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Friday, June 16, 2006

Essay from the future on space colonization

The ironic thing about our space colonization effort is that the massive outpouring of greenhouse gasses caused by the constant shuttle launches required to lift thousands of colonists and supplies was the very thing that put Earth's ecology out of balance. Of course the exhaust wasn't the issue, as some people feared. It was the (inflation adjusted) quadrillions of dollars and enormous effort spent on the oil-age manufacture of shuttle after shuttle, rocket after rocket.

Would our ecosystem have collapsed as precipitously?

In 2039, the total carbon output from colony launches exceeded the output of all the car exhaust in the twentieth century. By 2045, the popular colonization effort had damaged the atmosphere more than all prior combusion technologies put together.

Not that we had much of a choice, or did we?

Humanity, despite the doomsday prophets best predictions, was not on the verge of a social and environmental collapse. These predictions, often blamed falsely on Christian fundamentalists, were espoused by vocal scientists and pundits, such as Steven Hawking and Freeman Dyson.

At the outset of the colonization effort, free access to birth control and the global women's rights movement had slashed population growth to near zero, and today it is even declining. Even more, the rising prices of oil was fueling the - now fully profitable - renewable energy industry (indeed now it's the only energy industry). Perhaps it was possible for mankind to regulate itself. Vaccination fears proved unfounded, and even the "megaflus" of Southeast Asia that everyone was afraid of were clearly not as destructive as we thought they might be.

We'll never know.

If we had waited a bit longer, for nanofactories to improve, it clearly wouldn't have been necessary to hoist as many supplies. Or if we were a bit less vain, we would have allowed remote manufacturing and robots to do more of the groundwork. The frequent and widely popularized shuttling of politicians and actors to and from Mars was a blatant reminder of our carelessness.

But waiting has never been mankinds style. We, as a species, seem to prefer to rush ahead and deal with the consequences later.

And we are now in the throes of an environmental collapse while the colonization effors still, despite claims of "independance" by a half-dozen colonies on Mars, is dependent on Earth for expensive mineral shipments.

Perhaps it's not too late to cut our losses?

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