Rocket-Launching Billionaires Promise a New Pie in the Sky

A part of the Sequence

Motion Memos

“What we’re getting from each Musk and Bezos is that this classically new age-y spiritual drama of catastrophe and salvation. They preach, they inform us that the top is close to, the catastrophe is coming, that the world goes to finish, however there’s one other world that everyone can construct collectively, a brand new world and a spot that they’ve by no means seen and a spot that appears completely unimaginable,” says professor Mary-Jane Rubenstein, writer of Astrotopia: The Harmful Faith of the Company House Race. On this episode of “Motion Memos,” host Kelly Hayes and Rubenstein talk about the religiosity of “NewSpace,” and the way activists can problem the brand new “pie within the sky” ideology that billionaires like Musk and Bezos are crafting.

Music by Son Monarcas & David Celeste


Notice: This a rush transcript and has been flippantly edited for readability. Copy is probably not in its ultimate type.

Kelly Hayes: Welcome to “Motion Memos,” a Truthout podcast about organizing, solidarity and the work of constructing change. I’m your host, author and organizer Kelly Hayes. Right now, we’re speaking in regards to the new area race and the peculiar religiosity that drives it. Billionaires like Elon Musk have promoted fantasies that humanity’s finest hope, within the face of an apocalyptic disaster, lies within the colonization of area. Jeff Bezos has argued that the extractive industrialization of area will in the end make life on Earth sustainable. It will be simple to dismiss these concepts because the folly of billionaires who’re taking part in with rockets like youngsters with Legos, whereas spinning fantasies that painting them as heroes and saviors, slightly than the catastrophic figures that they honestly are. Whereas I imagine these characterizations are correct, it is necessary for us to know the narratives these males are shaping, and what offers these tales energy on this planet. As a result of we live in unstable occasions, and as we’ve got seen in recent times, folks whose lives and worldviews have been destabilized can usually be deceived, and even consumed, by elaborate falsehoods. The parable-making of the tech trade might strike many people as absurd, but it surely has given the billionaire class a brand new pie within the sky to market to the lots. Within the new area race, a few of capitalism’s main gamers are exploiting our fascination with the celebs, and our imperiled hopes for the long run, with a view to construct a brand new religiosity from some very outdated, acquainted elements.

Right now, we’re speaking to Mary-Jane Rubenstein. MJ is a professor of Faith and Science in Society at Wesleyan College. She is the writer, most just lately, of Astrotopia: The Dangerous Religion of the Corporate Space Race. If you wish to perceive how males like Musk and Bezos are exploiting sci-fi tropes and religiosity to advance their very own agenda with regard to area, Astrotopia is a useful useful resource. The ebook additionally provides some insightful evaluation of science fiction tales that run counter to the techno-mythos of the late capitalist billionaire class, and different concepts that may assist us chip away on the narratives of space-obsessed billionaires.

Banner 3

This dialogue of the brand new area race is a part of an arc of episodes inspecting tech points and the way they relate to the work of constructing change. I needed to create this episode block as a result of I believe our actions want a stronger evaluation of what’s occurring in Silicon Valley, and the way rising applied sciences, and the mythologies round them, are shaping widespread worldviews. Late capitalism is an period of disaster, and disaster makes folks susceptible to cult-ish pondering and religiosity, amongst different issues. If we’re going to win narrative battles with billionaires and the cults of Silicon Valley, we have to perceive these tales, why they’re getting traction, and what their vulnerabilities are. I’m in a position to put collectively episodes like this one because of Truthout, which is a nonprofit information group with no adverts, no paywalls and no company sponsors. We’re a reader- and listener-powered group that doesn’t cover behind the pretense of objectivity, as a result of we perceive that the world wants to alter. We’re additionally a union store with one of the best household and sick depart insurance policies within the trade. So if you need to assist our work, you’ll be able to join our publication or make a donation at You may as well assist the present by subscribing to Motion Memos on Apple or Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts, by leaving a constructive assessment on these platforms, or by sharing your favourite episodes. Conserving a media group afloat in these occasions isn’t simple, however along with your assist, we’re nonetheless on this factor, so thanks for believing in us and what we do. And with that, I hope you benefit from the present.

[musical interlude]

Mary Jane Rubenstein: My identify is Mary Jane Rubenstein. I exploit she/her pronouns. And I’m skilled up in a self-discipline known as philosophy of faith, which tends to have a look at the way in which that faith works on this planet, the way in which that it shapes folks’s lives and hopes and expectations. The best way it motivates folks to behave within the universe or to not act within the universe.

I’ve more and more been engaged on the ways in which faith exhibits up in locations that we don’t are likely to anticipate to see it, the way in which that it exhibits up in politics, for instance, or economics. One of many locations that I’ve been more and more searching for resonances and echoes of our spiritual traditions is within the pure sciences, which could appear to be a humorous and surprising place to go.

But it surely seems that even the pure sciences are formed by tales that religions inform, assumptions that they make, teachings that they provide us about who counts on this planet, who’s essential. So that’s what I’ve been just lately. Most just lately I’m trying on the means that faith’s been displaying up within the modern area race and modern efforts to extend human presence in area, ultimately to colonize different planets and different locations in our photo voltaic system.

KH: One query I’ve heard loads when speaking to folks in regards to the new area race is, How the hell did we get right here? Once I was rising up, within the Nineteen Eighties, area exploration was extensively seen as a noble endeavor — one which the U.S. claimed to pursue “for all mankind.” Whereas not everybody purchased into the lofty rhetoric of NASA within the final century, as Gil Scott-Heron memorably illustrated together with his poem, “Whitey on the Moon,” one thing has positively modified since then. So, how did area develop into the pet mission of billionaires?

MJR: It’s a little bit of a large number. So NewSpace is sort of a neologism, I don’t know, it’s a kind of phrases that will get smushed collectively in camel case, the N is large and the S is large they usually smush them collectively. NewSpace refers back to the period wherein non-public firms are primarily driving our pursuits and our actions in outer area. Company presence, company curiosity, company capability has formed our presence in area for the reason that very starting.

The nation-states have at all times been contracting with Boeing and Lockheed Martin to make these rockets, to get NASA out of our environment. However more and more, firms have been setting the targets, the priorities, the requirements for what we do in outer area. The best way this got here to cross, I see current historical past as having been marked by two main initiatives within the U.S. context.

The primary is in 2011 when Barack Obama canceled funding for NASA’s area shuttle program and redirected these funds as an alternative to the non-public sector. He had been suggested by the most important council to start out turning over area pursuits, area visitors, area transportation to the non-public sector. The best way that the railways have been more and more privatized and bus transportation has been more and more privatized and definitely automobiles are privatized. In order that was the primary large development towards this new area period.

The second got here in 2015, when in response to some traders’ issues, the U.S. pushed this staggeringly bilateral piece of laws known as the Business House Launch Competitiveness Act, or CSLC… It’s only a horrible acronym. The Business House Launch Competitiveness Act ensures traders that any useful resource, and I’m utilizing this time period in citation marks, any “useful resource” recovered from outer area, can in truth be owned, purchased, offered, and transported and transferred below U.S. legislation.

There had been some concern that United Nations laws, a treaty that has been signed by over 100 events within the UN, would forestall something like non-public possession of area sources. So the U.S. simply handed a legislation, its personal legislation saying, “No, no, it’s okay. You may personal the stuff that you simply get well in area.” And actually from that time on, from 2015 on, there’s been an explosion of funding in area, of potential area mining firms, of personal rocket firms, of area tourism firms, as a result of now traders are ensured that they’ll make a revenue in outer area.

KH: The privatization of area has ushered within the hyper-masculine competitors between billionaires that presently defines NewSpace. Regardless of Obama’s said intention of saving taxpayer {dollars}, early investments from authorities businesses have been essential to main business area initiatives. Business area firms received $7.2 billion in investments from the U.S. authorities between 2000 and 2018. Throughout its first yr, SpaceX had an working price range of about $1 billion. About half of that cash got here from contracts with NASA. In 2022, SpaceX introduced in $2.8 billion in funding from authorities contracts.

In April of 2022, Bernie Sanders wrote within the Guardian,

“I’m involved that Nasa has develop into little greater than an ATM machine to gasoline an area race not between the US and different nations, however between the 2 wealthiest males in America — Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, who’re price greater than $450bn mixed.”

MJR: So Musk and Bezos are in all probability the 2 finest recognized actors within the modern company area race. As you in all probability know, Elon Musk needs us to maneuver to Mars. He needs to colonize Mars. Jeff Bezos has a unique plan. He thinks Mars is simply too distant. He needs to construct area colonies which can be nearer to residence which can be positioned between the moon and the Earth. It will be form of like residing in a mall, an area mall, like a rotating indoor buying heart the place the local weather is managed and there’s no actual exterior. However presumably you’d be capable to develop some vegetation and issues like that, and also you’d be capable to get your meals and it could be completely excellent climate all yr spherical and issues like that.

So anyway, they’ve completely different views about what our lives are going to appear like in outer area. Once more, Musk has this form of homesteader ultimate that we’re going to terraform Mars and make it liveable for human beings. Bezos needs to maintain us slightly nearer to Earth in these rotating buying malls. Each of them are satisfied that to ensure that human beings to, nicely, survive for Elon Musk, or to thrive for Jeff Bezos, we’ve got to depart the Earth. And every of them is utilizing his huge financial standing and energy to channel ungodly quantities of cash and sources into conquering the cosmos in order that human beings can have an honest future.

KH: Elon Musk famously responded to Bernie Sanders’s critiques of his astronomical wealth by stating that, “I’m accumulating sources to assist make life multiplanetary and lengthen the sunshine of consciousness to the celebs.” In step with different longtermist concepts, this assertion means that unthinkable ranges of inequality are crucial, for the sake of humanity’s deep future, but it surely additionally implies that astronomical private wealth is what makes area exploration attainable. In actuality, we all know that public contracts, and public cash, are important to NewSpace, which is why Bezos’s firm Blue Origin and Musk’s SpaceX spent $2 million and $2.4 million, respectively, lobbying for presidency contracts in 2021. However Musk’s speak of utilizing his huge wealth to “lengthen the sunshine of consciousness” additionally helps spin widespread mythos round excessive inequality in our occasions — like a brand new variation of the Divine Proper of Kings. As an alternative of being chosen by God, males like Musk and Bezos are chosen by the market, and slightly than representing an injustice, their absurd wealth supposedly represents our greatest hope for the long run. I do know loads of you is probably not spiritual or large followers of contemporary myths, but it surely’s essential that we perceive the function that such concepts play and can proceed to play in an period of mass disaster.

MJR: So I mentioned that firstly that I’m an individual who’s looking out for locations that faith exhibits up the place it won’t be anticipated. On the subject of the modern area race, I believe faith is displaying up in two main locations.

The primary is that there’s a particularly Christian heritage to the European concept that it’s in some way the future of explicit human beings to take new land, exploit its sources and remake that land within the picture of the individuals who bought it. There have been, once more, significantly Christian justifications for this sort of seizure of land for the reason that fifteenth century, when the Pope on the time gave Africa to Portugal and the so-called New World to Spain and mentioned, “God needs Spain and Portugal to take these lands to use its sources for the glory of Spain and Portugal and the Iberian Peninsula and naturally for the salvation of souls.”

So the concept that faith was offering there was this ultimate of saving folks by way of conversion that might even have these ancillary financial advantages. After all, what the nations have been actually after have been the financial advantages. Faith offered this justification that it’s God’s will that we do these items. That notion that God needs explicit folks to take land, to remake it and to get wealthy from it was reanimated throughout the interval of American manifest future when primarily white-skinned descendants of the European settlers moved their means throughout the continent below the concept that God needed these European descendants to take over your complete continent of North America.

And it was reanimated once more within the Nineteen Fifties when the brokers of the unique area race began claiming that it was America’s manifest future now to overcome outer area. So in a single sense, Musk and Bezos and the nationwide area businesses at this level, significantly the U.S. nationwide area company (NASA), are reanimating this outdated spiritual drama of conquering new land within the identify of some magnificent human future.

There’s additionally this different… That is the second place that faith is coming into play. There’s this completely different means {that a} extra new age-y strategy to faith is working. This depends much less on these outdated Christian doctrines of the Earth belonging to us and issues like that, and depends extra on the non-public charisms of very energetic males. So there’s a messianic part to the brand new area race the place these guys set themselves up because the saviors of the universe and develop cadres of people that imagine in them as the way in which to a form of salvation.

In that sense, what we’re getting from each Musk and Bezos is that this classically new age-y spiritual drama of catastrophe and salvation. They preach, they inform us that the top is close to, the catastrophe is coming, that the world goes to finish, however there’s one other world that everyone can construct collectively, a brand new world and a spot that they’ve by no means seen and a spot that appears completely unimaginable. However simply have religion and you’ll acquire salvation from this coming catastrophe on this new world in another place that once more, no one’s ever seen. So these are the 2 large issues. We’ve bought this form of lengthy legacy of Christian imperialism on the one hand after which these non-public cults of character round Musk and Bezos then again.

KH: Given the catastrophic injury that Christian imperialism and different conquest-driven ideologies have precipitated right here on Earth, it’s unsurprising that the environmental prices of extending these ideas to area are, in truth, astronomical.

MJR: The environmental injury that the modern area race is doing is likely one of the most under-discussed crises of our modern second. We’re simply attempting to get a maintain on the form of injury that manufacturing facility farming does to our environment and the form of injury that plastics that we’re dumping into our ocean and that personal autos emit into our skies. Simply as we’re attempting to determine if there’s any technique to cap that form of carbon, we’ve got this intensification of rockets dumping gasoline into outer area.

I believe there are three main areas wherein this intensified area exercise is doing loads of injury. The primary, which will be the least seen, the primary space wherein the area race is doing a ton of injury is within the staggeringly excessive variety of new satellites in orbit. As it’s possible you’ll know, each two weeks, Elon Musk’s firm Starlink sends 60 new satellites into orbit. Only for reference, earlier than 1957, the Earth had one satellite tv for pc. That was the moon. That was it. 1957, Russian satellite tv for pc, Sputnik heads up with slightly companion to assist it out. Now we’ve bought two extra. There are two synthetic satellites after which a moon.

Then because the old school area race intensifies, there are extra satellites for army statement. Because the telecommunications revolution will get going, we’ve got extra satellites for telecommunications, for climate mapping. Now, Elon Musk is attempting to construct what he calls a constellation of satellites to offer flawless web connections, very excessive velocity downloads regardless of the place you might be on Earth. And the technique of doing that is to launch tens of hundreds of satellites into orbit.

So the issue is that after stuff goes up into low Earth orbit, it doesn’t come down until it does. Each infrequently, one thing will simply fall out of orbit and fritter away within the Earth’s environment, which itself has some environmental impact, however when it doesn’t, it simply stays up there eternally. A defunct satellite tv for pc simply stays up there, hurdling at, once more, tens of hundreds of miles per hour and doing immense injury if it collides with anything.

Any collision of anything in area produces tens of hundreds of shards of stuff from nuts and bolts to color chips to cell telephones. There’s simply a lot garbage at this level in low Earth orbit that A: it’s changing into more and more harmful for anyone to do something in area. So from time to time, the Worldwide House Station has to enter lockdown as a result of there appears to be one thing coming at it at tens of hundreds of miles per hour.

And B: with all these things in low Earth orbit, these things is now reflecting gentle such that many Earthlings, most Earthlings can’t see stars anymore wherever. So astronomers are freaking out as a result of they’ll’t get first rate pictures of the celebs, they’ll’t see the celebs, they’ll’t educate their college students about stars. Indigenous communities are up in arms saying, “We require entry to the celebs visually with a view to navigate, with a view to know the seasons, with a view to conduct our festivals.” So the air pollution in low Earth orbit alone is price getting completely nuts about in case you care in any respect about ecology.

However then there’s the problem of simply sending rockets into outer area. A current article was simply printed saying we’re a few 5.6 p.c improve in rocket visitors yearly for the reason that mid 2010s. The issue with rockets is that from the second… I imply, there’s the development, there’s the mining that goes into the development. You may simply take into consideration this as an ecological catastrophe at each second of it. When you’re Elon Musk and also you’re constructing a 400-foot tall rocket, how a lot does that require you to mine? The place do you need to open new mines to get extra supplies on your rocket? So there’s that.

Then the rocket sits on the launchpad, the rocket launches from the launchpad and the rocket destroys the launchpad. So now you’ve bought tons of concrete simply being scattered to the wind. The launch of the primary Starship in April ended up destroying its launchpad and sending slabs of concrete so far as six and a half miles away in Boca Chica, Texas, and simply littering your complete panorama with particulate matter that was principally shredded concrete in all places. The wetlands have been blanketed on this stuff, folks’s houses have been blanketed on this stuff, the air was blanketed on this stuff. That’s simply the launch.

Then Starship will get 4 minutes into its launch, it’s dumping all of its… Its gasoline is kerosene, so it’s dumping kerosene into our air, after which 4 minutes in, it seems the booster doesn’t separate. In order that they resolve simply to detonate the entire thing. Now rocket elements are falling into the ocean and rocket elements are falling into, once more, folks’s yards, backyards and into these wetlands and little bits of plastic and little bits of metal… Simply completely in all places. So once more, from my perspective, it is a full environmental catastrophe.

Then, even when the rocket is profitable, all of that gasoline, whether or not it’s kerosene, whether or not it’s hydrogen, regardless of the gasoline is, begins depositing issues like carbon dioxide; water, which at these heights may be polluting; chlorine, methane — not simply into the environment, however into the higher environment the place we’ve by no means actually deposited a bunch of poisons earlier than. So all we all know is that within the higher environment, they keep round loads longer and might have an intensified international warming impact, greenhouse impact on our decrease environment. So these are the issues, and as you’ll be able to hear from my intensely anxious tone right here, I believe we’ve bought an ecological catastrophe occurring in the case of intensified area exercise.

KH: As we talked about in our episode on longtermism, Elon Musk has supported the concept that each second wasted within the race to colonize area prices trillions of future human and digital human lives within the deep future. Does he actually imagine that? As I’ve talked about earlier than, I don’t assume it actually issues what folks imagine after they partake within the weaponization of concepts, however I additionally wouldn’t underestimate an egotist’s capability to get excessive on his personal provide. In spite of everything, Musk operates within the tech world, the place lies and hubris are sometimes seen as precursors to innovation. In Silicon Valley, making up tales about what your organization will accomplish, as a method to amass funding, with out understanding the best way to truly accomplish your said aim, is a normal observe — as Wendy Liu and Corey Pein show of their respective books, Abolish Silicon Valley: How to Liberate Technology from Capitalism, and Live Work Work Work Die. Within the tech world, hype and hubris come first, and precise blueprints for fulfillment might or might not come later, assuming a startup manages to safe the curiosity of enterprise capitalists. So, in a way, Silicon Valley runs on cut-rate science fiction prompts, generated by individuals who usually do not know the best way to make their concepts materialize. Once we contemplate Musk’s narrative model on this context, we are able to perceive why he would declare that SpaceX would quickly take carbon out of the air, and use it as rocket gasoline, or that Tesla’s self-driving automobiles could be making cross-country journeys with out intervention by the top of 2017, or that SpaceX would in all probability construct a base on Mars by 2028, as a result of in his thoughts, this how innovation works. You simply make up a narrative and solicit funding. If, once in a while, you succeed, folks will name you a genius, and if you fail, there are few, if any, penalties.

In 2018, Elon Musk tweeted that, “About half my cash is meant to assist issues on Earth & half to assist set up a self-sustaining metropolis on Mars to make sure continuation of life (of all species) in case Earth will get hit by a meteor just like the dinosaurs or WW3 occurs & we destroy ourselves.” However in a 2014 interview, Musk made his disregard for what in the end occurs on this planet fairly plain when he stated, “Fuck Earth! Who cares about Earth?” Musk argued that, “If we are able to set up a Mars colony, we are able to nearly definitely colonize the entire photo voltaic system, as a result of we’ll have created a robust financial forcing perform for the advance of area journey.” As we’ve beforehand mentioned, Musk subscribes to longtermist concepts in regards to the preservation of human consciousness by way of AI and area colonization — concepts that conveniently justify the extremity of his wealth and the continuance of any struggling, right here and now, that his wealth would possibly alleviate, if it have been redistributed.

MJR: The best way that Musk’s line goes is: Look, Earth is completed. Earth is over. It’s used up. Additionally, it’s principally a ticking time bomb that ultimately one thing goes to return and wipe out the one species that issues to him on Earth, which is to say humanity. One thing’s going to return for humanity quickly. This can both be nuclear struggle or will probably be AI gone rogue to destroy us, or will probably be an asteroid that hits us and wipes us out the way in which that it did the dinosaurs.

Elon Musk doesn’t have a tendency to speak a lot about international warming. Jeff Bezos does, however Musk doesn’t. So anyway, some catastrophe goes to return wipe out humanity. So both we go the way in which of the dinosaurs and we go extinct. Or we’ve bought to get the hell off this planet and discover a technique to colonize a backup planet in order that we’ve bought principally a backup drive for humanity, the place all the genius of human manufacturing may be preserved.

The place are we going to go? Venus is simply too sizzling. It’s 900 levels Fahrenheit. That could be a full non-starter. We’re not going to reside on Venus. The moon, I believe he simply thinks the moon form of sucks. It’s too shut by. His mentor, Bob Zubrin, will say of the moon: the cops are too shut. It solely takes three days to get there. Earthly regulation’s simply going to get you.

Mars then again, now there’s a planet. It’s not boiling like Venus. It’s good and much away. It’s like three to 4 months on a great day to get to Mars, six months to get to Mars on a nasty day. It simply takes some time. “Certain,” says Musk, “It’s a bit chilly,” he says. “However we are able to heat it up.” How will we heat it up? Properly, there have been all types of proposals for generations about bringing prebiotic goo which may seed itself over tens of hundreds of years, slowly into some form of soup which may ultimately develop into amoebas which may ultimately develop into complicated life in some unspecified time in the future.

This takes far too lengthy for Elon Musk. He says the planet will heat up loads sooner if we simply nuke it. Nuke the polar ice caps of Mars, create a greenhouse impact akin to the one that’s presently roasting the Earth and also you heat up a frozen planet. Is it radioactive there? Certain. He doesn’t actually care an excessive amount of. He says the radiation factor isn’t actually too large of a deal and we’ll simply reside underground in bunkers for some time till the planet turns into slightly extra hospitable by way of our nuclear weapons.

Sure, it’s a completely absurd plan. That having been mentioned, it doesn’t actually matter that it’s absurd due to the hearts and minds Musk has received within the course of. Will he ultimately get a mission to Mars? Yeah, I completely assume so. Will he ultimately get 1,000,000 folks to Mars to start out homesteading it? In all probability not, however that’s the imaginative and prescient that he wants with a view to promote the entire prospect of heading to Mars within the first place. And within the meantime, he’s bought the Starlink satellites, and within the meantime, he’s bought the NASA contracts.

What I’m attempting to say is I don’t assume Elon Musk, a non-public entrepreneur, would have gotten NASA to dump to him so a lot of its contracts — I don’t assume that he would’ve had the wherewithal to arrange this huge Starlink Constellation and not using a large imaginative and prescient that presents itself as humanitarian, as future-oriented, as ideologically pristine, which is to say it’s a imaginative and prescient of the salvation of humanity that’s going to happen on Mars.

And once more, when you form of shake off the ideological patina right here, you notice that Mars is horrible. It’s a horrible planet. When you get an invite to go homestead Mars, in all probability don’t do it. It’s unhealthy there. It’s actually unhealthy there. However I believe he wants that imaginative and prescient with a view to promote any of it.

KH: So, in Elon Musk, we’ve got a person whose preposterous concepts are propped up by excessive wealth, a cult of character, and one of the crucial absurd privatization gambits in U.S. historical past. However his present endeavors, like these of Jeff Bezos and different males who wish to rule area, are additionally propped up by a number of the similar concepts which have allowed the rich to loot and pillage the world we presently inhabit. As MJ writes in Astrotopia:

Given its equation of data of nature with energy over nature, Western techno-science must view the pure world as composed of objects slightly than topics. In spite of everything, if the mountaintops have been ancestors, then we couldn’t take away them. If the stones have been individuals, we couldn’t frack them. If the forests had spirits, we’d hesitate to clear-cut them.

MJR: So the purpose I’m attempting to make about Western technoscience, seeing the world as objects slightly than topics is completely indebted to the mid-century historian named Lynn White who writes this essay that at this level all people has learn and critiqued and mentioned that it really works or it doesn’t work, however the infrastructure stands. His argument there’s that capitalism and Western technoscience couldn’t have gotten off the bottom with out the Christian conquest of what Christianity calls paganism.

Now he’s talking in very broad gestures right here, however what he means is that for the Indigenous traditions that Christianity calls pagan, the world, the panorama is inhabited by an entire host of greater than human actors, brokers, topics. So non-human animals are topics in their very own proper. They’re brokers, they’ve their very own wills and wishes and communities and issues like that. Rivers are mentioned to be individuals, [as are] rocks even, bushes are mentioned to be individuals. Forests have both spirits or they themselves are communities of individuals.

And with a view to work together with a forest in this sort of animate panorama, if a forest is alive, with a view to work together with that forest, you need to speak to it. It’s important to discount with it, and you need to negotiate with it. If you wish to lower down a tree, for instance, you need to ask a forest’s permission. It’s important to ask the tree’s permission, you need to discover methods to make amends, to plant a tree elsewhere or one thing like that. So if the world consists of topics, then human wants don’t robotically supersede all people else’s wants. Humanity has to work together with different individuals on this planet to determine the best way to preserve the stability in these ecosystems.

One of many issues of a very unhealthy studying of Jewish and Christian theology, one impact of that is to see the pure world as simply composed of objects slightly than topics. So Genesis will inform us that people are made within the picture of God, however that nothing else is made within the picture of God. And actually, that people have dominion over the remainder of the world, that people have management over the remainder of the world. Taken by itself, there are all types of how to learn this passage, however when these passages workforce up with imperial politics, the understanding of Genesis turns into: human beings are principally gods on Earth. Human beings are answerable for all people else, and human beings are the one one which counts.

In order Christianity takes over the Indigenous, animist, pagan methods of regarding the panorama over, definitely the early trendy interval, what occurs is that more and more the world is seen as made up of objects, of issues to make use of and exploit slightly than topics, which is to say, beings with whom we’ve got to have interaction. It’s that form of mindset that capitalism wants to use as many sources as attainable, not simply what we’d like, however something we are able to get.

It’s that mindset that imperialism and frontierism must say, “This land belongs to us and we are able to form it in any means that we would like.” It’s this mindset after all, that’s permitting us to consider asteroids as sources and the moon as containing sources and the moon as a attainable gasoline station within the sky and Mars as one thing that might be nuked for human consolation.

KH: We’re speaking loads about conquest and visions for commerce in area, and as we all know, traditionally, conquest and militarism historically go hand in hand. When Donald Trump introduced the creation of the USA House Power in 2019, critics responded with memes and mockery. Netflix even rolled out a satirical comedy entitled “House Power,” starring Steve Carrell, the next yr. However in a dialogue of how Christian imperialist concepts are influencing the brand new area race, we’d be remiss if we didn’t talk about the disturbing implications of militarizing area.

MJR: The implications of militarizing area are unhealthy. My studying of the one vital piece of worldwide laws that we’ve bought, which is to say the 1967 Outer House Treaty. There’s a for much longer identify, but it surely’s normally known as the OST, the Outer House Treaty. My studying of this treaty is that it was attempting to say, pay attention, as human communities are headed up into area, we threat doing the sorts of issues in outer area that we’ve got accomplished on Earth, which is to say colonization, which is to say rivalry over land, growing militarization, competitors over sources, et cetera.

The final two world wars (we would say in 1967) have completely decimated the planet. Did they care in regards to the planet? In all probability not a lot, however have completely decimated the folks of the Earth and even simply the folks of the overdeveloped nations, the so-called First World, even when they’re simply involved about that. Europe principally destroyed itself over the course of those two world wars.

My studying of the 1967 Outer House Treaty is that the authors have been saying, “Let’s not do this once more. Let’s not do that once more. Let’s not do this sort of recreation of Threat once more in outer area the place issues are far more harmful now that we’ve discovered from what we are able to do to ourselves on Earth.” So there are some stipulations of the Outer House Treaty that say issues like, “No nation can personal a chunk of land in outer area.” You simply can’t. It’s the heritage of all humankind. So nations can’t personal it. We will’t place any nuclear weapons in outer area, et cetera. Once more, my understanding of the spirit of this legislation is to say you’ll be able to’t personal stuff and you may’t go to struggle in outer area, interval.

However after all, within the intervening many years, nations led by the U.S. have more and more discovered methods to search out loopholes, issues that they didn’t actually say and have discovered methods to say, truly, we can personal some stuff in outer area. Yeah, we are able to’t station weapons in outer area or station nuclear weapons, however perhaps we might fly nuclear weapons with out stationing them. Or perhaps that doesn’t apply to common weapons. Or if weapons are supposed for peaceable functions, then weapons are okay as a result of the Outer House Treaty says we’re supposed to make use of area for peace … so peaceable weapons are okay, however not nuclear weapons.

It appears to me that the creation of the House Power, the army theorists will inform you that is nothing new. That is simply the Air Power. That is what the Air Power has been doing for many years, simply to say they’ve been monitoring exercise in outer area. They’ve been growing anti-satellite expertise and both utilizing it or not utilizing it. Proper now, we’re not purported to be utilizing it. They’ve been monitoring attainable anti-satellite habits on the a part of different nations. The House Power was only a large media circus, but it surely’s actually simply purported to have been what the Air Power was doing all alongside.

I believe symbolically and politically and rhetorically, the creation of the House Power says that we don’t agree that area is meant to be a theater of peace. Relatively, it’s purported to be a theater of struggle. The best way that the U.S. has justified the creation of the House Power is by saying that Russia and China have already developed these capacities, due to this fact we have to develop them with a view to fend them off. Subsequently, the creation of the House Power is definitely within the pursuits of peace as a result of any defensive methods are literally peacekeeping methods slightly than aggressive methods.

From the attitude of Russia and China, they assume that that is an immense escalation of army presence in outer area and really feel like that is truly an unprecedented transfer. So now they’re going to need to do the identical they usually’re going to have to start out growing the militarization of outer area. This too is a whole mess.

KH: Now, we’ve got coated some fairly miserable floor right here, from area journey as the brand new pie within the sky, justifying our continued oppression, to imperialism in area. We’ve talked about how our fascination with area and our love of science fiction are being leveraged by wealth-hoarding billionaires with agendas which can be as depraved as they’re absurd. However as I discussed on the high of the present, I’m truly a fairly large fan of science fiction. I don’t imagine that our love of risk or our fascination with the heavens are the issue. What we’re is the exploitation of our awe, surprise and different worldly aspirations by the type of people that will exploit something with a view to additional consolidate wealth and amplify their very own significance. That form of co-optation may be fought in quite a lot of methods, however one factor I actually recognize about Astrotopia is MJ’s exploration of science fiction tales that don’t match the imperialist framing of area exploration that Musk and Bezos have laid out.

MJR: So the unhealthy information is that the way in which that the U.S. and more and more different nations (and definitely the capitalist sector) are approaching outer area is motivated by actually unhealthy tales. They’re motivated by unhealthy tales about human beings conquering land. About sure human beings mattering greater than different human beings. About the remainder of the biosphere not mattering in any respect. About future, about front room, respiration room for individuals who simply need more room. About some form of inherent want for people to need extra stuff and take up extra room. These are actually unhealthy tales. Once more, it’s my sense that loads of these tales come from a very icky studying of the Christian heritage.

The excellent news is there are different tales on the market. There are loads of different tales on the market, and that really many of the peoples of the world have tales which can be motivated by ethics of reciprocity with different residing beings and take care of the land and take care of the Earth, and of stewardship and giving again.

There are three locations that I wish to go to search for these tales. A type of locations is within the tales that the both displaced or nonetheless emplaced Indigenous communities of the world can inform about how it’s that we stay in relation to land. If land is known as peopled, as occupied by beings, and quite a lot of these communities – I’m pondering specifically of the Innuit of Bawaka Nation, and within the Outback of Australia – will even speak about not simply stewardship of Earth, however stewardship of area and the area methods too, that there’s an entire ecology that interrelates Earth and its neighbors within the cosmos. So there are higher tales there.

There are higher tales within the works of speculative fiction authors and science fiction authors who can take into consideration methods to even attempt to reside on actually inhospitable planets that don’t rely on destroying these planets with a view to reside there. There’s some nice work right here by Becky Chambers, by Annalee Newitz, by N.Okay. Jemisin. Actually, I do know lots of people have drawn closely on the work of Octavia Butler to consider new methods to reside among the many stars that not solely don’t replicate colonial methods, however that in truth converse to individuals who have been their targets and who’ve been oppressed by these sorts of methods. So utopias for individuals who have historically been oppressed on Earth. So there’s that form of fiction that provides us these new tales.

Then lastly, I believe there are counter-traditional methods to learn these biblical narratives themselves. When you have been to ask Pope Francis whether or not human beings have the fitting to destroy the planet and go conquer others, he’d be like, “It’s important to get your head examined. This can be a horrible technique to learn Genesis. You haven’t discovered something.”

It’s now not accepted as an honest studying of scripture that human beings are given the facility to do no matter they wish to the Earth, or that human beings are the one sentient beings on the planet, or that the planet is in some way right here for us to use. Neither the pinnacle of the Roman Catholic Church nor the pinnacle of the Anglican communion, nor the pinnacle of the Japanese Orthodox church buildings — none of them would say that it is a first rate studying of those texts. So there are modern methods of studying an ecologically delicate and even sturdy means of understanding these texts.

So these are principally the ways in which I look, the locations that I search for completely different sorts of tales. Once more, the tales of Indigenous people, significantly the tales of Black and Indigenous and queer and feminist speculative fiction authors, and the work of those ecologically adoring, even Christian and Jewish and Muslim philosophers themselves. The query is: How will we get these tales as entrenched on this planet of outer area because the outdated one is? That’s the problem. That’s the problem, to say there are different methods to reside. Individuals know the best way to do it. In reality, lots of people know the best way to do it. How will we flip these tales into coverage and the way will we flip these tales into observe? It’s at all times the activist wrestle.

KH: The query of how we flip our personal tales into coverage and observe is one we should preserve returning to. As we mentioned in our episode about longtermism, folks like Musk, as absurd as his concepts could be, have made nice strides with regard to social, financial and institutional energy. In order that’s one factor I would love folks to remove from this dialog — it’s not sufficient to dismiss the concepts of individuals like Musk as being outlandish or absurd. After all they’re absurd. Musk’s declare that he’s going to create a self-sustaining colony on Mars is utter nonsense, however it’s not sufficient to easily know or assert that. The world we inhabit has been carved up and ravaged by individuals who leveraged concepts that have been, in my view, no much less absurd. Tales have energy. The hopes that we provide folks, in bleak occasions, have energy. We’ve to know the enchantment of area as humanity’s final recourse, in these occasions of disaster and disaster, and we’ve got to construct motion narratives in opposition to that storytelling. Towards that finish, MJ had some parting recommendation for our listeners.

MJR: So the very first thing that I’d wish to warning is that we be suspicious of appeals to all of humanity. Once we hear considered one of these new age-based prophets telling us that the salvation of the human species depends upon conquering the cosmos on this means, we have to assume together with Sylvia Wynter about what the class of humanity means, whom they really need to save and what they really need to reserve it for. At stake isn’t the salvation of humanity. At stake is the salvation of a selected way of life and a selected means of constructing a ton of cash for very wealthy folks, provided that we reside on a finite planet whose sources we’re exhausting.

Capitalism depends on infinite development. We will’t have infinite development. We’re on a finite planet. So what we’re seeing proper now [are] convulsions of late stage capitalism; it’s realizing it’s reaching limits and is due to this fact in search of out different planets and utilizing this humanitarian declare as a justification for primarily financial ends. So we have to know that. That is simply as a lot of an ideological ploy as the concept that Spain wanted to overcome the Americas with a view to save Indian souls or one thing like that. So I’m recommending some suspicion in the case of these large grand narratives in regards to the salvation of all of humanity.

What we are able to do about it’s to affix… There truly are conversations that even NASA is holding about its insurance policies and its priorities. There have more and more been astronomers and activists and anti-colonial teachers and simply area geeks who’ve began speaking to NASA that they love area, however they don’t need to see area accomplished this explicit means. I believe that the extra folks whose voices are heard on this regard, the extra probably it’s that any person would possibly ultimately be listening.

But it surely’s not screaming into the void. They’re an growing variety of people who find themselves attempting to make themselves heard on this regard. So in case you’re an area geek, you’ll find methods to like area, to like the thought of studying from area, to like the thought even of perhaps attending to go there in some unspecified time in the future, however whereas discovering alternative ways to adore it and study from it than to ravage it.

KH: I’m so grateful for this dialog, and for MJ, and her fantastic ebook, Astrotopia. I believe the teachings this ebook provides about historical past, Christian imperialism, and the hazard of treating the pure world as objects, slightly than topics, are essential in these occasions. I additionally appreciated the ebook as a lifelong fan of science fiction, who occurs to imagine that storytelling is a battle for the long run. As a result of whereas my hopes for humanity are grounded right here, on Earth, I, like a lot of you, was raised on tales about area exploration. As I’ve usually informed buddies, watching Star Trek: Deep House 9 as a baby did extra to open my thoughts about imperialism, and the oppression of Palestine, than another affect I had encountered at that age. As a result of style fiction permits us to ask questions on ourselves and our world that we would not in any other case discover. Tales that defy the boundaries of our current expertise, and the worlds we all know, can elevate essential questions on who we’re, what we worth, and the place we must always and mustn’t enable innovation to take us. As MJ wrote in Astrotopia:

The place of our most poetic imaginations and our most obsessive calculations, area is the place the place artwork, science, literature, expertise, and faith all appeal to and repel each other in a vortical frenzy, promising this or that path towards enlightenment, that or this extra excellent existence.

Indulging the query of what if permits our imaginations to make new journeys and discoveries, and I imagine within the significance of these odysseys. That perception solely amplifies my contempt for folks like Musk and Bezos, who would exploit our sense of surprise, and our hope for the long run, to make sure our cooperation with their late capitalist agendas. The excellent news is that I imagine in our capability to inform higher tales. However what does that work appear like in observe? And the way will we handle the religion-shaped gap in folks’s lives that folks like Musk and Bezos are exploiting with cult-ish concepts and fantasies about area colonization? Properly, we can be speaking extra about that in an upcoming episode, once I’ll be in dialog with Aaron Goggans, the “Dream Gardener” of the WildSeed Society. I’m additionally thinking about listening to your concepts in regards to the narrative work forward of us, so in case you’re on Fb, you’ll want to be part of the Movement Memos Discussion Group, so we are able to mirror on these concepts collectively.

I additionally need to thank our listeners for becoming a member of us in the present day, and keep in mind, our greatest protection towards cynicism is to do good, and to keep in mind that the great we do issues. Till subsequent time, I’ll see you within the streets.

Present Notes


Uninterested in studying the identical outdated information from the identical outdated sources?

So are we! That’s why we’re on a mission to shake issues up and produce you the tales and views that usually go untold in mainstream media. However being a radically, unapologetically unbiased information website isn’t simple (or low-cost), and we depend on reader assist to maintain the lights on.

When you like what you’re studying, please contemplate making a tax-deductible donation in the present day. We’re not asking for a handout, we’re asking for an funding: Put money into a nonprofit information website that’s not afraid to ruffle a number of feathers, not afraid to face up for what’s proper, and never afraid to inform it like it’s.