sphagnum moss, dark water, and politics
Thursday, February 06, 2003
What with my new job and some (very welcome) part time scraps from my old job, I'm working 10hr/day 7 days/week . . . so I haven't had much time to add things here, not to mention that the last few days I haven't felt much like watching the news or reading the paper or anything of that sort. Just hang on for a day or two and there will be brillant and insightful new stuff. Well, new stuff, anyway. Till then, a brief thought or two:
2) In a Wednesday NY Times op-ed, Thomas Mallon argued for manned interplanetary and interstellar travel and (presumably) colonization:
This should be a time to remind ourselves that we did not venture into space only so that we could return safely home. As Michael Collins, the Apollo 11 astronaut, once observed, the giant national enterprise that sent him to the moon was fundamentally "about leaving." And maybe for good.Now, I'd love to see us taking the first steps towards a terraformed Mars bustling with life, to live at the faint beginning of an age that might spread a web of settlements across unimaginable distances. If nothing else, the thought that life might have (with no evidence yet to the contrary) put all its eggs in one tiny basket is abstractly quite worrying. . .
But. The idea that "the world is our lanchpad," I can't help but feel that it subtly undermines that other idea of the Space Age, that other iconic image alongside the domed space colony and shining rocket ship. You know - that blue jewel hanging in the blackness, very alone and, suddenly, very fragile. Very precious. The first image is a myth, a dream - albeit a powerful and hauntingly beautiful one. Who knows - it might even come true. The second - well, all we see and imagine is shaped by need and hope and fear; yet this one is based on something real.
One could argue that this view is simply the product of too narrow a perspective; indeed, Mallon argues against what he perceives as a similar narrowness of metaphorical vision:
Nor should we let a new self-hating strain of thought — one that sees man as merely an incorrigible polluter of nature — to keep us from venturing off this overcrowded, overwired planet.Instead, this just makes me worry more that the launchpad view skews us away from other - especially environmental - concerns.
V arious "limited good" arguments vis-a-vis space travel are downright old by now, but reading Mallon's piece while thinking about those brave people who died so close to home has really made it new for me. Thinking of the Earth as a place to leave, maybe for good doesn't just carry a tragic, quite unintentional undertone - it seems fundamently misguided.
posted by Dan S. on 12:28 AM | | link
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