SpaceX and Tesla head honcho Elon Musk wants to colonize Mars within the next century or so, and his big plans for eventually having a million people on the Red Planet have garnered a lot of attention as of late. And while critics have taken aim at how there are a lot of unknown variables, including extremely frigid Martian climate and a possible lack of fuel for the spacecraft sending people to Mars, that could make such plans implausible, the subjects of ethics and humanity’s responsibility to take care of our planet have been cited as cases to be made against Martian colonization.
In a new op-ed published Friday in the Fresno Bee, Fresno State University professor of philosophy Andrew Fiala discussed what he thinks about Elon Musk’s Mars colonization ambition, which would have humanity becoming a “multiplanetary species,” due to the possibility of an extinction event hitting Earth at some time in the future. Focusing mainly on ethics, Fiala wrote that it’s more important that people try to sort out their issues on Earth and prove that they do care for the planet before anyone could ever think of colonizing another planet.
“Until we evolve ethically, we ought not leave this planet and destroy another,” he wrote.
“The colonizing impulse is connected to the hubris that created the climate catastrophe.”
Talking about who on Earth may be affected most by climate change and its after-effects, Fiala opined that people from poor and developing countries, or “countries we don’t care about,” may be the ones who suffer the most, with people from industrialized nations such as the United States being the last to feel the pinch. That brought him to another key point in his deconstruction of Elon Musk’s plan for Mars colonization — it may only be the upper crust of society who could afford to travel to the Red Planet.
Currently, the costs of sending people to Mars are quite prohibitive, to the point that only the richest people in the world could afford it. According to Recode, the estimated cost of sending 12 people to Mars is approximately $10 billion per head. But SpaceX founder and CEO Musk noted that he wants to whittle down the price to something in the neighborhood of a “median house price in the United States,” meaning about $200,000 per person.
That, according to Andrew Fiala’s Fresno Bee op-ed, is still way too high for the average American and a sign that even if the cost of Martian travel is drastically reduced, the rich may still be the only ones to afford what Elon Musk is planning. Mars colonization, in other words, may only be a luxury few people can enjoy, and in Fiala’s point of view, a violation of the principles of environmental justice.
“It seems especially unfair for rich people, who already burn more than their fair share of carbon, to head off planet, leaving behind a ruined world inhabited by poor people with no hope of departure.”
The Fresno Bee opinion piece isn’t the first one to wax eloquent on the ethical dilemmas posed by one man’s plan to colonize a new planet. Last year, TechCrunch wrote that Musk’s Mars ambitions are an example of how capitalism and consumerism have turned the human race into a parasitic one, where we may potentially be “moving (from) planet to planet, sucking life out of each one for our own survival.” Like the aforementioned Andrew Fiala, TechCrunch‘s Shivika Sinha posited that it’s ultimately more important for us to preserve planet Earth and care for our environment, and for Musk to ensure that his plans are “brightly illuminated and worthy” of a move to another planet.
Do you agree that Elon Musk’s Mars colonization plans are unethical and impractical due to the high probability that Martian travel would only be available to more affluent individuals? Or do you think that he should be commended for his bold ambition to save humanity from potential extinction?
[Featured Image by Mike Windle/Getty Images for Vanity Fair]