Frontier discourse is a guise for depletion of the environment and its resources
(Linda Billings, PhD, Research Associate at SETI Institute, “To the Moon, Mars, and Beyond: Culture, Law and Ethics in Space-Faring Societies,” IASTS 21st Annual Conference, February 3-4, 2006, Baltimore, MD, http://lindabillings.org/lb_papers/space_law_ethics_culture.pdf, DA: 6/24/11, CP) The social, political, economic and cultural context for the U.S. civil space program has changed radically since the 1960s. But the rhetoric of space policy making has not. In the 21st century, politicians and other advocates are promoting “the Moon-Mars thing” as exploration for the sake of exploring and also as a means of opening up the solar system to private property claims, resource exploitation, and commercial development. In the words of one space advocate, “The solar system is like a giant grocery store. It has everything we could possibly want…. The solar system’s seemingly limitless energy and mineral resources will solve Earth’s resource shortages.”8 In these remarks is reflected a belief that the values of materialism, consumerism, and hyper-consumption prevalent today are values worth extending into the solar system. This conception of outer space depends on the idea of a solar system (and beyond) of wide-open spaces and limitless resources. The so-called “the myth of the frontier” (Slotkin, 1973) in American history embodies a worldview in which the United States is “a wide-open land of unlimited opportunity for the strong, ambitious self-reliant individual to thrust his way to the top” (p. 5). President Kennedy’s “new frontier” of the1960s was “a heroic engagement” in a campaign against communism, including the civilian space program (Slotkin, 1990, p. 3). The frontier metaphor has been, and still is, a dominant metaphor in rhetoric about space exploration; it thrives today in discourse of space exploration planning and policy making. “Space frontier” means different things to different people, and it is worth thinking about the range of meanings invoked by the metaphor in considering what values are, could be, or should be embodied in the space exploration enterprise. Historian Stephen Pyne (1988) has explained exploration as a cultural invention that “reinforces and reinterprets…myths, beliefs, and archetypes basic to its originating civilization.” The modern cultural invention of exploration in 15th-century Europe functioned as “a means of knowing, of creating commercial empires, of outmaneuvering political economic, religious, and military competitors – it as war, diplomacy, proselytizing, scholarship, and trade by other means” (Pyne, 2003). The postmodern exploration of space is different, Pyne has observed. “With neither a rambunctious imperialism nor an eager Enlightenment,” the case for space colonization is not compelling. Rationales advanced for space settlement “are historical, culturally bound, and selectively anecdotal: that we need to pioneer to be what we are, that new colonies are a means of renewing civilization….” These rationales do not resonate well with many people outside the space community today. Space advocates continue to conceive of “American history [as] a straight line,” historian Patricia Nelson Limerick (1994) has observed, “a vector of inevitability and manifest destiny linking the westward expansion of Anglo-Americans directly to the exploration and colonization of space. In using this analogy, space advocates have built their plans for the future on the foundation of a deeply flawed understanding of the past, [and] the blinders worn to screen the past have proven to be just as effective at distorting the view of the future.” The wilderness metaphor has been suggested as an alternative to the frontier. This metaphor is encompassed in the concept of “astroenvironmentalism,” the idea of applying the values of environmental protection and preservation to space exploration (Miller, 2005, 2001). Treating the solar system like “a space wilderness to protect” rather than a frontier to exploit9 could
Link – Resources/Mining/Colonalization
The frontier for new materials and resources in space create a frameworks of instrumentalization. There is no guarantee that these harmful environmental practices will work but instead establish a new ecological crisis.
Peter Dickens, teaches at the Universities of Brighton and Cambridge, UK. His most recent book, co-written with James Ormrod, is Cosmic Society: Towards a Sociology of the Universe (2009). The Humanization of the Cosmos—To What End? And The Cosmos: Capitalism’s New “Outside” , DA:6/21/11, CP) Instead of indulging in over-optimistic and fantastic visions, we should take a longer, harder, and more critical look at what is happening and what is likely to happen. We can then begin taking a more measured view of space humanization, and start developing more progressive alternatives. At this point, we must return to the deeper, underlying processes which are at the heart of the capitalist economy and society, and which are generating this demand for expansion into outer space. Although the humanization of the cosmos is clearly a new and exotic development, the social relationships and mechanisms underlying space-humanization are very familiar. In the early twentieth century, Rosa Luxemburg argued that an “outside” to capitalism is important for two main reasons. First, it is needed as a means of creating massive numbers of new customers who would buy the goods made in the capitalist countries.7 As outlined earlier, space technology has extended and deepened this process, allowing an increasing number of people to become integral to the further expansion of global capitalism. Luxemburg’s second reason for imperial expansion is the search for cheap supplies of labor and raw materials. Clearly, space fiction fantasies about aliens aside,expansion into the cosmos offers no benefits to capital in the form of fresh sources of labor power.8 But expansion into the cosmos does offer prospects for exploiting new materials such as those in asteroids, the moon, and perhaps other cosmic entities such as Mars.Neil Smith’s characterization of capital’s relations to nature is useful at this point.The reproduction of material life is wholly dependent on the production and reproduction of surplus value. To this end, capital stalks the Earth in search of material resources; nature becomes a universal means of production in the sense that it not only provides the subjects, objects and instruments of production, but is also in its totality an appendage to the production process…no part of the Earth’s surface, the atmosphere, the oceans, the geological substratum or the biological superstratum are immune from transformation by capital.9 Capital is now also “stalking” outer space in the search for new resources and raw materials. Nature on a cosmic scale now seems likely to be incorporated into production processes, these being located mainly on earth. Since Luxemburg wrote, an increasing number of political economists have argued that the importance of a capitalist “outside” is not so much that of creating a new pool of customers or of finding new resources.10 Rather, an outside is needed as a zone into which surplus capital can be invested. Economic and social crisis stems less from the problem of finding new consumers, and more from that of finding, making, and exploiting zones of profitability for surplus capital. Developing “outsides” in this way is also a product of recurring crises, particularly those of declining economic profitability. These crises are followed by attempted “fixes” in distinct geographic regions. The word “fix” is used here both literally and figuratively. On the one hand, capital is being physically invested in new regions. On the other hand, the attempt is to fix capitalism’s crises. Regarding the latter, however, there are, of course, no absolute guarantees that such fixes will really correct an essentially unstable social and economic system. At best, they are short-term solutions. The kind of theory mentioned above also has clear implications for the humanization of the cosmos. Projects for the colonization of outer space should be seen as the attempt to make new types of “spatial fix,” again in response to economic, social, and environmental crises on earth. Outer space will be “globalized,” i.e., appended to Earth, with new parts of the cosmos being invested in by competing nations and companies. Military power will inevitably be made an integral part of this process, governments protecting the zones for which they are responsible. Some influential commentators argue that the current problem for capitalism is that there is now no “outside.”11 Capitalism is everywhere. Similarly, resistance to capitalism is either everywhere or nowhere. But, as suggested above, the humanization of the cosmos seriously questions these assertions. New “spatial fixes” are due to be opened up in the cosmos, capitalism’s emergent outside. At first, these will include artificial fixes such as satellites, space stations, and space hotels. But during the next twenty years or so, existing outsides, such as the moon and Mars, will begin attracting investments. The stage would then be set for wars in outer space between nations and companies attempting to make their own cosmic “fixes.”