In the guise of sounding environmentally concerned, Amazon founder and Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos has lofty futuristic plans. He explains in a recent CBS News interview why he’s pouring much of his fortune into his Blue Orbit space-exploration company to move “pollution generating industries” into space.
This idea, suggested as a means to save our planet, is coming from the same man who in September purchased 20,000 diesel-powered Mercedes-Benz Sprinter delivery vans — not one electric vehicle among them — in stark contrast to companies like UPS, which is expanding its electric fleet and using best practices to reduce their environmental impact.
In fact, environmental leadership at Amazon is so bad that over 4,500 employees are pushing Bezos to stop peddling technology that aids in oil and gas exploration and to take a real stand to reduce the company’s massive carbon footprint.
Seen in this light, does Bezos’ seemingly magnanimous rationale for his space company’s contribution toward saving Earth still sound right to anyone?
The fact that the mainstream news media doesn’t even question Bezos’ preposterous and misguided priorities and hypocritical actions only underscores a collective misunderstanding of the urgency of what realistically needs to be done to save our planet.
With the massive amount of focus and money it would take to move our filthy, wasteful ways to space stations, the moon, or other planets, we could instead be directing all of those resources toward developing the best nonpolluting technologies on Earth.
I’m as excited as the next person about the idea of exploring space. But squandering precious resources on these types of plans at this critical moment seems more like a push for short-term profits for private space companies than a viable strategy to help save humans and over 50 percent of all species on Earth possibly doomed to extinction by the year 2050 if action isn’t taken now.
The sane priority is to mobilize all hands on deck to save our planet so that after we have overcome this crisis we can flourish, create and explore humankind’s greatest potentials — even in space. Otherwise, we will surely be facing endless years of damage control or even flat-out extinction.
A recent United Nations report says we have less than 12 years to mitigate the most dire effects of global warming. To not only meet but beat that deadline will take more cooperation, dedication and talent than any space mission. The message to convey is not only that we can do this, but that we must do this.
The pervasive childlike magical thinking that we have the time and luxury to not focus our science, technological and space-related research and development on solving our planet’s climate crisis seems to have hypnotized our generation at a time that is screaming out for us to take clear and sober action.
I recently saw “Apollo 11: The Immersive Live Show,” now playing in the Lunar Dome at the Rose Bowl, a story of human potential exemplified by the Apollo missions. Yet, this production also sends a misguided message that Earth’s ability to sustain life won’t last very long, so we have to focus on our space endeavors to colonize other planets.
In other words, even though the story celebrates our great achievements in space, it simultaneously suggests that we somehow cannot harness the same ingenuity to save our own planet.
How realistic is it to suggest that we can just hop on a spaceship to another planet without trying to save our own? That might work in a science fiction film, but in reality that type of mindset would only lead to unprecedented suffering by all of Earth’s life forms.
And Mars might be good for explorers and industry, but even in bad shape, Earth would still be more habitable.
These escape-to-space ideations dangerously distract from the real work in front of us to clean up our own mess on Earth.
Suggesting that right now our primary focus should be colonizing other planets or building polluting factories in space promotes an unsettlingly and apparently widespread sense of normalcy around the concept of mass extinction.
The Apollo missions conveyed hope for the great feats we can achieve by working together. As we celebrate the anniversary of the moon walk, which fuels excitement and discussion around future space exploration, let us not forget that our innovative spirit is exactly what is needed to help us confront and overcome the many problems that we currently face here at home.
Robin Streichler is a Los Angeles-based writer who has written for National Geographic Television. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.