Arne Næss stipend
Tentative title: Environmental Ethics in Outer Space - Long-term sustainability of Terrestrial Life.
The main objective of my master project is to contribute to an establishment of an ethical foundation for space exploration and future settlements, in the name of long-term sustainability of terrestrial life. My research is thus aiming to be a contribution to the increasingly important field of Space Ethics.
By merging environmental philosophy, environmental ethics and the young and fluid space ethics, and placing this debate in a framework of natural sciences such as evolutionary biology, evolutionary psychology, astrobiology and planetary science, this project embarks on questions of environmental preservation in space, of extreme adaptation, of the human legacy and of socio-politics in space.
Are abiotic extraterrestrial environments nature? Do they have intrinsic value? Does extraterrestrial microbial life have moral standing? Will some of us become a Homo Martianus? Who owns the Martian land, and how would we manage a teenager on Mars?
By visualizing the complex physical and psychological relationship between human beings and the natural environment, this thesis searches for an ecospherical sane ethical foundation for our future existence.
The astrobiological framework offers crucial insights to the possibilities of future human existence and sustainability, of existential risks, of the delicacy of our current life, and it offers help placing this search for ethics, a search that limited to Earth seems to continuously run into obstacles, in a sphere void of most such limitations, and potentially explodes the borders of the thinking sphere, possibly revealing unprecedented answers.
The main rational for this research stems from a deep concern for the present state of the natural environment, with us humans within it, and a main conviction that our current way of being human is not sustainable in the long run. Being human at a time where our origin and our sources for survival and well-being are so profoundly, both physically and psychologically, disconnected from our daily life, seems to me to be a matter of environmental philosophy and ethics. I see this conceptual foundation for our existence in a crumbling condition, where its tremors can be traced to a landscape of social, cultural and health issues the modern human seem to struggle with, and I thus find it hard to envision a well-functioning and well-feeling future human, by continuing along our current path.
I therefore believe it must be the main focus to reconstruct our mindset and challenge the ethical and philosophical foundation of our understanding. The principles of such a reconstruction should then establish an ethical foundation for long-term sustainability. By expanding the ethical terrain to the spatio-temporal scale of the universe, we theoretically encounter extraterrestrial environments, extraterrestrial indigenous life and extraterrestrial intelligent life. Accompanying these scenarios follows a variation of existential risks, in addition to the ones we create ourselves.
Another more personal rational stems from a deep moral despair concerning our universal legacy as an intelligent species. By being part of the anthropocene epoch's destructive manners, and as sentient and conscious beings, I argue that emotions do matter, also, and maybe even in particular, in respect to such massive and fundamental questions.