A plan for Spaceship Earth

  • Paul Larmer

 

I’ve always gotten a chuckle out of the bumper sticker that says, "Earth First! We’ll mine the other planets later." But now that President George W. Bush has decided that America should expand its reach to the moon and Mars, my laugh is becoming a groan.

Oh, I know that Bush’s plans for a permanent human settlement on the moon and a manned space voyage to Mars are full of political hot air. With a record national debt and the ripening crises in health care and Social Security — not to mention an increasingly expensive military occupation in Iraq — you don’t just find hundreds of billions of dollars under any old rock these days. Heading into an election year, Bush, like presidents before him, is looking for a visionary idea that will lift the spirits of Americans uneasy with the war abroad and a tepid economic recovery at home. And what better place to look than the heavens?

But scratch the political veneer of the new space initiative, and you find the same kind of overweening hubris that has plagued western civilization from the beginning. Behind every visionary voyage of discovery — from Columbus to Lewis and Clark — lies an unseemly grasp for power and resources, supported by an insidious assumption: Human societies cannot live within their means. They must constantly find new supplies of resources, or die.

So, as NASA’s robots roll across the red soil of Mars, analyzing mineral composition as they go, I can’t help but envision the day when governments and mining corporations stake claims to the moon and the planets, much as they have to the American West. I am not alone. In a recent article in Time magazine, David Criswell, director of the Institute for Space Systems Operations at the University of Houston, that the moon could become a powerful solar station that could beam clean energy via microwaves back to earth. "If you want to provide sustainable energy for 10 billion people by 2050, there is no other way."

There has to be another way, for looking beyond Earth for salvation to our planet’s woes is, by definition, not sustainable. And it’s high time that Earthlings curb their appetites in the name of self-preservation. That’s something that’s happening in Port Orford, Ore., the fishing community profiled in this issue’s cover story. The town has suffered from the unregulated biological mining of the oceans, but now local fishermen and scientists are devising a plan to nurture their local fisheries back to health. The goal is something they’ve never achieved before — a sustainable fishing economy that will support the community far into the future.

It’s not the sexy stuff of election-year politics, but if the West, and the world, are to flourish in an age of overpopulation, careful, community-level management of natural resources must become the norm, rather than the exception. These tenuous efforts must be supported with intellectual and financial capital. They must be extolled by presidents and lawmakers eager to inspire us with their visions of human societies living richly within our planet’s natural bounty.

Earth First. We’ll travel the galaxy later, when desperation and exploitation are no longer the driving forces.

Note: the opinions expressed in this column are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of High Country News, its board or staff. If you'd like to share an opinion piece of your own, please write Betsy Marston at [email protected].

High Country News Classifieds
  • STEWARDSHIP COORDINATOR
    New Mexico Land Conservancy (Santa Fe, NM), Stewardship Coordinator - Seeking highly motivated individual with excellent interpersonal skills to coordinate stewardship activities and support conservation...
  • 40-ACRE LAMBORN MOUNTAIN RETREAT, PAONIA, CO
    One-of-a-kind gem borders public lands/West Elk Wilderness. Privacy, creek, spring, irrigation, access. $270,000. Info at https://hcne.ws/LambornMT or call 970-683-0588 or 970-261-5928.
  • RECRUITMENT & HIRING MANAGER WITH WRA
    Western Resource Advocates (WRA) is seeking a dynamic, organized, and creative person with great people skills to be our Recruitment & Hiring Manager to recruit...
  • CLEAN ENERGY ATTORNEY (NM) AND POLICY ASSOCIATE/ANALYST (AZ & NV)
    Western Resource Advocates (WRA) is looking for a variety of positions around the West with our Clean Energy Program. Currently we are hiring a Staff...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, HAWKWATCH INTERNATIONAL
    We are seeking an experienced dynamic leader for a growing conservation organization; $65,000-75,000 salary plus benefits; job description and apply at hawkwatch.org/executivedirector
  • FRIENDS OF THE INYO IS HIRING FOR THE SUMMER OF 2019
    Friends of the Inyo is excited to post our seasonal job offerings for the summer of 2019! We are hiring Trail Ambassadors, Stewardship Crew Members,...
  • DONOR RELATIONS MANAGER
    This position is responsible for the identification and qualification of major and planned gift prospects and assists in cultivating and soliciting donors through meetings, trips,...
  • STREAMFLOW RESTORATION IMPLEMENTATION LEAD (ENVIRONMENTAL PLANNER 4)
    Keeping Washington Clean and Evergreen Protecting Washington State's environment for current and future generations is what we do every day at Ecology. We are a...
  • SENIOR STORMWATER ENGINEER (ENVIRONMENTAL ENGINEER 5)
    Keeping Washington Clean and Evergreen Our Water Quality Program is looking to hire a Senior Stormwater Engineer at our Headquarters building in Lacey, WA This...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Do you enjoy rural living, wild places, family farms, challenging politics, and big conservation opportunities? Do you have leadership abilities, experience with rural land protection,...
  • MAJOR GIFT OFFICER
    University of Wyoming Foundation Haub School of ENR, Biodiversity Institute, Environmental/Natural Resource Programs https://uwyo.taleo.net/careersection/00_ex/jobdetail.ftl?job=19001001&tz=GMT-06:00
  • MONTANA LAND STEWARD
    The Montana Land Steward develops, manages, and advances conservation programs, plans, and methods related to TNC's property interest portfolio in Montana. For more information and...
  • RAISER'S EDGE DATABASE ADMINISTRATOR
    POSITION DESCRIPTION: RAISER'S EDGE DATABASE ADMINISTRATOR The Raiser's Edge Database Administrator ensures the integrity and effectiveness of the member/donor database by developing systems and processes...
  • DIRECTOR OF DEVELOPMENT
    We are hiring a Director of Development Full time, competitive pay and benefits. Location: Bozeman,MT Visit www.greateryellowstone.org/careers for details GYC is an equal opportunity employer
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, KANIKSU LAND TRUST
    Kaniksu Land Trust, a community-supported non-profit land trust serving north Idaho and northwest Montana, is in search of a new executive director. The ideal candidate...
  • MARKETING AND COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR
    The Arizona Wildlife Federation seeks an energetic Marketing and Communications Director. Please see the full job description at https://azwildlife.org/jobs
  • 3 POSITIONS: ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR, DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR, AND FOREST PROGRAMS ASSOCIATE
    Mountain Studies Inst (MSI) in Durango and Silverton, CO is hiring 3 staff: Please visit mountainstudies.org/careers for Assoc Director, Dev and Engagement Director, and Forest...
  • CENTER FOR COLLABORATIVE CONSERVATION DIRECTOR, COLORADO STATE UNIVERSITY
    The Center for Collaborative Conservation is hiring a full-time, permanent Director. Applications are due on March 31. Description can be found at http://jobs.colostate.edu/postings/65118 No phone...
  • PROGRAM AND OUTREACH COORDINATOR
    Program and Outreach Coordinator - Dolores River Boating Advocates, a conservation and recreation minded non-profit based in Dolores, CO, is hiring a 20 hour/week Program...
  • CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER/DEPUTY DIRECTOR
    Friends of Cedar Mesa seeks a skilled non-profit leader to play a crucial role in protecting the greater Bears Ears landscape. Experience working with government...