Ray Reece : A Luddite’s Prayer to Gaia

“Space Junk” by Todd M. Bacastow / academics.uww.edu.

Stop the (lunar) madness:
A Luddite’s prayer to Gaia

By Ray Reece / The Rag Blog / February 16, 2010

In the New York Times Online of 11 February, columnist Ross Douthat writes disapprovingly in his blog of his suspicion that Barack Obama is hellbent on terminating the U.S. “manned spaceflight” program administered by NASA. He quotes a chap named Christopher Caldwell to the effect that the “decision to abandon moon exploration has ‘decline’ written all over it.” Meaning the decline of the American empire.

Douthat bitterly adds that “the decision in question belongs to all of us, and not just to Barack Obama. The administration wouldn’t be cutting the manned spaceflight program if Americans were still enthusiastic about going to the stars — if space exploration still occupied a privileged place in our imagination, if our jocks still wanted to be astronauts and our nerds still wanted to build rockets. Obama is simply bowing to our culture’s priorities.”

I was so thrilled by this speculation that I fired off a comment on Douthat’s post. I saw the next day that my comment was #83 out of 87, and not a single reader had “recommended” it. Thus did I taste oblivion again as a sender of dispatches to America’s media paragons. And I asked myself: Is it not for such reasons as this that we freethinkers and malcontents have brave new alternatives like The Rag Blog? I offer herewith my slightly edited comment on Ross Douthat’s post that day.

A few months ago, when NASA divulged its intent to resurrect its manned lunar program, indeed to establish a permanent humanoid “colony” on the moon, I gnashed my teeth and rent my clothes. I had the same reaction to photos I saw of a dust plume rising from the spot on the moon where NASA deliberately crashed a toxic rocket, ostensibly in search of ice on the moon, i.e. water, wherewith to quench the thirst of the future colonists.

The prospect of NASA’s humanoids setting their leaden feet on Mars is equally repugnant to me. I pray to Gaia, the Greek goddess of the biosphere, that Ross Douthat is correct in his assumption that the U.S. manned spaceflight program is now in its death throes. I pray to Gaia that Russia and China don’t scramble to fill the void. I pray to Gaia that the “space tourism” enterprises of ego-maniacs like Richard Branson crash on the rocks of global economic contraction.

The launching of humanoids into space, starting with Sputnik in 1957, has always been above all a manifestation of Homo sapiens’ insatiable lust to dominate, intimidate and conquer. Likewise, most of NASA’s criminally expensive efforts in space have simply been extensions of the same American imperialist impulse that wiped out the Indians, enslaved the Africans, incinerated the Japanese at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killed 2 million Vietnamese a couple decades later, invaded Iraq on the warpath to oil reserves, and led the way in laying waste to so much of planet Earth and its biosphere that the survival of Homo sapiens itself is now in question.

Withal, I pray to Gaia that Barack Obama’s attempt to phase out NASA’s manned spaceflight program, if that’s what he’s doing, will be but the first of many steps toward a healthier, saner, more civilized world. Instead of gigantism, like the idiotic “space shuttle,” let there be human scale. Instead of arrogance, let there be humility. Instead of bluster and hubris, let there be quiet reverence for all living things. Instead of competition and conquest, let there be fellowship, let there be sharing, let there be love and peace in the universe.

[Ray Reece is affiliated with the World Coalition for Local and Regional Self-Reliance. He is a former columnist for The Budapest Sun and author of The Sun Betrayed: A Report on the Corporate Seizure of U.S. Solar Energy Development, among other published works. His most recent book is Abigail in Gangland, a novel. He is currently based in Cagli, Italy.]

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2 Responses to Ray Reece : A Luddite’s Prayer to Gaia

  1. I realize that many of my brothers and sisters on the left will disagree and that rocket technology may be harmful to the environment, but as a child of the ’60s, space exploration was one of the most positive, exciting — and unifying — aspects of human endeavor. As a teenager watching a performance of Hair in L.A. in 1969, I recall that when an actor came out during intermission to announce that a man had walked on the moon, it was one of the few times in that decade — nay, in my life — when I felt proud to be an American-Human. (How’s that for a hyphenate?) Of course I’d prefer eradicating ecological havoc and planetary imperialism and solving all of earth’s problems, but as William Burroughs said “We’re here to go.”

  2. Bob Russell says:

    I listened to Steven Weinberg say essentially the same thing in a talk he gave at Book People in Austin. Unmanned space flight gives far better science than manned. It is only our egos that make us want to “colonize” the moon or Mars. We could get far more science for our buck, if we sent up only robotic or mechanical probes. Look at the results so far. Anyway, you are in good company, Ray.

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