Bush, Mars, Peak Oil, and Manifest Destiny
Oil is not just about transportation, it is about virtually everything made in an industrial society (plastics for instance). It is about food supply - which covers planting and harvesting, fertilizer, processing, and transportation. It is about the energy that gets used to run electric power plants. The loss of oil is about the death of mass civilization (and the populations in it).
Bold vision or grand deception?
President Bush announced his plans for the Moon, Mars, and beyond. The starter steps are to create new launch vehicles, then get back to the Moon and establish a base, then mine the Moon and at the same time head for Mars where yet another "colony" might be started. This vision is supposed to ignite the imaginations of young "Americans." It is supposed to give us hope and purpose. There are some issues though.
The bold plan is placed clearly within a revised doctrine of manifest destiny. This is not a vision for the "human race," nor truly for "international cooperation" (though there was a belated "invitation" to join this herculean effort). In fact, in taking this "new step," the US is planning to abandon its support of the international space station, and existing tools, such as the Hubble telescope, also seem slated for the trash heap (NASA Cancels Trip to Supply Hubble, Sealing Early Doom, Overbye, NYT, 1/17/04).
This "bold vision" is also not about the friendly exploration of space. It is not about extending our knowledge in any general way. Indeed, it follows the same "vision" that the Bush administration has had since dreaming GW into the Whitehouse - empire and corporate profits. The "new" reach beyond the Earth occurs in the context of the clearly stated US plan to control space for military purposes, and thereby rule the Earth and its inhabitants. [For one write up on this see Mission to Mars for Military Benefit, not Just "Spirit of Discovery", Daily Mislead, 1/16/04).]
It is no surprise that many aspects of space control are on the same schedule. You might want to look at the following reports: The Air Forces 2025 Final Report, Executive summaries of Joint Vision documents, US Space Command Vision 2020 (This file is in adobe format. When you click the link wit will download the file and then you can open it.) The clear intent is US military domination of space.
Another aspect of the Bush vision is to get corporations involved. The current shuttle program seems to be on the auction block, with more active involvement to come. Note the following quote from Hearing on Space Launch Initiative: Testimony by Tom Rogers:
Our Country would finally begin to set aside the dependence upon the kind of old fashioned Cold War thinking that still undergirds the financing of our civil space program. In doing so we would create a novel new entitlement program to underwrite our astronauts striding across the solar system for the decades and centuries ahead. But, in a creative financing fashion that replicates the creative substance of this absolutely unique national program, it would expect the recipient of the entitlement payments, NASA, to lead in the creation the national wealth from which the entitlement payments were made! Our human Moon/Mars activities would thereby become economically focussed -- economically here on Earth!
It is no accident that part of the plan is the mining of both the Moon and Mars. The exploitation of resources here on Earth is getting to the bottom of the barrel (some pun intended). When resources are exhausted on our planet, then the plan is apparently to turn to the rest of the solar system to strip it bare as well. While the Moon may not be made of swiss cheese, in the not so distant future it may well look like it is.
There are immediate threats to planet Earth and to the "advanced" civilizations that reside here. In relationship to resources and their impacts we have a global petroleum based economy, global warming, and the loss of fresh water supplies. There are plenty of good resources to access about the oil crisis. Michael Ruppert at From the Wilderness has been writing extensively about this for years and has excellent resource links. A newer site is Life After the Oil Crash by Matt Savianar - also excellent.
The oil crisis is known as the "Peak Oil Crisis." In essence, oil is not a renewable resource. The use of that limited resource has been accelerating. We will run out (interestingly enough the optimistic estimates are ... 2020). Some say, "Oh, we'll find another energy source," but that is not too likely. The reason is that oil is not just about transportation, it is about virtually everything made in an industrial society (plastics for instance). It is about food supply - which covers planting and harvesting, fertilizer, processing, and transportation. It is about the energy that gets used to run electric power plants. The loss of oil is about the death of mass civilization (and the populations in it).
The structure of corporate globalization has dramatically increased the use (and dependence) on oil. The overwhelming majority of products (including food) shipped around the globe is carried on massive cargo ships - and I mean massive. Without that transport, there would be virtually no mass cargo movement. The development of high energy consumers is seen as "growth" and "progress" - witness the massive industrialization of China which will ultimately bring 1 billion plus Chinese to the mass oil consumption level of the US. [I really don't think the oil will last that long).
Of course with the massive consumption of oil comes environmental destruction in all kinds of forms from oil spills to toxic chemicals from processing to global warming emissions. While global warming is its own issue, it cannot be unlinked from the massive consumption of fossil fuels - particularly oil. Global warming will result in massive environmental transformation, the deaths of species, and the deaths of humans in mass numbers. One small example is the 10,000 plus people who died in France due to the heat last summer, and on a grander scale, hundreds of thousands are expected to die on a yearly basis.
Related to oil, globalization and environment is the issue of fresh water supplies. Fresh water only makes up about 2% of the entire planet's water. It is being destroyed at a tremendous rate and is becoming a very corporately desired resource. Oil extraction is a part of the destruction as fresh water supplies are used to force oil from the ground. What remains is a highly mineralized discharge. Fresh water is also directly linked to global warming in (at least) two ways. One is that much of the fresh water is stored in the polar ice caps which are melting at a tremendous rate, and secondly the melting of other glacial and snow pack sources.
So with all of this bad news - shrinking resources, climate changes, environmental destruction - all intertwined with the same issues, there are directions for governments to go. One direction would be to focus efforts on alternative energy, environmental protection, and localization of food supplies. In other words, address the environmental issues and transition to a non-oil based global economy. This would be a monumental human endeavor. The other direction is to engage in processes to control the resources. The US has clearly decided that the way to go is to form an empire based on extreme military might and threat to gain sole control of oil resources. The reality is that while this vision draws on the perception of a "God given right" to all the US desires, it is not the US that will survive. Ultimately it will be an elite that is somewhat buffered from some of these problems. If there are viable colonies on the Moon and Mars, it will not be the "average" US citizen who will find a home there.
So Bush has presented us with a bold vision to inspire the imagination; to give a long term focus to the hopes of a people. That vision draws upon a deep seated ethnocentrism, and sense of imperial rights that runs deep in the US cultural system. It draws upon the worst in the culture while painting it as a vast adventure - another conquering from sea to shining sea. For those who grasp the militarism of this dream, the pull is that it is the US first and always. The US is the best and if anyone should have total control (even if it means the unfortunate death of billions of others), that is just a sad reality.
Bush has stated that this new step to the stars is a worthy goal for the country. He states that the developments needed will push our imaginations and engage our labors. Unstated, but implied, is that the "conquest" of the Moon and Mars is an appropriate goal for an empire - this empire. I think I could envision an equally engaging alternative that would serve us far better.
Let's focus our energies on creating a sustainable environment, eliminate the use of oil and fossil fuels as a basis for survival, pull together with the rest of the human race for the survival of the human race. This simple endeavor would challenge the human race in a way that no other vision can. It requires working in peace and cooperation. It requires the engagement of minds, technologies, and labor to redevelop a world that does not consume the planet on which we live. It requires all of us to think in totally new ways about our relationships to each other and the Earth. It requires going in a totally different direction than most of the species has been going for the last 10,000 years.
It is easy to present a plan to take us off the planet. In the US it builds on deeply held values and cultural stories. It follows the rutted path of conquest and colonization, exploitation and destruction. In fact, it doesn't even question the validity and viability of that world view. This is no bold vision - it is simply an elaboration of a vision that is destroying us and the entire planet. A truly bold vision would take us in a different direction. It would uplift us and call to the most honorable aspects of ourselves. Bush's vision does not do any of this, and it will not save "us." Most of us will die. Most of the species on the planet will die. The Earth will look like those amazing pictures from Mars - a vast desert which will not support anything beyond specialized microbes and bacteria. Follow "the dream" of conquering the Moon and Mars and Earth will look just like them. I would argue that we truly need a much different "dream" in order to survive - a dream that captures the HUMAN imagination and spirit, and is for the good of all of us who share this precious place we call Earth.
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