Scientists Propose Inter-Planetary Conservation Legislation

I came across a few sites a few months ago running articles about a science journal that was released recently arguing that humanity should pass international laws they dubbed Acta Astronautica to keep around 85% of our solar system as protected conservation areas in what seems a simultaneous display of both optimism and pessimism about our species going into the future.

This journal was written by Martin Elvis from the Centre of Astrophysics at Harvard and Tony Milligan with the religious studies department at Kings College in London, which is maybe telling of why this was written in the first place but lets not get ahead of ourselves just yet. I would have loved to have read their full journal but with it priced at $35 I felt it was a bit expensive for me as a layman to buy just to feed my own curiosity.

From their abstract though you can read their main points of contention. They argue that if the same growth seen in industry on earth after the industrial revolution is applied to the entire solar system, humanity may exhaust all the mineral resources of the solar system within five hundred years. They argue that imposing restrictions early on might prevent this, and I presume make us less wasteful and more resourceful in general.

Personally though I think the risk of exhausting an entire solar system's resources in the medium term is far less concerning than the prospect of hampering attempts at inter-planetary industry, today. We've practically stripped this planet bare, and all life is in danger of extinction, all of our efforts right now should be aimed at sorting the mess on this planet before we start having a moral dilemma over the rights of lifeless rock and ice, surely?

I would argue that if we implemented a law like this now, it may have massive negative ramifications for future growth of space tech that could save us and our planet, but its not the first time something like this has come about. I've long held the view that the United Nation's space treaties (the Moon Treaty and the Outer Space Treaty), has held humanity back and lessened the appeal of heading out to space in the first place by making it illegal for states and private organisations from owning celestial real-estate. Admittedly the UN when it proposed this legislation was doing so to try and prevent militarisation during a long cold-war period, but its out of date now. Its hindering our ability to get on with what we should be doing.

This sounds extreme but there's not much else in the way of hope for us and this planet if we don't try and make ourselves a space faring species. Even if we managed to drastically reduce the levels of consumption on Earth we're still only buying time in the long run. Technology has always been seen as a temporary fix, and as good as something like nuclear fusion would be if implemented tomorrow, it still wouldn't fix the rarity of heavy metals that is needed for industry and "clean" energy that needs batteries.

It might sound daft but I honestly think whether we still have a civilisation in a hundred years or so rests entirely on whether or not something akin to space elevators are feasible in the end. Without cheap access to space we're doomed, Without that access we're trapped here with our finite resources and no amount of population control or rationing is going to keep us going indefinitely. This entire conversation is probably pointless anyway, because at the moment nobody even listens to conservation legislation on earth, so who's going to listen elsewhere in the solar system!

But like I said, technology only ever kicks the can down the road so to speak. My concern is that without incentivising space travel now, we might not even be around in half a millennia. It seems daft to want to put restrictions on this industry now with what is at stake at the moment. If what Mr Elvis predicts comes to pass then our descendants will have to look to new stars as we look to new planets.

All life in the end follows the same parabolic trajectory of brewers yeast. We need a new demijohn.

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