Criticisms of Space -- Solve Problems on Earth First?
Countless times, grandstanding people and the mainstream media have gotten attention by trolling space development, simplistically saying we should first fix problems on Earth. This article discusses various points to make to argue otherwise. Which particular points to make depend upon the source and nature of the particular criticism of space development.
Of course, those people and organizations are putting their names into the digital historical record as Luddites. You may want to point that out. It may cause many of them to think twice before repeating their remarks, but there will still be others who do not care if it brings in clicks and shares and advertiser money.
Space development has already benefitted Earth, mainly by things like communications satellites and environmental monitoring.
However, the greatest benefits are in the future, due to the development of lunar and asteroidal resources, which will result in products and services to benefit Earth.
We will eventually move a lot industry off of Earth and into space, which will help Earth's environment. This may also include solar power satellites to provide clean energy -- no carbon dioxide, no mining of fuels, and no exhaust pollutants in addition to carbon dioxide.
Most importantly, space colonization ensures that our species will survive the risks of advancing technologies, especially synthetic biology, biotechnology, and nanotechnology, as discussed elsewhere on this website.
It is very selfish and greedy of people to say that funding of space development should be reduced in order to increase funding of their own special interests. That's a recipe for human extinction, and grossly irresponsible.
Sometimes, I suspect there is the status instinct at play. Many critics try to raise their own personal status by criticizing higher ranking people and projects, as if that places them above the others. Many people like to see high status achievers start to fail. This human behavior has been exhibited abundantly since early recorded history, for example, often called "The Tall Poppy Syndrome", whereby the highest status people attract envious critics who try to cut them down.
Some of the worst offenders are actually people of high status themselves, including overachievers motivated by status.
When they are Hollywood actors, it can be very distasteful, especially if they have played roles in movies with a lot of violence or opulence, and if they are wasteful conspicuous consumers. That should be pointed out. If social responsibility is important for them, then they should do what they CAN do, and not tell other people to behave differently, like a double standard. If they go the "Oh, but that's different!" route, don't let them get away with that rationalization. Talk is easy, but walking the walk is another matter.
It is a populist message to the masses to say we should first help the poor and solve problems on Earth before going to space. It might make them more popular by saying those things, but if they truly want to be responsible to humanity, then they should actually be less clueless about the benefits of space development, especially mining the Moon and asteroids near Earth. Point that out. Send them a link to this article.
Sure, we should spend a lot on giving disadvantaged people opportunities, and preserving the environment on Earth. However, a lot of problems in society cannot be fixed by throwing money at them. More problems in society could be fixed by being better role models, such as criticizing violence in movies and the mass media, creating better movies and TV shows, and being better role models in BOTH one's professional and personal lives. Leading a good life is priceless.
Actors are some of the worst because it is their emotional appeal which sells them, and emotion is the opposite of reason. Emotion is instinct. It feeds rationalization. Countless wars have been fought by opposing convictions. Many people thrive off of emotions. If there isn't drama or conflict in their lives, then they get depressed. It is because they are addicted to emotions, not a more intellectual and selfdisciplined life.
Emotions sell to the masses and make the most money. They also give actors and internet writers a lot of popularity. Many people believe that if they are successful then they are right.
It is easy to donate to the poor because those are systems which are easiest to understand, and the organizations associated with all that tend to be very social and engaging organizations. (I know from actually working with many of them.) Space development is very technical and requires a lot higher intellectual status. There are no emotional "poster child" appeals to space development, which is a reasoned, not an emotional, matter.
If governments and philanthropists were to decide to not fund space development but instead to fund the poor, then all that funding would be wasted when the time comes for a human extinction event on Earth. Of course, by the time they realize the wastefulness of their donations, it will be too late, and there's no use telling them "told you so" by the time of a sudden extinction event.
We need to address all these problems in one way or another, but in a balanced way for all of them, including healthy support for space development, too.
If we spent just a tiny fraction of the amount of money we spend on militaries, competing for the limited resources of Earth, in developing the unlimited resources of space instead, then we would transcend a lot of our problems on Earth, and make the world a far better place.
We also should make the world a better place for our children and grandchildren, which space resources development clearly does. Plus, it can give our descendants opportunities and positive alternative goals. This is a powerful message which can appeal to a lot of people in the world.
A lot of space advocates promote space tourism as cool and exciting for the elite, trying to sell it like other products and services in the marketplace. This has its risks. If space colonization is promoted as an escapist adventure, without pointing out how it can help lead to development of space resources, then advocates are opening it up to criticism. One of the best things about space tourism is that it shows ordinary people can go live and work in space, and they you don't need to be an elite astronaut promoted thru a government system.
It is very frustrating to see so many high profile people advocating space without emphasizing the benefits which can appeal to a much wider base of people.
Sometimes advocates point out only "spinoff" technologies from space. While there are benefits from spinoffs, these are not very convincing. There are also technological spinoffs from trying to develop better toilets and water purification methods in poor rural areas.
If space advocates want to be more effective in advocating space to the general public, then they need to see past their own noses. Not everybody thinks like them. Not everybody is going to share their viewpoint. The world has a wide diversity of people with different values and interests. We need to appeal to common values and interests. We need to be able to put our feet into the shoes of others, and walk a mile in their moccasins.
We should do our part to respond to simplistic criticisms of the development of space resources, whenever and wherever they may pop up, in a considerate and articulated way.
Space development can solve many of the biggest problems on Earth and facing humankind in modern times.
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