The reasons why we choose to publish, in 2003, a 1994's article.
by Adriano Autino
The Marsha Freeman's report from the 45th Congress of the International Astronautic Federation, held in Jerusalem, 1994, seems to me very useful and opportune, to be proposed to the today's reflection, because of the many referred topics – also relevant, if not even of greater relevance – today. Obviously the fact to publish the Freeman's article doesn't mean that I 100% agree on what she wrote in it. She still enumerates the space expense together with the military one (after all the Berlin's wall was fallen since less than three years, and the space community is hardly able even today to overcome the cold war culture). I think this is rather dated. But this is the only note that I feel myself to do to an otherwise rigorous and, for many judgments expressed in it, largely shareable article.
As a first consideration, it seems that, in that congress, a discussion was developed (to which I would sincerely like to have participated), among the supporters of a astronautic humanist philosophy and the advocates of the so-called sustainable development. It seems rather, reading the Freeman's reportage, that such debate crossed the whole congress, and that Ehricke was often referenced as the most convinced champion of a humanist philosophy, oriented to an open world model, aiming high, opposite to the Peccei's ground-centric concept of the so-called limits to growth.
The first question coming to my mind, now, is: where that discussion ended up? Why didn't it exit the space community to end in television, on the newspapers, in the talk shows, in the daily political people's discussion? And where are the fruits, and perhaps the higher order syntheses, that could have been born from that dialectics? It is useless to look for all of this in the today's reality: likely that discussion was covered with sand, as many other discussions endowed with an enormous potential, perhaps considered subversive by the ones who decide on our heads what we owe and what we don't have to listen and discuss.
The site of Jerusalem was perhaps particularly suitable for the philosophical discussions: as per their admission the Jewish people are traditionally worried for the world. The fact is that, in none of the astronautic congresses that I have been able to assist, after 1997, I could see a philosophical discussion so live and lacking of rhetorical accents as the one that Freeman tells us.
Our Marco Bernasconi (quoted in the article), in his presentation to the 1994 Congress, remembered the definition of Astronautic Humanism, excellently suitable to define the philosophical approach on the side of humans, therefore opposite to the ecologist new-luddism. Seven years after, the definition of Luddists still adapts very well, and perhaps even more, to the supporters of the sustainable development.
The social matter is seen in its true terms, both by Bernasconi and by Yzak Rabin, the Israeli leader, Nobel Prize for peace in 1994, murdered November 4th 1995. According to Rabin "the greatest challenge to the peace in the middle-oriental region is that Israel is an island of prosperity in a sea of poverty" (also see, on TdF, Middle East: crimes, wounds and therapy"). According to Bernasconi any ideology oriented to poverty can only lead to poverty, to coercion, to lack of liberty, to authoritarian involutions.
I dare say that the above is a very valid Occam razor, in order to discriminate who, during the last century, in the middle of the industrial age's social dramas, was on the side of liberty, of development and of the human social promotion (don't care his/her political affiliation) from who operated instead to affirm coercive, racist, anti-human regimes. Many future society models were based (and unfortunately they are even today) on a claimed rigorous sharing of sacrifices and poverty, both in the socialist field and in the liberal field. Few models instead - and the Ehricke's model is surely one - include concrete plans for a society of the abundance. You won't surely find such kind of model in the field of the Stalinist or Social Democratic left wings, neither in the field of the Fascist, Nazi, Pinochetist, right wings, but neither in the field of the Thatcher-like right wings. Looking back from here and now, Krafft Ehricke was the only philosopher able to concretely speak of a society of the abundance, during the last century, without any populism or demagogy. In fact he pointed out the concrete road, the only one, that will allow mankind to access practically endless resources: the road of space.
Ehricke had another genial intuition, perhaps the one of greatest value, in all his work: all of its writings have a scientific and philosophical set-up, while it is very difficult to find political accents in them. It means that, in his heart, though speaking of industrialization of the Geo-lunar system, Ehricke already left the industrial age at his shoulders, with its class-conflict obsessions. And he already had clear in his mind that the problems, in the forthcoming millennium, mainly will be of scientific, technological and philosophical nature: to win the gravitational well, to get used to live entirely in artificial structures, in the middle of nothing and in zero-gravity will not be a joke, and it will require the whole (scientific and philosophical) engagement of the so far only known intelligent kind, in this part of the Universe.
What importance could have, in a situation of resource's and energy's abundance, the government form? Provided that is not a coercive government, and that the citizens were finally sovereign. What really counts it is neither that everybody were rich (after all people cannot be forced neither to become wealthy): the main point is that there was availability of wealth for everybody, and that there were a lot of people available to learn and to teach. Also the ones who want too much wealth for them, won't have reasons to steal it to others anymore, and they won't have anymore (if they ever had) excuses to oppress and to tyrannize others. The priority of the priorities, the real goal, it is therefore the one of the abundance. Thing that, we add, it is not possible if not in a context of a continuously increasing economy.
Ehricke was therefore right, defining his philosophy the "Extraterrestrial Imperative". Yes, it sounds somewhat strong, particularly if we think that Krafft Ehricke was part of the Werner Von Braun's group, that worked at the Hitler missile program, in the Peenemunde island, and that after the end of World War II moved to the United States, where they would give birth to the US space program. But it is enough to read the Ehricke's writings, to realize that his thought is as much as possible far away from the Nazi coercive and racist ideology. The job of Ehricke doesn't contain racism nor chauvinism. He devoted his life to science, and his last decades to a sincere effort to help the whole humanity: a humanist aim, therefore, an astronautic humanist aim.
In fact the space choice, analysed in its true terms, is an imperative rather than an option, for the continuation of the human civilization (on the theme of the Space Option, also see "Is Technology the Limiting Factor for Implementing the Space Option?" Marco C. Bernasconi, "How the 21st-Century Society Can Sustain the Implementation of the Space Option" Marco C. Bernasconi, "The Space Option - a précis" Marco C. Bernasconi and Arthur R. Woods).
But the 1994 congress touched another theme, of great interest for the new-humanists: the one of the human patrimony. "People are resources", is the title chosen by Marsha Freeman, to comment the meaningful words of Prof. Yuval Ne'eman, Israeli Space Agency president, according to which "people are the main resource of Israeli". This is a concept strictly tied up to the topic of the growth and continuation of the human civilization: in an open system, with an increasing economy, under conditions of abundance of resources, the numerical growth of our kind not only it will anymore be a problem, but it becomes a required condition, to properly face the expected challenges and tasks.
Six billion and a half of people (the current Terrestrial Civilization) they are not but the initial nucleus, of the Solar Civilization to come!
Freeman seems also to give the priority to the human patrimony's theme, considering that the title of her piece wishes the definitive burial of the Malthus's theories. This choice encourages me, personally, considering that I often was in minority (also among astronautic humanists), defending the right of humans to procreate, and the need of the numerical growth for our kind and, above all, for our civilization.
The conception of development, industrialization and of the relationship between man and nature it is very clear, and ahead in times, in the vision of Krafft Ehricke: "a completely opposite politics" to the one of the so-called sustainability "– using science and technology to uplift mankind – would lead to international cooperation, overcoming the limitations of resources, a global industrial revolution, and the preservation of the biosphere".
To re-start from Ehricke, at almost twenty years from his death, occurred in 1984, it is today opportune and urgent. Before prematurely leaving our world, Ehricke was discussing the publication in volume of his writings, but so far such an event didn't occur.
We think that we should not wait more, to make know to the world the work of the only philosopher that was able to point out, in the middle of last century, the road to space, and to associate it to the solution of the humanity's development problems.
Technologies of the Frontier, in collaboration with Space Future, is therefore working to begin the publication on the web (by permission of the Ehricke's family), of some writings – the collection of papers entitled The Extraterrestrial Imperative – of Krafft Ehricke, our great and lamented Maestro.
[007.AA.TDF.2003 - 02.05.2003]