Unending Growth, Space Travel, and Off World Resource Extraction

Sustainability as Walter Simpson puts it is perhaps the greatest challenge we will ever face and I agree. How will the world be able to create true sustainability in the face of unending exponential growth? Well, any educated person should know that the idea of exponential growth on a planet of finite resources is ridiculous. At some point it must come to a stop. But there are others who push for growth – especially technologically – with a hope that one day we will be able to obtain resources from elsewhere in the solar system or even beyond.

But does this really make sense? While I am an avid supporter of technological advancement especially when it comes to space, I cannot put my eggs all in one basket. The future of our entire planet is at stake. I believe that if we continue on this pace of development the only option for continued survival on our world may be to export resources from within the solar system. But this idea is truly enormous in scale and just as the agricultural industry has embraced the “go big or go home” mentality, so our space ventures would probably require an exponentially larger effort to be sustainable. But my point here is neither to support or refute the idea of importing resources within our solar system but just to bring it to light and hopefully incite meaningful conversation around the future of our world and the possible implications of advanced technology that hasn’t been created yet.

I first want to discuss the matter of creating the infrastructure that would allow for such a massive undertaking in space. Before we can get to a point where we can actually go out to another planet and mine resources or extract gases for fuel and then return them to the planet safely, we would have to build all these things using the current resources on our own planet. It could take decades of research and development. Assuming we would use all the materials and resources we have available to us now and taking into account new legislation towards limiting carbon based fuels how would we ever achieve this, the ability to even develop and advance space technology at a sufficient pace to be of any value to our world.

I truly believe it is important for us to develop space technology because it has changed our lives for the better. I do believe it is possible that one day we can import resources from planets in our solar system but it may not make since to do so if we can develop sustainable technologies on Earth that provide all the energy resources we need. The one thing I do fear is that we may run out of certain necessary rare materials that are required for manufacturing high technology such as computers. I believe if we do want to preserve the earth then we should limit the mining of those resources on our planet and only if it is possible that we can take them from other non-life bearing planets in the solar system. I do realize I opened up Pandora’s box here and that I can elaborate for many more pages on this topic, but for now I hope this is sufficient to stimulate thought on the subject and the implications herein of where humanity may go in the future.

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3 comments

  1. andrewwingfield · October 6, 2015

    This is curious. You have made me see that my notion of sustainability is all about figuring out how to survive long-term using only the resources our own planet provides. Can a society/species be considered sustainable if its survival depends on extracting resources from elsewhere? Also, if humans do figure out how to get resources from other planets, what about the pollution caused by consuming those resources? Earth would still have to absorb all of those.

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  2. dstraqua · October 6, 2015

    I find it this to be very stimulating. When I read this, I thought of “Star Wars” and the space technology used in it. The materials used for the creation of the Imperial Star Destroyers did not come from one planet alone, rather multiple planets from across the galaxy. I guarantee you that the Empire was the furthest thing from sustainable. I honestly do not think that our society is ready for the massive task of advancing our technology to the point of actual space travel. Not just to the moon, but to other planets and to the point of actually landing on those planets. Before we begin to advance our space technology and create a new mess, we must first take care of our problems here on the planet. I certainly hope that when we begin to advance our technology, we will be efficient and sustainable. I highly doubt that will happen, but I am anxious to see what happens.

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  3. bpoinde3 · October 6, 2015

    The USDA says that about half of the Earth is farmland. With overpopulation being such an exponential problem, we will certainly need to use ever-increasing amounts of land. We could both export people or farming to other planets. I could see this turning Earth into even more of an industrial mess, though. Another option would be to send small colonies into space. In the near future we definitely will need many people with many different fields of knowledge to come together and create a solution to these issues.

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