Big congratulations to Jeff Bezos, who rode torturous working conditions for his employees, an avalanche of monopolization that put small business into the dirt, and a rocket ship that looks like a penis into 10 minutes in low-Earth orbit.
Bezos and his space tourism company, Blue Origin, see this as the first step towards mining space for resources that humans can use on Earth. As reported in Politico, Bezos got this bad, utopian idea from a Princeton professor Gerard O'Neill, whom Bezos met as a student.
Bezos is not alone in promoting grandiose ideas for sustaining human existence while also enriching himself. Elon Musk has a whole brand built on this sort of thing. He also wants to build a Mars colony. Mars, by the way, is an unlivable deathtrap.
There are really only two goals for futurist-capitalists like Bezos and Musk. One is to colonize other planets for human habitation after Earth has been made unlivable. The second is mining planets, asteroids, and comets for water and metals — an idea I can't believe anyone takes seriously. Take the problem of water: Water scarcity is an issue on Earth because humans are catastrophically bad at using it efficiently, even when we're not simply dumping feces and industrial pollution into it. While there are certainly water crises on Earth, the solution is not launching to space and mining ice from an asteroid with technology that doesn't exist. It needs to be managed, kept clean, and made available, but water is here. Earth has water.
Nearby asteroids don't. The grand total of asteroids that are even conceivably within grasp of any kind of mining is 28. An estimate of all near-Earth asteroids' freshwater supply, about 20,000 asteroids, calculated that they collectively contain between 100-400 billion gallons of water. That is approximately the amount of water the United States uses in one day.
There are no answers for humanity's current crises in space. I live in Minneapolis, a city famous for brutal winters and tolerable summers. It's been above 90oF for about eight weeks straight now, setting multiple local temperature records. Is Bezos going to find a new climate out in space?
The only correct thing to do, instead of fly to space and play Buzz Lightyear, is fix the only planet we have. All the things wrong with Earth now — catastrophic heat, deadly floods, droughts that arrive like accelerating clockwork — can still be fixed. There is no need for doomerism or hopelessness or bonkers ideas about space. Focus on Earth.
It is extremely clear that Bezos, Musk, and their ilk don't have humanity's best interests at heart. It only makes sense that space colonization and mining wouldn't really help ease humanity's suffering so much as it would make them both richer. On Blue Origins website is a vision statement:
“In order to preserve Earth, Blue Origin believes that humanity will need to expand, explore, find new energy and material resources, and move industries that stress Earth into space."
This is nothing more than a tacit admission, from Bezos himself, that capitalism can't coexist with human life. Incredibly, I agree with him. But flying to space on their phallic rocket ships isn't going to help. That will just leave us with the problems – climate change, poisoned water, income inequality – that Bezos and the others profited off of. They've demonstrated they cannot responsibly reinvest their wealth — so we'll need to do it for them. The only just thing to do is tax those robber barons into destitution and never speak their names again. We can put that money to better use on Planet Earth.