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Any trip to the Moon is extremely costly in terms of energy. Whatever we were mining there would have to be very, very valuable and only obtainable on the Moon.The only scenario in which humans would find a Moon trip cheap would be one in which we had vastly more energy available to us - that would mean Nuclear Fusion had been cracked.If that could be sorted out and we could have fusion reactors fitted to any craft - space or land based - things would be very different.
Why won't people realise that 'Space' is not a new frontier, like the Wild West?Exploration for materials, food or new cultures is a concept that really only applies to Earth-based activities.
As for terraforming other planets. God help us; humans can't even manage to 'terraform' the Earth successfully. How could we trust the entrepreneurs to manage Mars any better than they have done down here?
In the event of the disaster scenario (war, disease, rogue asteroids or gas clouds etc.) can anyone seriously imaging anything other than a competitive race for a few privileged members of the human race to find an alternative refuge for the dying decades of homo sapiens?
Within certain constraints, this is not unreasonable statement, but the possibility it has overlooked is if the mining was not for processing on Earth, but to support space missions.
Have we really done as badly as all that here? There are certainly problems, but given the enormity of the task, one can scarcely accuse humans of being unsuccessful in their own right (OK, our success has been at the expense of other species - but that is their lack of success, not ours).
This is not an issue of terraforming, but an issue of colonisation in general.
I think it could be argued that we have done extremely badly; we are causing extinctions of hundreds (thousands?) of species every year and not through simple competition. The damage we are doing on a daily basis is massive, compared with the damage that any single species has caused in the past. The problem is not a moral one (or at least need not be treated as one) but a practical one. Mankind is developing at a rate that outstrips 'Darwinian' evolution. The checks and balances that have been imposed by natural feedback in the past do not operate fast enough to cope. The rapid rate of cultural evolution means that we can do more harm in a shorter time than any other organism has been able to. The problem as I see it is not particularly that we are damaging other species - they might just as easily be eaten by a passing tiger / spider - it is the possibility that we can now really upset the balance which we will be unable to regain and seriously damage our own prospects. Stability cannot be assured - despite what some other Scientists tell us. After all, what will happen will be mainly up to politicians!
I think there is a massive difference between terrestrial colonisation and extra-terrestrial colonisation.There are very few earthbound colonists (excluding arctic explorers) who could wake up in the morning and die by simply opening the window in their new home. It's only a matter of degree, I admit, but a huge degree of difference. Wherever you colonise on Earth, you will find 99% of what you need, already there- including things you didn't even know that you needed. Go to Mars and you've got to take absolutely everything you need - friendly bacteria and all! You might well seed a new planet with life but, the odds are that the resulting environment, after many millennia, would be hostile to humans and a worse struggle to deal with than what we have here. Just talk to someone who has tried to get a greenhouse to look after itself without constant intervention.
I don't understand what you mean by “outstripping 'Darwinian' evolution”?
I mean, quite simply, that it takes many many generations for a species, 'naturally' , to change itself (as Darwin observed) and, hence, its impact on its environment. If an animal species starts to develop better running skills, then its prey species has a similar time to develop characteristics which reduce the effect of the predator's improved performance; both species survive and the predator is unlikely to eat up all the available prey. Even if this happens, it needn't bother us in particular - it's not our problem, as you say.What is at work in human society is a different form of evolution; it is cultural . The information channel is no longer 'vertical', via the genetic code- it is thousands/ millions of times faster and works, laterally, through direct communication between individuals.
We have developed fishing methods that destroy some of our most useful fish stocks.
Wheat production and rice growing have caused irreversible damage to environments and have affected our food producing capabilities for the future.
BSE, bird 'flu and many other diseases are problems of our own making.
We have demonstrated, time and time again, that we are just not capable of predicting the effects of the gross changes we are making to the earth.
We need to be optimistic, I agree, but I can't summon up blind faith in my fellow man. It is unfortunate that most of the people 'at the top' got there for very un-altruistic reasons and political parties only want to ensure re-election within the next five years.
George Bush seems keen on the idea of spending ONE TRILLION dollars on a manned trip to Mars. With that amount of money to spend, there should not be a single starving person on the face of the Earth.
The only difference is that I am more pessimistic about it than another_someone. I can't feel as secure that we will always find a way around the problems we create, daily.
Bird flu, for instance, wouldn't be a problem but for the fact that, in some societies, there are very intimate living conditions between humans and domesticated poultry.
Fish farming is not without its problems - have you ever seen a wild salmon laid beside a farmed version? Look at the lice population on the two and the quality of the meat.! Just pour a few chemicals on it to solve the lice problem and wait for the next problem to develop. It is just not as easy as you imply.
Agriculture and medicine are constantly having to keep up with the consequences of our intensive styles of living and food production.
Desertification has been the result, in many parts of the world, of intensive farming methods. Take the dust bowls of the prairies and even the formation of the Sahara, in the past.
Even in the UK, there has been, not too late, I hope, a return to sensible field sizes on farms in order to reduce the effects of erosion and to re-establish some natural biological feedback sytems
Modern transport makes the effect of disease potentially, much more devastating to us than it was in mediaeval times. Pandemics may be an interesting bit of paleontology but I don't want to be involved in one.
I agree that, as far as a remote observer is concerned, the situation is not at all dire. It is just an interesting example of a species that is very advanced and communicates so well. Yes - I know that rats teach their young things and that chimps learn a new skill and pass it amongst themselves but they don't have Naked Scientist websites to spread the knowledge as we are doing. Like I said - it's a matter of scale - and that scale is the whole basis of my unease.
The timescale of any changes, in the past was related to generations - now it is only limited to the time it takes to propagate an idea - weeks or even days, in many cases, compared with a minimum of decades (in the case of humans) .
Evolution has always, in its nature, been a hit and miss affair. I would just like a bit more TIME between the possible misses where they might affect me.
Are you really saying that we should just accept the realities of politics and politicians and not condemn, publicly , people like G Bush and the decisions they make just because they are a fact of life? Surely, as scientists, we should be 1. responsible and 2. skeptical of policies that are adopted as a result of bad science.Being too 'realistic about things' just allows things to happen which we may regret afterwards.