Regan Morris, of BBC America, recently asked the question, “What if you could mine the moon? The article, which appear on the BBC News Website, reminded me once again of the problem we seem to have with taken care of what we already have, and somehow believing that we can just move on to the next big thing.
The attitude of many is expressed in his opening comment, “…there’s a race to exploit new frontiers by mining their minerals.”
Having recently returned from Sierra Leone, West Africa, and having seen the impoverished communities that surround the extensive titanium, bauxite, gold and diamond mines that are among the highest quality and most productive in the world, I was reminded that so much of how we handle our natural resources is precisely as Morris states, “a race to exploit”. Too often it has been done without concern for the human and environmental impact. As one presidential candidate put it during the lead up to the last federal election in the United States, “That’s the price of progress.” In Morris’ articel, NASA scientist Margarita Marinova, suggests, “…we won’t make the same mistakes in space that we’vd made on Earth and the man can’t afford to explore space without tapping the local resources to survive”.
This raises another important question, is space exploration a responsible expenditure and use of our dwindling resources? Some suggest that the colonization of the Moon and Mars is not too far off in the future. Would anyone really want to live there? I’ve seen the Sahara, Death Valley and driven across the Mohave Desert and personally I would not like to live in any of the three, let alone deserts with no atmosphere and wide-ranging temperature changes. It was be easier to colonized the Sahara Desert than it would the moon. Come on!
Nevertheless, Bob Richards, CEO of Silicon Valley-based Moon Express, one of 25 companies seeking to lead the way in tapping the mineral resources of the moon, says, “We’re becoming a multi-world species. That will happen.” My concern is that if we haven’t done an adequate job of stewarding the resources and the well-being of all living things here on our current planet, how can we expect that a number of resource-seeking corporations will lead us in caring for the next?
In the early days, when new frontiers were opened by Europe in what today is known as the Americas, business interests like the Northwest and the Hudson’s Bay company traveled west for one reason, and one reason alone – to exploit the resources of this new land and return them to Old World. In South America, conquistadores did the same, enslaving, exploiting and exterminating the native people so as to carry off the abundant gold they discovered and enrich both themselves and the monarchies that supported their ventures.
Now, I grew up in the 1960s and remember well the excitement of the Apollo missions. Even in Canada, where I lived, we had school assemblies to watch significant stages of the missions and all aspired to become astronauts someday. However, decades of unbridled spending that gained us little more than bragging rights brought down much of what was the NASA space program.
So does more exploration excite me today? I suppose not. One adjustment I appreciate is that it is no longer being funded to the same degree on the taxpayer’s tab and has been left to the for-profit sector to pursue. Yet the question remains, are we simply moving on from one contaminated planet to a new one as we did from the Old World to the New World? And, what are we prepared to do to ensure that those who benefit little to nothing from such ventures, or are even exploited in the process, are somehow cared for given the opportunity to share in the bounty of what God has created?