Con: Should Humans Colonize Space?
by Feifan, Student at Bellair High School, Texas
Space colonization sucks. Here’s why.
Space colonization seems increasingly likely as NASA launches its Artemis missions and Elon Musk’s ambitions grow further from Earth. Given the struggles we face today on Earth—climate change, overpopulation, and the depletion of finite resources—the benefits of colonization are obvious: by inhabiting other planets and extracting their resources, we can alleviate our current struggles, ensure humanity’s survival in the case of an existential threat, obtain resources that are rare at home, search for extraterrestrial life, and fulfill our innate desire to explore and conquer. Despite these numerous benefits, our focus on space colonization may be the death of us.
Remember history class? “In 1492, Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue.” Well, Columbus did something else, too. He indirectly (and directly) murdered Native Americans, pillaged their villages, and destroyed civilizations. His discovery of America left a legacy of death, slavery, and despair behind. We must not repeat the same mistakes. If there is life outside of Earth, colonizing space would be extremely unethical.
Proponents of space colonization will assert that we have learned our lesson and have measures in place against neo-imperialism. But the almost inevitable outcome of space colonization would be the domination of alien species in the same way we dominate animals. Aliens are, of course, not human. That, along with our far from complete knowledge of life and intelligence, makes the likelihood that we label them as “less intelligent” very high. There is a reason why dehumanization has been used to justify genocide. Our natural fear of those different from us justifies violence and an absolute violation of rights. It is hard to see how humans could coexist with other species when we murder cockroaches for being disgusting and slaughter livestock for sustenance. The other end of the spectrum is just as bad. If we travel far into space and meet a stronger, hostile society, we could be colonized. After all, curiosity killed the cat. Before you jump on the spaceship bandwagon and decide colonization is the solution to our problems, ask yourself whether we would do space colonization with the genuine intent to spread technology and knowledge with other species or if we are fulfilling our selfish desires for domination. If you have any further qualms, just look at the second word of this supposed panacea — colonization.
Another issue with space colonization is how few people it would actually benefit. The emergence of space tourism reveals what the future of space colonization would look like. Virgin Galactic, the leading space travel company, charges between $250,000 and $400,000 per flight. Suppose space travel, which focuses mainly on short ventures to the I.S.S. and eventually the Moon, remains expensive. In that case, one can only imagine how much the permanent habitation of Mars or planets outside our solar system would cost. Colonization would be available only to politicians and the rich, meaning any colonies on other planets would be filled with the likes of Warren Buffet, Mark Zuckerberg, and Donald Trump. These elites have tricked us into believing that we will truly benefit from their huge investments in a highly uncertain field, making climate change worse with the convenient excuse that their work will save us all.
Furthermore, investment in this sector would most likely take away political capital and financial resources from combating climate change. If we could just hop around on planets, why would we care about protecting those environments or making the enormous effort to restore our own? The result of these factors is a select group of elites enjoying their space hotels while the rest of us flounder about on a dying planet. Humanity might be saved, but the same outcome could have been achieved if we poured all our effort and resources into fighting climate change and protecting the planet we all live on instead of prematurely jumping ship and leaving the Earth for dead.
We must consider the harmful impact space colonization may have on life on and outside of Earth. We must also consider the benefits of space colonization: who does it actually help? Is it worth all of the focus and resources it is currently receiving? Colonization of Mars may occur by 2050, but creating genuinely sustainable colonies would require finding planets more suitable for life, which would likely take centuries, if not millennia. What is the timeline of climate change? 2023’s record-breaking summers and extreme weather hint that our spaceships may not beat the rising oceans in time. Ultimately, as scholars, scientists, corporate workers, and most importantly, humans, we cannot allow the status quo—where space is being prioritized over the Earth—to continue any longer.