Keywords: sustainable development, space policy, future studies, precautionary principle, sustainability, space exploration, ecology, innovation, spatial limits, politics of scarcity, technology
Inverting sustainable development? Rethinking ecology, innovation and spatial limits
Over the years, two strands of thought on Sustainable Development (SD) have emerged, often identified as ecologism and environmentalism, respectively. This paper suggests that there exists a third rhetorically excluded option, namely large-scale industrial expansion into space. Access to raw materials found on the Moon as well as unfiltered solar energy would dramatically increase the stock of resources and energy while providing unlimited sinks for pollutants; thus satisfying two of the determining factors of sustainability. Traditionally, the dilemma of resource scarcity has been a concern for environmentalists calling for a reduction of energy and material flows. Correspondingly, the promise of space exploration has been limited to technological optimists whose economic framework rarely acknowledges any such scarcity. By reconciling the politics of scarcity with technological optimism, this paper proposes a unifying political vision for the 21st century.