Colonising Space: Our Biggest Decision – Conservative Article
With the recent landing of NASA’s “Perseverance” rover on Mars, I am a very happy man. Not only is this a simply inconceivable achievement of scientific excellence, but it also heralds a very important intention: human cosmic expansion. In my (probably rather facile) opinion, the biggest choice that we have to make as a species is: do we colonise space, or not? Fair enough, it’s probably a bit out there when you first think about it.
However, this is a simple question of survival and reproduction: our raison d’etre in a biological sense. If we are mono-planetary in our existence, our extinction is guaranteed. After all, the Earth is no stranger to mass-extinction events:
The most famous example is Chicxulub (I have no idea how to pronounce that, either), the meteor that probably ended the dinosaurs when it careered into Earth around 65 million years ago. It made “the Earth’s crust flow like liquid… [lifted] and then [collapsed] mountains 25 kilometres high, in a matter of 3 minutes”. A cataclysm that I struggle to even imagine.
This little chronology details the frequency with which Earth has been impacted, both by large and small meteorites. It is disconcerting, to say the least.
Volcanoes have, according to this particularly humbling article from ThoughtCo, “led to eleven extinction level events”, including the End-Triassic, End-Permian, and End-Cretaceous periods. Note the recurring use of the word “end”, there.
The post-eruption phenomena of massive dust deposits are well-documented; these block the precious sustenance from the sun, incurring huge die-offs of flora (and then, necessarily, fauna).
If something else doesn’t get us, the Sun most definitely will at some point. Either through its development into a “red giant” in about a billion years or through Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs) that could happen at any time.
Let’s not forget the close scares of the Cold War, all the world co-existed with the recognition that catastrophe may strike at any moment. We may be the orchestrators of our own demise.
Another point too obvious to omit is the sky-rocketing of carbon in the atmosphere; that does not bode well, either. The Earth and its biosphere is a fine balance.
With the complexity of our globalised supply chains, even a relatively small ELE phenomenon would severely impact us. Our incredible, but delicate, globally interconnected mode of being is a house of cards easily toppled.
We should be a touch on edge. When you try and think about it, it is quite unbelievable the precariousness of our situation.
So, what does this mean?
Well, we need to set our sights on survival. We should aim at expansion, developing the technology that we need.
Circling back to the Mars mission itself, one piece of technology that really twigged me was the ‘Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment‘ (or ‘Moxie’). Essentially, this will attempt to make oxygen on Mars, doing so by electronically breaking down the carbon dioxide present in Mars’ atmosphere. Incredible: (1) obviously, humans need to produce oxygen locally to breathe; and (2) we need oxygen for our primary mode of energy production: combustion.
Perhaps these are the first signs of the terraforming we will need to become well-acquainted with.
Clearly, it is important to direct resources to the effort. I’m not talking about a huge overhaul of global governmental expenditures — we, after all, have a lot of problems here on Earth, right now. However, these resources will need to be directed toward this effort sooner or later and, given that we do not know when we shall meet our doom here on Earth, we should probably put some emphasis on the former of that choice.
I firmly believe that peace on Earth will only present itself when we have something bigger than ourselves to fear. Much like the unification of an internally warring state, Earth needs to recognise that our precarious mortality, with our eggs all in one blue & green basket, is far more terrifying than Russia, America, China, or whoever.
Of course, we will go on fighting each other, that seems to be our most consistent pastime, but maybe this could be lessened if we looked out, instead of in.
Written by Chief Conservative Writer, Alexander Dennis
Point of Information
If we do have to colonise, it should be with caution, not excitement – A Labour Response
Firstly, many thanks to Alexander for deeply terrifying us all over all the ways we could reach our demise. Though I think climate change is threatening enough to warrant more of his attention, he makes a very compelling case that extinction events shout not only be considered by fringe doomsday preppers.
He is, of course, completely correct that we must have some sort of action plan for when (‘if’ feels a little optimistic) everything goes south.
Space colonialism seems a strange solution to climate change and resource depletion. Especially as we have the money, knowledge, and ability to solve those problems here on Earth, less exciting though it may be.
Is the work of would-be space colonists a genuine attempt to solve world issues? In this context, it seems more like a vanity project. The possibility of nuclear war, too, seems like something we should focus on diminishing, not running from.
However, contemplating an unavoidable event like a meteor strike does have me looking skyward. Faced with major disasters, humanity may weather the same storm but we will not be in the same boat. The Coronavirus pandemic has, surely, taught us that. If we were to colonise space, we would need to ensure safety. Safety among the stars would have to be a genuine option for as many as possible, as quickly as possible. Refuge can’t only be available to the mega-rich, or citizens of certain countries.
As for the idea that looking outwards will lessen fighting on Earth, this seems a little whimsical. Indeed, didn’t the first great ventures into space take place as part of the Cold War? Much of the dispute on Earth stems from deep injustices and power imbalances between genders, races, social and political groups, countries, religions, halves of the globe.
Focusing on the bigger picture, simply hoping these injustices will disappear, will only ensure the problems continue in space. As I laid out in my own take on space colonialism, if we do leave Earth we should see it as an opportunity to start afresh and do things more fairly. It is not a fix-all solution to our problems.
Written by Guest Labour Writer, Jess Wilson
How about… no? – A Liberal Response
Honestly, this is one of the most confusing articles I have ever responded to on POI. I’m not usually reminded of the expected demise of our species, but here we are regardless.
Firstly, why on earth do we need to colonise space? Humans have clearly shown that we cannot be trusted with one planet. So why would we take on another that is likely less suited to our needs? We would likely be less functional as a species on it – even if the terraforming Alexander mentioned does work. Furthermore, if, as many people believe, we come across other life forms, maybe let’s not go about colonising them and leave them in peace.
I definitely am leaning towards siding with Jess on this issue. Solving the problems on Earth that will lead to our extinction is probably a wiser way to go about it. The primary issue here is climate change.
The World Economic Forum theorises that we will cross the boundary into dangerous levels of climate change between 2027 and 2042. So if we are to protect the human race and colonise space as Alexander recommends, we must create the facilities for the migration of all seven and a half billion people, and get them there, in the next two to three decades. This doesn’t feel like something that is possible or advisable, particularly with this planet’s problems that still need to be dealt with – a pandemic, poverty, natural disasters, and everything else under the sun.
As Jess said, the escape to another planet should not become something where the rich pay to jump the queue. Would we leave those who cannot afford a rocket trip to fight for survival on a planet that is dying? As depressing as it is to write, maybe, when it comes down to it, the end of this planet will be the end of humans.
Written by Junior Liberal Writer, Emma Hall
Hello, I’m Alexander Dennis, and I am going into my third undergraduate year at the University of Exeter. I study Politics & International Relations, with a possible year abroad hanging in the balance. My particular interest in politics really started in early 2016: yes, it was ‘Brexit’. I was at once intrigued, and confused, by something so critical. From that baptism, I have become somewhat addicted to political discussion, intrigued by issues ranging from drugs policy to taxation. So I followed my nose: I applied for a degree in the subject.