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Why do nerds and geeks think we can do in space what we haven’t on Earth?

The distant problems they’d escape are nothing like the here-and-now problems we’ve created and can solve

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BY Joshua Spodek - 08 Mar 2018

Why do nerds and geeks think we can do in space what we haven't on Earth?

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

First, as one of the nerdiest and geekiest people I know, or even know of, I mean nothing negative from the terms. With a PhD in astrophysics, having helped build and launch a satellite, and with several patents, I can nerd out and geek out with the best of them.

What we do on Earth

Second, for context of what we do on Earth, witness this scuba diver's video near Bali, one of the most beautiful places on Earth:

The diver didn't look for that garbage. It's just there.

People say we can't stop growth on Earth. Human nature means growth, which we don't have to worry about, they say.

Even if the population leveled, they say the economy must grow. Never mind that cultures have endured for tens to hundreds of thousands of years without economic or population growth, yet our culture went from Adam Smith to the video above in under 250 years.

In other words, many people suggest we can't live in equilibrium on Earth.

Space? Other planets?

The solution--necessary, many say, especially nerds and geeks--is to build space ships to reach other planets, or even to live permanently on the ships in space.

For example:

Their reasons include problems we've created, such as pollution, nuclear war, overpopulation, resource depletion, and so on. You know them because are here and now.

To be sure, they also suggest things like the sun becoming a red giant and engulfing the Earth or an asteroid like what we think killed the dinosaurs (except birds). These problems occur on almost inconceivably longer time scales: the sun will be stable for hundreds of millions to billions of years. The dinosaurs died 66 million years ago.

The issues on human time scales are human-made. If we don't solve them, the others don't matter for people on Earth. Living elsewhere doesn't get people off Earth.

Besides, our rate of technological advance is so great on human time scales that simply waiting will bring us closer to what can take us to Mars. The biggest problem with waiting isn't the sun expanding or an asteroid approaching.

The problem with waiting is that the problems we created might doom us.

Again, solving our problems on Earth is our best way to outlast the next few centuries even to face those distant problems.

Human life out there

Living in space, on other planets, or just traveling off Earth means the people on the space ships would have to live in equilibrium with their environment for years, lifetimes, or generations.

They suggest we can live in equilibrium with our environment!

Why would we think they could live in equilibrium with a space ship's environment but not Earth's?

hat happened to perpetual population and economic growth?

Suddenly those problems are solvable, they imply. If so, let's solve them. Again, solving today's problems is the best way to stand a chance to have to face the problems of 100 million years from now.

Human life here

Alternatively, if they can live in equilibrium with one environment, why not Earth's too?

Even if we could reach other planets, if we can't find a way to avoid trashing this one, what value is there in reaching another if we trash it too?

If we don't learn to value and sustain ourselves here and now, why amplify our problems?

Social solutions to social problems

If our beliefs, goals, and behaviors are causing the problems worth solving now, then changing our beliefs, goals, and behaviors is necessary to solve them. That means environmental leadership, what the Inc. community excels at, or at least strives to.

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