October 1, 2012

Spaceship Earth Monday

Spaceship Earth

The National Space Society (NSS) is a non-profit organization dedicated to the creation of a spacefaring civilization. Their mission is "to promote social, economic, technological, and political change in order to expand civilization beyond Earth, to settle space and to use the resulting resources to build a hopeful and prosperous future for humanity." Wow.

While I am all for exploration, I think we should concentrate on getting our stuff together here on spaceship Earth first before we go blasting around the universe looking for new places to exploit and destroy.

Perhaps the findings of the NSS can help us build a hopeful and prosperous future for humanity here at home.

The following suggestions are made on the NSS website in a section called Colonies In Space. If these guidelines were applied on Earth we wouldn't need to look around for somewhere to go when this planet is done.

Colonies In Space, T. A. Heppenheimer 

  • Most if not all of the colonists' wastes will have to be recycled. The space colony will therefore have to be a closed-cycle ecology par excellence. 
  • Steak will be a rarity. Meat poses a problem because of the waste involved in feeding animals a diet which puts them in competition with human beings. Cattle are rather wasteful at converting feed to beef. They need over twice as much feed as rabbits to produce a pound of edible meat. What is worse, cattle feed includes a lot of corn or grain which can be eaten directly by humans. Rabbits, chickens, and goats are the most efficient animals for a given amount of feed. Fish are nearly as productive as the rabbit.
  • Colonists can have plenty of grain and vegetables and they can also have fruit.
  • The problem of waste treatment requires a solution which not only gets rid of the wastes, but which turns them into useful products. The usual processes used in Earthside communities, such as biological degradation or incineration, are unsuitable for the colony. These processes either produce pollution, or are incomplete since they produce a very messy sludge which must be disposed of.
  • Wastes must be purified and converted into useful products without producing pollution. Minerals and fertilizers must be carefully recycled. 
  • There will be no autos in the colony. 
  • Colonists will spend several hours a week in the space farm, then go home to eat the meat or cook potatoes and vegetables which they have grown with their own hands.
  • There is one job which probably will prove too tedious to attract volunteers. This is the hand-pollination of vegetables. For this, the farm should include several hives of docile bees bred without stings or selected as particularly slow to get angry.
In his book Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth, R. Buckminster Fuller reminds us that "we are all astronauts." Indeed, we are the crew on this glorious global spaceship, and like any crew, our job is to work together harmoniously for the greater good.

Earth is our original 'space colony' and we would be wise to adopt policies, behaviours, and attitudes that support and protect the systems on which we all depend. If so, this old, dependable, spaceship should be good for a few billion more trips around the Sun.

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