Abstract submitted for the Plenary Session IV "Development of Space Travel " of the
"ISST 99 International Symposium on Space Travel "
The Only Ethical Future
Marco C. Bernasconi, MCB Consultants, 8953 Dietikon, Switzerland
Within a generation's time span, this planet will have to provide for the basic needs of ten billion human beings. More than one part in ten of the global biospheric production will be needed just for basic human food: never before a single animal species has sequestered such a large fraction for its own consumption. The impact on nature will be enormous, if not necessarily overwhelming, and no amount of human nature reform can make this physical fact undone. Practical difficulties may amply increase the difficulties and may lead to conflicts with potentially fatal outcome for at least humanity.
But humans do require more than just food: for other applications, the equivalent of more than 7% of the total production of the land ecosystems has to be sequestered. No noosophic developments can lead to persons that live naked, without shelter and eat their food uncooked. It is highly probable that humans will continue to survive in a human fashion, i.e. along the cultural lines that their ancestors have adopted for the last 250,000 years, give or take 100,000 years.
However, homo sapiens is the "technological animal," meaning in the simplest terms that this species' individuals cannot survive without the support of technical implements. This necessity begins with the effort for providing food, where the agricultural technology requires significant energy subsidies to obtain ever more produces from a roughly constant surface under cultivation. Industrial power, however, is as significant in human culture as metabolic power is for the individuals -- and just as there, it must continuously be supplied afresh. Three existing ground-based power generation technologies may be able to satisfy the 21st century needs over a sufficiently long period: coal, nuclear fission, and (terrestrial) solar systems. But their use would have dramatic climatic consequences, e.g. by releasing into the biosphere heat for 28% of the amount controlled by all the Earth's vegetation.
For this reason the concept of the Astronautical Humanism is being developed: because it is only by accessing the resources of space that the anthrogenic burden on the biosphere can be lightened, then, reduced; because it is only by developing space that enough resources can be made available to humanity, and a reasonable hope created that permanent conflicts over scarcity will be avoided. Even immaterial resources (aesthetics, hope in the future) can come to humanity only through the recognition of the astronautical imperative. The future human needs have been subjected to quantitative assessments; these have been used to show the feasibility of the recourse to extraterrestrial resources for sustaining civilization, humanity, and the biosphere through the next century. Against this background, it is discussed how Astronautics is the realization of a dream and of an ethical imperative, enabling the only future with a humane world, one in which even intolerance can be tolerated, but its not forced into the ruling doctrine.