and few actually did resort to) moving to Canada. Even though the 1990s seemed like good times compared to today, there were many people who thought that the US government was moving in the wrong direction. Many libertarians certainly felt that way, and many do now. The majority of the people (citizens of all political stripes) in the US today are dissatisfied with the current direction of the nation.
When people are dissatisfied with the way things are going, they come up with new ideas. Protestant Christianity arose from centuries of corruption in the Roman Catholic Church. The US was born because of mis-government on the part of colonial and British leaders. The abolitionist movement was born because of the evils of slavery in an era of liberty. As misguided as the authoritarian communist movement was, the movement was born because of exploitative and abusive labor practices. Today, there are many people who have differing ideas on rebuilding society. There is always a better way that things can be done, it seems. As Lewis states:
Subversives, idealists, inventors, artists, scientists, and mystics alike...have a nasty way of asking questions such as, "Why do we have to do this? Why not that?"There are many who believe that they still can perfect socialism. Some believe in laissez-faire capitalism. Many want to try a direct democracy. Still many others dream of building the first "open source civilization". In an era in which all land of currently under someone else's control, trying to build an experiment for your new idea can be very difficult, and often results in bloodshed. People with new and/or divergent ideas will be persecuted. Many people disagree with Margaret Thatcher when she stated that "There Is No Alternative" to the current social system. And there are a lot of people who are set to prove her wrong.
Americans commonly believe that the issue of secession was settled -- once and for all -- by the US Civil War. But today, the the demand for secession and the demand for moving elsewhere is greater than most people realize. On the Internet, you can find a lot of groups with the aims of secession. This Wikipedia entry has a partial listing of various secessionist movements, and also movements for the creation of new nations around the world. When the opportunity to seastead or settle space finally arrives, there will be many, many more people who will want to move, and also a lot more reasons. And many of these people will form new social experiments. They will want to push the limits of liberty, equality, community, spirituality, freedom, democracy, lifestyle, social organization, science, art, expression, thought, and humanity. Those social experiments that fail will be thrown to the dustbin (or the recycle bin) of history, while those that are successful will be copied, and will inspire even newer types of societies.