Before I start this week’s rant I want to give a mention to the end of the Arctic melting days.
I’ve been following Arctic temperatures. I’ve learned that while temperatures in the Arctic behave erratically most of the year, there’s great regularity during the time the temperatures are above freezing. It almost always lasts about 70 days and temperatures rarely get more than 2 degrees Celsius above 0.
The 2018 Arctic melting season should end by about Aug. 20. The temperatures right now are a little high for this close to the end, so I’m asking everybody to send their thoughts and prayers north for a timely end to the melting season. Since I know no one will do anything about global warming, ever.
But, hey! We finally may get the space cadets we’ve been promised since the days of Tom Corbett and the Solar Guard!
Our planet’s climate is being ruined, homelessness is on the rise in the nation’s cities and health care is still too expensive, but Trump is going to start a Space Force with our tax money.
Meanwhile, a bunch of billionaires are out to exploit space, using money they saved up by not paying their workers enough to keep them from needing food stamps.
Elon Musk wants to plant long-term colonies on Mars. People are seriously saying his colonies will enable humanity to survive the future die out of human life on Earth by war or pestilence or climate change.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and express a tentative humble opinion that if Musk can find the means to set a colony down on Mars that can survive in the face of 38 percent Earth gravity in global desert conditions, having to drink water made by melting ice and extracting perchlorates, then maybe he could find the means to restore Lake Chad in Africa. I’m just saying.
On the plus side, Musk has delivered the coolest videos of rockets landing on barges I ever thought I would see.
Richard Branson has a much more modest goal. He just wants to make money selling suborbital space rides to millionaires. I like that idea. Squeeze every dollar you can out of those millionaires, Richard. You go.
But the scary winner of the award for best plan to exploit space goes to Jeff Bezos.
Bezos doesn’t care so much about going to Mars. He knows what I’ve known for decades: That the real New Frontier of space isn’t all the way out to Mars and isn’t even all the way to the moon. It’s right over our heads. He wants to build orbiting colonies around Earth, which will sustain themselves initially by providing for space tourism, then ultimately by manufacturing.
I’ve seen many articles describing Bezos’ dream as a rich man’s hobby. It’s not. If he builds factories in Earth orbit he will become a trillionaire.
The reason is factories in space have design potentials that are literally out of this world. The factories will be able to create new materials and products that can’t even be imagined now.
Sure, it means there will have to be moon and/or asteroid mining. But once orbiting colonies are in place, such mining for raw materials for the colonies’ factories will be easier than sending expeditions to Mars.
As expensive as that mining will be, the gain in being able to manufacture under a far wider range of conditions than on Earth will more than make up for those costs.
The profits from dropping finished goods back down on Earth will be enormous, because they will be goods that couldn’t be made down here. The colonies’ factories will have a huge competitive advantage.
All this is great but scary. Part of the idea is that the colonies will serve as arks for humanity. Jeff Bezos wants to turn the Earth into a park by evacuating it. The underlying assumption is dark and unrealistic.
Even Bezos can’t pull off a space evacuation of all the billions of humans. The Earth won’t be a park with a sparse human presence unless there’s a vast human die-off.
Then there’s the question: How much of the profits of space manufacturing will go to the colonists who make it possible? Once you’ve gone to work at a space factory, what will a gallon of milk cost at the company store? Will the company guarantee housing, or will workers have to rent? Will Bezos export homelessness into space?
To answer, consider Jeff Bezos’ track record for sharing profits.
Dr. Wes Browning is a one time math professor who has experienced homelessness several times. He supplied the art for the first cover of Real Change in November of 1994 and has been involved with the organization ever since. This is his weekly column, Adventures in Irony, a dry verbal romp of the absurd.
Check out the full Aug. 15 - Aug. 21 issue.
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