|Will The "Green" Steamroller Flatten NewSpace?|
|Written by Jeff Krukin|
|Wednesday, 27 February 2008|
Green, green, green; you just can't escape it. The environmental movement has finally leaped that last hurdle from fringe movement to mainstream public issue. How can you tell? Businesses of every shape and size are stepping all over themselves to demonstrate their environmental consciousness, and this is only happening because of consumer demand... which reflects consumer concerns. Will NewSpace survive?
Now that "Green" is as good as gold, there is the danger of overdoing it, of losing sight of the rational balance between economic development and protecting the environment. The more the pendulum swings toward the environment, the easier it becomes for politicians to prevent economic development, especially of anything that smacks of being a toy or playground for the wealthy and useless to society at large.
Enter NewSpace, especially the soon-to-be highly visible sub-orbital commercial spaceflight business. There's already enough press about this being just another binge for the yacht and fox-hunting crowd, and with the first flights expected to include publicity-loving Hollywood heavies, that image will only grow.
I realize it's easy to ignore this, to say I'm making a huge deal out of nothing, and perhaps I am. But wouldn't it be wise for the NewSpace industry to be prepared, just in case? I offer two anecdotes as examples of what we face, both relating to the "Overview Effect" (written about earlier). Last July, the world's first Overview Effect Day event was held the day before the Space Frontier Foundation's NewSpace 2007 conference. After my talk, the first question I was asked was about the atmospheric damage that will be caused by these wealthy people flying into space. Last week, at the International Space University's annual symposium, Frank White (author of "The Overview Effect"), gave a talk on the Effect. He received one question when he concluded, and what do you think it was? That's right, he was asked how the environment will be hurt by thousands of people flying into space.
Setting aside the statistical insignificance (from a pollution perspective) of these flights, there is an absurdity at play here. After learning how seeing the Earth from space gives people a greater sense of the fragility and importance of our environment, the only way some people can respond is with concern about the pollution caused by the space vehicles. The Green Mantra has become so embedded in our political thinking and culture-at-large that for some it has become the de facto filter through which all other activities must be viewed. It doesn't matter what that other activity may be, it doesn't matter whether it will ultimately benefit the environment, it only matters that some amount of new damage will be caused... no matter how small.
Be wary of taking "Green" too far, of losing our ability to make careful and thoughtful decisions. And if companies continue their headlong drive to tint every ad green, it won't be long before we're all green with nausea.
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