Human Sustainability III: The New Frontier

Posted 27 March 2019

By Gary A. Puckrein, PhD



In 2017, Stephen Hawking, the late physicist, warned that humanity needs to escape Earth within the next few centuries to avoid extinction. Elon Musk’s company SpaceX is preparing to colonize Mars in the next six years. Jeff Bezos’ company Blue Origin is planning to support a colony on the moon where millions of humans will work and play.

Space may be our new frontier. If so, its exploration will require us to develop systems that structure our physical environment to support human life. Before then, we must learn how to design and control ecosystems to produce sustainable, healthy communities where human life has never before existed.

At the dawn of human existence, nature provided us with the fundamentals for life. Upon that birthright our ancestors built social systems whose prime directive was not the preservation of an ecosystem that supports life. It is not possible to settle human colonies in space or on other planets without a conscious determination to conserve life through the management of the ecosystem that sustains it.

Existential challenges have created the need for a paradigm shift in how and why we engineer our societies on earth. We cannot colonize other worlds without a fully developed capability to design and manage social systems that produce healthy outcomes.

 We need to hone those skills here on Earth and explore the possibility of designing an equilibrium of conditions within whose boundaries the human lifespan may extend beyond predictable limits. Our past has taught us that we are pretty good at creating social systems that are inherently inequitable and that foster instabilities that we must suppress by force and cunning. Why would we want to export those injustices and instabilities to the new frontier and risk failed colonies?

Woke is a term in vogue today that signals a new level of consciousness. Awakening to the threats and potential of our future, Hawking, Musk, and Bezos have offered space colonization as a solution. Whatever multiplanetary colonization may hold for us, it is time for a popular awakening to our urgent need to engineer sustainable, healthy communities on our home planet.

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