The Space Movement has dedicated today, July 20th, as a commemorative day in which bloggers have been asked to provide a blog post relating to the Settlement of Space.
Well, we here at Plasma Wind are all about Space Settlement.
In fact, Space Settlement is a necessary condition for the survival of terrestrial life, and certainly for human life. If we fail at this task, it’s just a matter of time before we become extinct. And even if we succeed, there are no guarantees, either.
As we consider settling space, or as I like to think of it in more general terms, as we consider carrying life off of Earth and out into the Cosmos, there’s a few points I think are worth reiterating.
First, when we think of space settlements, I think we tend naturally to think of settlements that sit on a planetary surface, like Mars, or the moon. But in many important ways, planetary surfaces are some of the worst locations for space settlements. Large Gravity wells, planetary atmospheres, possible indigenous life forms and ecosystems to disrupt and contend with, non-continuous sunlight, et al. Although certainly not the first, Dr. Gerald K. O’Neil advocated for the fabrication of space settlements as free-orbiting, manmade structures, with artificial gravity supplied by rotating the axi-symmetric structures. These notions were articulated in his seminal book, “The High Frontier”, which explained how such space living structures could be built, and providing a development pathway by which we could finance and grow these types of settlements. Dr. Isaac Asimov, the great science fiction writer, referred to the notion of having to settle on the surface of planets as “planetary chauvinism”, which seems in some ways apt.
The second point I was to make, is that human beings are
precious and valuable, and are worth saving. As living creatures we can and
should be allowed, yea encouraged, to thrive and grow. And we should not be trifled with.
This notion is not universally popular, and in fact, the opposite notion is much
more familiar and bandied about. Because
of the continuously-increasing constraints on our civilizations here on earth,
we’ve come to imagine ourselves as the great and powerful beings, with little restraint to our enormous powers to create chaos and
destruction. Yet from the perspective of
the solar system, and even the Earth itself, we’re tiny, fragile, and barely
hanging onto life. My image of humanity is that of a small
flower, tenaciously clinging to a bit of soil on a volcanic island, whilst all
around us molten lava flows, great gouts of steam and gas vent forth, and a
powerful ocean pounds the lava into sand.
Lastly, I think we need to be reminded that, whatever we create, to whatever heights of technological prowess we climb to, whatever great knowledge and wisdom we come to grasp, eventually all of it, and ourselves as well, will all pass away. Someday we will be gone. We like to think that we, as a species, as a civilization, will go on and on. But if we’ve learned anything about civilizations here on Earth, it's that even the greatest, perish in the end, and crumble to dust and memories. Yet it is this very perishability that makes life, terrestrial life, so previous. We will have our day in the sun. We will grow, reach our zenith, and then we will die out. This is perhaps the most natural cycle there is in the Cosmos.
In closing, I will mention that, In the past several years, I have come to believe that these, and related notions and philosophies can come under a general umbrella philosophy which, for lack of a better term, I call “Exvironmentalism”. The word environment comes from the word “environ”. Your “environs” would be the places in you immediate region around you. It comes from the old French word which literally means “to turn in a circle inwards” (en- in, viron- a circle or circuit, virer- to turn). So the environment is the firmament in which you circle around in, inwards. Thus, the word exviron would connote “to turn in a circle outwards”. The exvironment would thus be the firmament that we would circle out into.
We can use the definitions to reframe our considerations, to open up the notions life-expansion and life preservation, and to use the best of the ideas of environmentalism and the transition of mankind off the planet and out into the cosmos. We can positively combine these ideas, these philosophies, to make something better than the sum of the parts. This then, is the essence of Exvironmentalism: the synergy of the space movement, the environmental movement, and perhaps many others, to productively encourage, identify, and promote the expansion of life outwards from the planet Earth, and into the Cosmos.
Recently, the first International Exvironmentalism Conference was held outside of Cayucos, California, USA. Despite it’s invitation-only format, there was good participation, and a number of interesting presentations. Perhaps the exvironmentalism movement will take off, and more conferences will come to be. And perhaps, that’s something that could be a big boost to Space Settlement.
A copy of the Keynote Speech from the First International Exvironmentalism Conference can be downloaded here: