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Set3: Space Ecology

Editorial opinion from

Martha Adams

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The preceding topic, Set2, was about lifespaces. That leads to the current topic, ecology. Which is here, different from on Terra. It is different because, off Terra, there is no ecology until settlers arrive and build something. This newly built ecology will be completely different from any Terran ecology, if at root, similar principles apply.

Namely, the ecologies settlers build off-Terra will be biological on a small scale, but in large, they will look like business systems. They will incorporate business systems, and they will grow, change, and fail like business systems. We have an option here for endless discussion since no clear dichotomy exists between the aspects of ecologies here. Let's be careful to avoid getting side-tracked into that. If you try to make out that Terra's biological ecology and off-Terra business-systems ecologies are different kinds of things, I think you can't do it. (If you think you can, I'd like to hear of it.)

Today's discussions around people in space are often damaged by unhelpful assumptions implicit in the language and thinking of the people doing the discussion. Obvious and hurtful assumptions include:

That Terra is "home" and reasonable people do not think leaving it, except temporarily.
That (elaborate and expensive) machines in space can do almost anything there that any people might want to do there.
That a small base somewhere, probably sited on Luna where Terra is directly overhead, may be not quite pointless, but it's as much as any reasonable person needs.

A host of such little dictums direct today's work and vision toward small objectives; but if you stand back from this space settlements idea and look at it, nothing larger nor longer in duration has turned up yet in human discourse and development. The space settlement topic is inherently big and of possible topics around this bigness, I think one is central:

It is, not here on Terra nor anywhere in space, does anyone find a place where all needed nor imaginable life resources are ready at hand in whatever quantity is required. Here on Terra, we manage this reality by economic business systems: commercial systems move oil, clothes, electric power, you name it, across Terra from wherever it is found or made, to wherever it is needed. In a parallel way, human settlements in space will require such commercial movement and systems.

Which leads to the compelling result, you can't build just one settlement in space. That is, a project to build "just one" settlement somewhere Out There (i.e., Luna) is doomed to fail. That's simply not enough for the long run. A viable space settlement undertaking will require a first industrial base for the work, right here on Terra. This base will then build and set out enough space settlements to start a viable longterm spacegoing human culture. (Or perhaps the needed program just won't happen -- current events in America are not encouraging.)

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