My Turn: We’re going to ruin outer space, too

For the Monitor
Published: 5/28/2020 6:00:28 AM

I read with horror recently a Washington Post article in the Monitor about NASA’s new rules of behavior between countries in outer space. Called the Artemis Accords, the most revealing of the 10 principles is this: “Space resources: The accords will reinforce the view that resources on the moon, Mars and asteroids can be extracted and used.”

The accords state the “safe exploration of space” is their goal, yet the rules revolve around the “efficient extraction and utilization of space resources.” The U.S., Russia and China are jockeying for position to divvy up the pot of gold in minerals they believe wait on planets near and far.

Mankind’s shameless hustle to claim the resources of outer space mirrors the disdain with which we treat the Earth. The lure of natural resources not yet exploited by humans is a clarion call impossible for the scions of big business to resist.

This part of the accords reflects the same blind ambition that fueled the Gold Rush, now combined with the technical wizardry needed to extract resources wherever they may be, no matter how senseless and costly. Fracking is the most diabolical result of this mania. It is hard to imagine a process more harmful and wasteful. The thought of using this or similar extraction methods on other planets is terrifying.

The Artemis Accords reflect the arrogant hubris behind manifest destiny, a belief popularized in the 1800s to justify white settlers’ unrelenting march from east to west, the subjugation and wholesale slaughter of our indigenous peoples, and the land grab of the Mexican-American War.

I am in favor of exploring the moon, Mars and other planets. But only for scientific research, and to better understand our place in the universe. Not to wreak havoc on other celestial bodies as we have done on our mother planet. Not to claim ownership of their resources. Not because we’ve screwed things up so badly here. But with the humility of how much we have yet to learn.

NASA chose a good name for its expedition. In Greek mythology Artemis is the goddess of the moon, childbirth and midwifery. She is a protector of wild animals and of young girls. Our one and only moon governs the flow of water and tides, feminine principles both.

I hope NASA rewrites the Artemis Accords to reflect the nurturing qualities of its namesake. Whether or not life does exist on other planets, we ought to approach these new worlds with humility instead of avarice. And if we find that life exists only here on Earth, are we not obligated to care for it much better than we are now?

(Sol Solomon lives in Sutton.)


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