NASA image ~ In 1968 explorers from Earth sailed to the Moon, but then looked back and discovered the Earth.
If refugees from a star system with a sun going unstable had been looking for a new home four million years ago, and had applied to their galactic government for permission to move to Earth, would they have simply been allowed to move in and set up house and industry on a planet teeming with life?
Or would they have been required to submit a development application?
Imagine the shape of the approval, if granted. No extinctions of any native life forms permitted. Evolution must be allowed to continue, with species that can realise their full potential as a tool maker allowed to emerge. Maintain a clean environment without pollution.
After examining all the limitations, the stellar refugees may decide to leave the planet alone and set up cities in space, which they could, with an Earth-like gravity being provided by rotation.
The stellar refugees would then have the liberty of the whole Solar System, drawing on the virtually infinite energy-well of the Sun for power and harvesting a small percentage of the raw materials in the system to make any product needed in space factories.
What if there is a galactic government that finally gets around to addressing our treatment of planet Earth?
Would we be required to submit a retrospective development application for the health and sustainability of our presence on Earth?
How heavily would we be fined for all the damage that we have caused?
There may be no galactic government, as we have found no evidence of civilizations beyond Earth, but shouldn’t we be conducting our affairs as if there were, and we had to take responsibilities for our actions, or face the music?
Humans have emerged on a planet teeming with life, found they have the ability to make tools and develop a high level of civilization that is on the verge of spreading from the home planet and into cities in space, where protection would be built against solar and cosmic radiation and an Earth gravity generated via rotation.
Unlike the establishment of British settlements in America and Australia, working in space will be the province of machines, working to a plan, or directed by humans using remote control and viewing systems from Earth, or from protected environments in space.
We could build cities and settlements anywhere across the Solar System, drawing on the virtually infinite energy-well of our Sun and harvesting a small percentage of the resources available to make any product we need in space factories.
With an economy based on the power of the Sun and the resources of the Solar System, a stellar economy can be established that provides a healthy and creative life for each and every child born.
Should the main game of human civilization be the creation of a stellar economy beyond Earth, supporting a society without poverty on Earth and in space?
Removing poverty from human society will be the way we step toward peace on Earth and deliver security in space.
Having a society of angry people trapped in poverty is not the way to create peace.
We must figure out ways to be peaceful in space, because war would be far too lethal in the space environment, and may even end our game beyond Earth, where space cities are fragile bubbles in a vacuum, all too easily burst from within or without by conflict and or terrorism.
We cannot wait on Earth to become good citizens, as there is no sign that we can survive the experience of our confinement on Earth as an advanced and lethal species, where we are a risk to the survival of life on this planet.
If we love life, if we value survival, if we want a future for our children and grandchildren, we need to figure out the shape of a stellar society and economy and how soon we can get ourselves there.
What is the point of fighting our way into extinction, when we can become a star faring species with the liberty of space?
EXPANSION IN NATURE
Expansion is the primal force in Nature, seen with the birth of the Universe expanding from nothing to infinity, seen with the current accelerating expansion of space, seen with life on Earth expanding to fill the Earth to the brim of the atmosphere, and seen in the expansion of diversity in Nature, from simple cells to the ability of humans to build cities in space.
Being able to expand beyond Earth was enabled with the race to the Moon between the United States and the Soviet Union.
The 1970s were the decade of planning, when all the problems were worked out, and can still be studied in various archives, including with NASA and the National Space Society.
The 1980s should have been the decade when humans began building cities in space.
There was wealth enough to do the work, seen in how much money, life and resources were used to kill people in Vietnam, and later in Iraq, as well as maintaining vast arsenals of nuclear weapons that could wipe out all life on Earth in a nuclear winter.
Wars often arise out of environmental crisis, which is said to be the case in Syria after a long drought.
I often hear university educated people, including teachers, say that we humans have evolved on Earth and this is our environment, not space.
This is like saying that fish should never have moved onto the land, because they evolved in the sea and that was their only environment.
But, some fish did climb out of the sea onto the land, to evolve into land animals, or we wouldn’t be here.
Half of humans now live in cities, which can be seen as a stepping stone to living in space.
Just as fish came out of the sea to begin endless generations of land animals, there is no logical reason why humans should remain on land.
We have built airships and jet planes to fly through the air, and may one day build cities that float in the air.
We have now reached the stage in our evolution when we can build and live in space and roam across the Solar System.
Like ancient navigators crossing the oceans of Earth, we can now look toward sailing the oceans of space.
If we are wise enough to master the arts of cosmic survival, our adventure has only just begun.
THE CARBON CRISIS
James Hansen, the grandfather of climate science, worked out a decade ago that with carbon dioxide (CO2) above 350 parts per million (ppm) in the air, we will trigger a runaway greenhouse effect on Earth, which will turn our paradise planet into a second Venus, where rocks glow in a heat that can melt lead.
In the last Ice Age CO2 was 180 ppm, and rose to 270 ppm, where it remained over the past few millennia as human society and civilization flourished on Earth. Now CO2 is rising past 400 ppm in the air, causing the Earth to heat up, warming up the oceans, melting polar ice from beneath and dissolving Arctic permafrost, which releases more greenhouse gases like methane, a far more potent greenhouse gas, to warm up the Earth.
Our planet’s temperature rise has now gone past 1C and there appears to be no stopping future rise to 6C and beyond, which will deliver environmental crisis on Earth that can trigger global conflict, where nuclear madness may be unleashed by nations without hope.
To avoid extinction in a nuclear winter, or Venus-like conditions on Earth, we must find our nerve to expand beyond Earth and build cities in space.
With industry in space powered by the Sun, we can solve all problems on Earth.
Without industry in space, we are building the highway into oblivion on Earth.
THE VENUS SYNDROME
Hansen warns that we must keep the temperature rise below 1.5C, now passing 1C, to avoid the Venus syndrome, which will deliver a dead, hot and toxic planet, just like Venus.
The rising level of CO2 in the air is largely absorbed by the sea, where it makes the oceans more acidic, affecting the shell and bone of marine life.
There are dead zones in the seas that are growing, and vast islands of human trash floating around.
If nuclear madness is avoided, the death of the Earth begins in the sea.
Like a canary in the coal mine, corals bleach and die around the planet in hotter water.
Our greatest threat from the sea could be a repeat of the first great extinction event, the Great Dying of 252 million years ago, when most of life perished on Earth.
Hot acidic seas were not unfriendly to all life forms, especially sulphur bugs from the deep ocean, which were able to rise to the surface and bloom, releasing toxic hydrogen sulphide gas that killed life on land and destroyed the ozone layer, which then allowed more solar and cosmic radiation to reach the Earth’s surface, killing more life on land.
If this future comes to pass on a hotter planet, cities by the sea will be death zones, when hydrogen sulphide gas blows in from dying oceans.
The sweet salt smell of the sea will be replaced by the stench of death.
To survive in this future, humans will be forced to live on Earth, as if they were living in space.
James Lovelock warns that change to a permanently hotter Earth can happen quite swiftly.
Such change can be seen in an ice sheet, as the temperature beneath mounts, and then there is a sudden break-up of the ice.
Change is often swift in Nature, like a flood, an earthquake, or a volcanic eruption, so if we are not prepared, we cannot hope to survive.
For many decades there have been calls by conservationists around the planet to build a sustainable human society on Earth, but this has not only not happened, but human society is simply getting increasingly unsustainable on this planet.
Until the 1980s humans were still a sustainable presence on this planet, but then the tables turned, and we began needing more than one Earth to sustain our dreams, now grown to 4 Earth’s worth of resources.
We have become a totally unsustainable presence on this planet.
In the 1980s CO2 in the air had reached 350 ppm as a direct result of human activity, and if we had acted on our ability back then to expand into space, draw energy from the Sun, establish industry in space and construct orbital cities beyond Earth, we could have kept a safe Earth.
We could have replaced fossil fuel with power from the Sun.
To find a sustainable future on a healthy Earth, we must reach to the Sun for power, both on Earth and in space.
If we will not do that, if we refuse to do that, we are doomed on Earth and will have no future in this universe.
We will risk ending up as an evolutionary dead-end on a dead planet that we murdered.
By reaching to the Sun in space for power, we will also be reaching for survival.
We will gain the ability to be sustainable.
Sustainability is a two-edged sword, where both edges must be used in the fight for survival.
Fighting for sustainability on Earth alone has proven to be a blunt bar of soft iron that is totally useless.
We need a sustainable industrial presence beyond Earth, built on the power of the Sun, to be able to deliver a sustainable human presence on a healthy and peaceful planet, where poverty is sent into history.
Why would we refuse to act on our own survival, secured by forging a sharp two-edged sword of sustainability in space?
DEFEATING THE CARBON DRAGON
The prime environmental action needed on Earth is the extraction of excess carbon from the air, to get CO2 down below 350 ppm as swiftly as we possibly can.
This can be done, but requires a heap of energy to achieve.
The volume of excess carbon in the air is known, along with how much it is growing in volume each day.
The volume of energy needed to deal with the excess carbon in the air can also be calculated.
Where on Earth can we get that much energy to do the work of carbon extraction?
The energy needed can be drawn directly from the Sun in space to use on Earth.
The power of the Sun can also be used to process extracted carbon into a useful resource for Earth and space industries.
With industry established in space, we will be able to build a sunshade above the Earth, to help cool the Earth, as excess carbon is extracted from the air.
On Earth alone we are a failure as a species.
To succeed in life, we must run with Nature in the expansion of life beyond Earth.
If we will not run, we are doomed to extinction in a hell on Earth of our own making.
If we value life, we must focus on forging the two-edged sword of sustainability, which can only be made in space with the power of the Sun.
Then we will be able to fight for peace on Earth and survival among the stars.
The path before us is simple, and anyone who wants a future must focus on the forging of the sword of sustainability in space.
There is no other way.
We can only defeat the carbon dragon that we have created, by using a sword forged in space to vanquish the beast on Earth.
COST OF SPACE
The effort to secure a sustainable industrial presence beyond Earth will not be cheap, but must happen, if we wish to survive.
Once we have secured a sustainable industrial presence beyond Earth, there will be no further call for resources from Earth, and the return on the investment, from across the Solar System and among the stars, will be infinite.
This is the investment that we must make, if we wish to secure our cosmic survival.
PLANETS ARE RISKY PLACES
Our star, the Sun, is now 35% hotter than at its birth 4.5 billion years ago, and will steadily increase in heat over the next 5 billion years, until expanding to the orbit of the Earth as a red giant star.
Life ends on Earth when the Sun gets too hot for life and turns third rock into a second Venus some time in the next billion years.
James Hansen warns that human activity is now driving our planet toward a premature heat death.
If we rally in numbers and reach for the Sun, we can save the Earth for life, secure our cosmic survival in space, and gain the liberty of the stars.
By building a sunshade in space, which can be added to as our star gets hotter, we will extend the tenure of life on Earth by billions of years.
Why wouldn’t we do that?
SECURING COSMIC SURVIVAL
If we accept the challenge of cosmic survival as a personal matter, which it is, we can make a commitment to help forge the two-edged sword of sustainability in space, using the power of the Sun.
We can join with others to share this challenge, as no person on their own can forge this sword.
It may take as many as ten million determined individuals, demanding action, driving investment, supporting research and development, to secure the space where the survival sword can be forged.
One person alone can have a good idea. Two people can share that idea. Three people can hold a debate. Ten empowered individuals who share a vision can change the world, by inspiring ten million keen people to participate.
Today, while our luck lasts, we can use an extension of the Internet called the virtual world, which anyone with a computer and internet connection can access, to connect globally, hold international meetings, set up displays, build working models of our planned celestial future, and prepare to live in a city in space.
Anyone engaging globally via the virtual world, can also engage in direct action on Earth, participating in the development of technologies that can now be used in space.
Clubs can be formed to work with robotics and use virtual reality headsets like the Oculus Rift, to drive and see through the cameras of robots.
This is how work can now be done in space by anyone, once the robot system is in space.
How small can a robot be?
The smaller the robot system can be made, the cheaper it will be to send the robots into space.
Tiny robots can be used to mine and build larger machines, which can then be used to build space industries and construct human scale orbital space habitats.
Like an astronomy research project that draws on thousands of computers, we can crowd drive a global movement of ten million citizens to forge a sword of survival in space, and deliver a sustainable human presence on Earth.
RETROSPECTIVE PLANNING APPROVAL
What should the development plan have been for the Earth, before the Industrial Age was unleashed on this planet?
Now that our industrial mayhem has reached full bloom, what would be the shape of any retrospective approvals to contunue our game on this planet?
Should we be fined for all the species we have sent into extinction, all the environments that we have destroyed, all the Earth-friendly cultures that we have ravaged?
We have ridden rough-shod over life on Earth, as if we have a licence to kill and no law to control us.
We can begin to pay recompense, by waking up to the price of our progress, and the further price of our clinging to the Earth when we should have been expanding beyond Earth in the 1980s.
We can now pay the price, by forging a two-edged sword of sustainability in space, and use this sword to win back a safe and healthy planet, where evolution can continue for the future of life on Earth.
Our failure to act can simply mean the death of life on Earth, as the planet, now getting hotter, is releasing its own greenhouse gases to drive up the heat and send us into hell on Earth.
OUR VOYAGE OF DISCOVERY
In 1968 explorers from Earth sailed to the Moon, only to look back and discover the Earth.
This discovery inspired a new wave of environmental activity, but people forget where the discovery of the Earth was made.
We must now return to space, if we wish to save the Earth.
If you truly believe that you can not,
then you should not try, out of
respect for your own certainty,
but if there is doubt, then there
is also hope.
SPACE PIONEERS ~ If you would like to participate in hands-on survival work with Space Pioneers, contact ~
FURTHER READING ~
Creating a Solar Civilization, by the author, 2006, revised in 2012
Peace: the final frontier, by the author, 2016
Nine Steps to a Stellar Future, by the author, 2016
Confronting the Future, by Charles Birch, 1975, Penguin Book, revised in 1993
The High Frontier, by Gerard K. O’Neill, 1977, William Morrow and Company
Six Degrees, by Mark Lynas, 2007, Harper Perennial
Seasick, by Alanna Mitchell, 2008, Pier 9
Fixing Climate, by Robert Kunzig & Wallace Broecker, 2008, P Green Profile
Storms of My Grandchildren, by James Hansen, 2009, Bloomsbury
The Vanishing Face of Gaia, by James Lovelock, 2009, Allen Lane
This article was first published in Star Challenger, the Space Pioneers newsletter.
ABOUT KIM PEART ~
Kim Peart was raised in Howrah from 1952, and watched the old farmlands transform into suburb. Finding adventure in Scouts and Army Cadets, Kim later pursued art and founded a Viking Society in Tasmania in 1975, seeking history and culture in the spirit of adventure. In 1976 Kim saw an ad for space settlement and signed up to be a space development advocate. Environmental matters came later and figuring out how we can live in harmony with Nature. Earth matters and space issues merged in 2006 when Kim wrote his document ~ Creating A Solar Civilization ~ exploring how we can only achieve a sustainable human presence on Earth, by building a sustainable industrial presence beyond Earth. Kim now lives in Ross with his wife, Jennifer, from where they host global meetings with space advocates in Second Life, a virtual world, where people can connect globally and plan local action toward creating a celestial future, and winning back a safe Earth.