It’s something out of a bad dream—or a mediocre sci fi story. The Earth is becoming uninhabitable, so a wealthy fraction of humanity hitches a ride offworld to live in a shopping mall under the dominion of the corporation that wrecked the planet in the first place. Meanwhile, conditions on Earth approach infernal. Meanwhile, the space colony amplifies every earthly social crisis thanks to unreliable technology, tight living quarters, and the oligarchic control of information, water, and air. We know this story never ends well, but the present moment finds us buying it wholesale from a few charismatic CEOs in agonistic partnership with the big national space agencies. This is the era of “Space 4.0,” or “NewSpace.”
This lecture seeks to explain the intensifying “NewSpace race” as a mythological project. In particular, it reveals the escalating desire to colonize other planets as a boundless extension of the particularly Christian style of “dominion” that globalized the Earth. From the Doctrine of Discovery that “gave” Spain the New World through the Manifest Destiny that carried white Americans across the continent, the Christian imperial myth of “human” supremacy has justified genocide and ecocide as “necessary means” toward utopian ends. Now with the advent of NewSpace industries, the exploitative ethos of European colonialism has been unleashed outward in all directions, burnished with a half-religious assurance that everywhere we go is ours, and every land is our Promised Land
The question, then, is whether there might be a different approach to exploring outer space. Is there a way to learn from other planets, moons, and asteroids without exploiting them? Is there a way to see land as important in its own right, rather than a mere container for “resources”? How might we inhabit outer space without bringing our most destructive tendencies along with us? And might we find ways to heal our ravaged Earth in the process?