Greens and Gaia and Life in the Universe
Many of us are space enthusiasts (directly or indirectly) because of Stewart Brand's "Space Colonies" book. Steward Brand is professionally trained as an ecologist (under Ehrlich at Stanford). Brand labels himself a "turquoise", a green with business savvy. He writes and consults on the confluence of profitability and /real/ sustainability. I strongly recommend Brand's recent book, "Whole Earth Discipline".
Brand's friend James Lovelock is the polymath atmospheric instrumentation scientist who discovered the accumulation of fluorocarbons in the atmosphere. Lovelock invented the term "Gaia" as a description of the self-regulating biosphere. I also recommend Lovelock's books, as well as "Revolutions that Made the Earth" by his academic disciples Linton and Watson.
Before we pretend to build new biospheres off the Earth, we should learn more about the processes that created and sustains the biosphere/lithosphere we depend on now.
Oregon has a small and mostly moribund NSS chapter. A younger group calling itself "Shiny Green" is more active and creative regards space colonization. Yes, they are a "Gaia cult", with rituals and meditation, yikes! They also study the synergistic collaboration of nature with technology, especially information technology, aware of Heinlein's dictum that specialization is for insects. Though I go my own way, they learn from me, and I learn from them. Sadly, the NSS people are less educated and more dogmatic, though that may be a result of poorly managed aging and too much television.
Most greenoramuses are actually "watermelons", green on the outside, red on the inside, mostly envious and focused on tearing down the successful. Yes, they have bad mental habits. So do we all. We won't improve if we focus on the splinter in their eye while ignoring the lumber yard in our own.
Most technoconsumptionists seem focused on "use it all up quickly, we will find more elsewhere", with no scintilla of evidence that there is "more" anywhare we can reach. The dogma seems to be that Earth is disposable, while rockets should be reusable (though not the impossible-to-replace helium pressurant), a strange combination of beliefs. Many technoconsumptionists also demand vast sums of federal tax dollars to fund their technological fantasies, so they are also "red" on the inside.
My own goals for planet Earth are "ten billion people, ten kilowatts each, ten billion years". Damned ambitious, given current solar evolution trends and current open-loop terrestrial resource usage. We must reshape the solar system and even the sun itself to achieve this, and (even more difficult), we must reshape ourselves.
We must create needed resources off the earth from undifferentiated basaltic and metal alloy glop, in an extremely life-hostile environment, reshaping planets and moons with accelerated, artificial versions of the multi-billion year processes that shaped the earth.
So far, we have demonstrated our "ability" to rapidly run those separation processes in reverse. Yes, some concentrations of some materials flicker briefly into existence as they cycle towards landfills, but at the expense of a vast and unacknowledged entropy flow into nature. So far, we are poor managers of terrestrial systems, and even worse accountants. I optimistically assume we will learn to do much better.
100x acceleration (insanely ambitious!) of Earth-like development elsewhere means working for tens of millions of years to create a living solar system. That is the opposite of depleting Earth of its self-regulation, biodiversity, and beneficiated ores in a small fraction of a millenium. If "using the Earth" means "using it up", than that is hostile to the long term expansion into space; it means the conquest of the living Earth by a harsh, lifeless universe.
Defending our planet and promoting the expansion of life and mind in the cosmos requires "turquoise" thinking, a blend of advanced technological and ecological discovery, engineering, training, and management. Listening to all voices, and distilling the best of all thought.
Yes, there is much nonsense to identify and discard, starting with our own. That opens up new communication channels, and frees brainspace for effective thinking. The synergistic collaboration of ten billion people for a billion years will bring life to the entire galaxy, not brief and beggaringly expensive stunts in space.