I watched the BBC fictional documentary Voyage to the Planets which reminded me of the bigger picture of space exploration.
It helps us see our planet from the outside, as a whole, as one ecological and social system, as the larger body for each one of us and humanity as a whole. It helps shift our awareness into a global sense of us, realizing that what we do to the larger whole is what we do to ourselves.
Us is no longer a group of humanity, or even the whole of humanity. It is the earth as a whole, with its complex ecological systems, species and individuals. In this sense, space exploration is one of the ways the earth brings itself as a whole, as one living system, into awareness.
Space exploration is also, in a quite literal way, how the universe explores itself. As Carl Sagan once said, we are the local eyes, ears, feelings and thoughts of the universe. And space exploration is one of the ways this universe, through humans, brings more of itself into awareness.
Space exploration is the first step in the Earth, as a living system, reproducing itself. It is the beginning of the birth of new living planets in our solar system, through terraforming of dead ones.
Space exploration is also the beginning of humanity as a multi-planet species, which is of benefit to our long term survival and would help this particular sense and awareness organ of the universe to hang around and evolve a little bit longer.
Although the episodes didn’t explicitly bring in this context, I thought the episodes were very well made. It made a possible future manned mission to several planets in the solar system seem sexy, gritty and real.
So why not do something similar with a sustainable, or thrivable, future? It could be a glimpse into a society where those forming it act from a global and ecological sense of us, in a very practical and real way.
It could be a society where what is easy to do, individually and collectively, is also what benefits the larger ecological and social whole. Shifting taxes away from work, and to what does not support the larger social and ecological whole, is a good start.
It could be a society where buildings and factories clean the air and water that goes through them, and produce food of its waste products. Where energy is produced cleanly and locally. Where communities are organized around humans and basic human needs, not around cars.
This is not an utopia. There are already many examples of each of these, and they could serve as models and be extended upon for such a documentary, serving as a guide for choices we make today, and making such a future a little more real for us.