How can we prioritize space exploration when the world is on fire?
As a lifelong human rights and environmental activist working in the space community, I’ve been contemplating this question a lot lately.
So I took a moment to pen my thoughts.
It seems we have a chicken-and-the-egg issue, rather than an either-or issue.
“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” — Albert Einstein
From my understanding, this is why we go.
We are all part of a living, breathing organism we call Earth.
Perfectly interconnected, hurling through the cosmos at 1.3M mph.
We are already in this together.
And right now, we are at a crossroads.
Our relationships are out of alignment.
With each other.
And with nature.
To work towards our healing and realignment,
we must better understand the sea in which our ship is sailing.
Perhaps then, we can begin to remember who we are.
We are explorers.
Our evolution depends on it.
We do it to extend our understanding of our world,
and deepen our perspective.
To deprive humans of the opportunity to explore outside their home is to rob them of something vital to their humanity.
When we first saw our planet from space,
it unveiled the magnitude of our connection to it.
We were awakened to its profound fragility and interconnectedness.
It opened up the opportunity for us to renew and harmonize our relationship with nature, and each other.
Space isn’t another forest or ocean to be exploited or playground for the elite. It’s a garden that calls us all to mind its vitality more wisely than we have on Earth.
It’s a chance to look back at our home planet and understand it for the first time.
The complexity of venturing into the stars draws something out of us that may otherwise remain unearthed.
To discover who we truly are, we must be willing to explore outside our own home, into environments we simply cannot navigate alone.
Space calls us to work together, to realize that everything is interconnected.
It draws out of us the very pinnacle of our capabilities and the true depths of our humanity.
Space offers a chance for a new start.
Not to conquer or dominate, but to steward, as our ancestors did.
This is our opportunity to transcend the behaviors that have desecrated our planet and divided our people. We have a choice.
Space calls us to celebrate our uniqueness and prioritize our unity.
To choose cooperation over competition.
To be brave enough to change.
“Technologically we’re ready to explore the cosmos. Economically we are mostly devoted to greed. Educationally we are still largely illiterate. Culturally we’re parochial and divisive. Spiritually few know their own soul, having entrusted it to traditional dogmas. My vision, my article of faith for the opening of the new millennium, is that we can and will evolve consciously and quickly to transcend these limitations of our juvenile species and attain the mature and glorious adulthood of .. stewardship.”
“My Vision for the Third Millennium”, 2006
Apollo 14 Astronaut, Edgar Mitchell
The knowledge that we live on a Pale Blue Dot floating in a vast cosmos changed us forever. From the perspective of the Earthrise and Blue Marble images, our borders, races, and beliefs were insignificant.
Rather than recreating the past or continuing the present,
we have an opportunity to create the world we really want.
To evolve into coherence and mature into unity.
To become stewards, rather than conquerors.
As we explore and expand, we have an opportunity to do so with values and intentions that prioritize the symbiosis of humans and nature over all else.
This is an opportunity to leave destructive, colonialist behavior behind.
To heed the wisdom of our ancestors and protect the sanctity of all things.
To remember that we are all star people.
To revere the entirety of the interconnected web of life.
Our future in space depends on who we resolve to be on Earth, today.
It will be a result of the decisions we make right now.
We are all Earthlings.
Designed to explore and discover, together.
To live in harmony.
This is who we are.
This is why we go.
My career in the space community and the perspective represented in this essay were greatly inspired by my friendship and work with Frank White, space philosopher and author of The Overview Effect: Space Exploration and Human Evolution. It’s an honor to journey alongside such a legend.