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.

High Country News Classifieds
  • SOCIAL MEDIA AND DIGITAL ADVERTISING SPECIALIST
    The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA), Utah's largest conservation organization, has an immediate opening for a full-time Social Media and Digital Advertising Specialist. This position...
  • SPRING-FED PARCELS ON THE UPPER SAC RIVER
    Adjacent parcels above the Upper Sacramento river, near Dunsmuir. The smaller is just under 3 acres, with the larger at just under 15 acres. Multiple...
  • DEVELOPMENT COORDINATOR
    Greater Yellowstone Coalition seeks a development professional to coordinate the organization's individual giving program. The position description is available at http://greateryellowstone.org/careers Please email a letter...
  • IDAHO STATE DIRECTOR
    The Wilderness Society is seeking a full time Idaho State Director who will preferably be based in Boise, Idaho. At least 8-10 years of experience...
  • COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER AND BEARS EARS EDUCATION CENTER MANAGER
    Conservation nonprofit Friends of Cedar Mesa in Bluff, Utah is hiring for two positions. We seek a Communications Manager to execute inspiring and impactful communications...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Wilderness Volunteers Wilderness Volunteers (WV), a 24-year leader in preserving our nation's wildlands, is seeking a motivated person with deep outdoor interests to guide our...
  • HECHO POLICY AND ADVOCACY MANAGER
    Hispanics Enjoying Camping, Hunting, and the Outdoors (HECHO) was created in 2013 to help fulfill our duty to conserve and protect our public lands for...
  • FISHERIES BIOLOGIST
    Under the direct supervision of the Director of Shoshone-Paiute Tribe's Fish, Wildlife & Parks, in coordination with the Tribal Programs Administrator and the Tribal Chairman,...
  • REGIONAL EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR NORTHERN ROCKIES, PRAIRIES & PACIFIC REGION
    Founded in 1936, the National Wildlife Federation has grown into America's largest and most trusted grassroots conservation organization with 53 state/territorial affiliates and more than...
  • STEWARDSHIP MANAGER
    STEWARDSHIP MANAGER Job Vacancy and Description Posted June 2, 2021: Open until filled The New Mexico Land Conservancy (NMLC) is a non-profit, regional land trust...
  • KSJD - MORNING EDITION HOST/REPORTER
    KSJD is seeking a host/reporter. Please see for www.ksjd.org for more information. EEO compliant.
  • ON THE EDGE OF CEDAR MESA/BEARS EARS
    Quiet, comfy house for rent in Bluff, Utah. Walk to San Juan River. Bike or hike to many nearby ruins and rock art sites. Beautiful...
  • CARPENTER AND LABORER WANTED.
    Come to Ketchikan and check out the Rain forest on the coast, Hike the shorelines, hug the big trees, watch deer in the muskeg meadows,...
  • PROJECT MANAGER
    Title: Project Manager Reports To: Program Director Salary Range: Negotiable; starting at $60,000 Location: Bend, OR The Deschutes River Conservancy seeks a Project Manager to...
  • PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    The Deschutes River Conservancy seeks a Program Director to join our dynamic team in restoring streamflow and improving water quality in the Deschutes Basin. WHO...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR - TWISPWORKS
    Established healthy nonprofit in the Methow Valley of Washington state, TwispWorks is hiring the next Executive Director. Terrific opportunity to strive for our mission to...
  • BOARD DIRECTOR
    Help us achieve our mission of promoting excellence in the professional practice of wilderness stewardship, science and education to ensure the life-sustaining benefits of wilderness....
  • TEMPORARY FULL-TIME RANCH OPERATIONS ASSISTANT
    Twin Willows Ranch in Ocate, NM is seeking to immediately fill a Temporary Full-Time employment position as Ranch Operations Assistant for Facilities, Equipment, Land, and...
  • RANCH OPERATIONS ASSISTANT
    Twin Willows Ranch in Ocate, NM is seeking an individual to fill the Regular Full-Time position of Resident Operations Assistant for Technology, Hospitality, Gardening, and...
  • POEM+ NEWSLETTER
    Start each month with a poem in your inbox by signing up for Taylor S. Winchell's monthly Poem+ Newsletter. No frills. No news. No politics....