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starship-design: The Case for Space

The article included below set me to thinking. I have lately been exploring
several current trends and how they relate to the case for space access.
Please read the article and the ideas below it before you respond.

World's wealthiest 16 percent uses 80 percent of natural resources

October 12, 1999

Web posted at: 11:45 p.m. EDT (0345 GMT)

>From CNN Correspondent Garrick Utley

NEW YORK (CNN) -- As scientists note the arrival of the six billionth human
being on the planet, they also are warning that 16 percent of the world's
population is consuming some 80 percent of its natural resources.
That's the estimated toll the wealthiest populations on the globe -- the
United States, Europe and Japan -- are taking from the earth's natural
bounty to sustain their way of life.

In the U.S. alone, says Emily Matthews of the World Resources Institute,
every man, woman and child is responsible for the consumption of about 25
tons of raw materials each year.

Americans, while making up only four percent of the world's population,
operate one third of its automobiles. U.S. citizens consume one quarter of
the world's global energy supply.

Perhaps a more graphic example is that of the lowly quarter-pound hamburger.
To produce just one requires 1.2 pounds of grain to feed the cattle, and 100
gallons of water -- part of the hidden cost consumers never see.

Resources safe for now, but what about pollution?

Resources -- at least in the Western Hemisphere -- do not appear to be
immediately threatened, leading some experts to reason that the real danger
is not scarcity.

"We are really working our way through the ocean's harvest," says Matthews.
"And I don't think we will run out of fish. We will substitute fish-farming
for ocean fisheries."

And as other parts of the world continue to grow and develop -- Matthews
believes projections of a global population of nine billion in 50 years are
not unreasonable -- the pressures will become even greater.

Scientists believe during that period demand for energy will triple. So will
manufacturing and, unless changes in the current way of doing things are
made, so will pollution.

This may be the most serious problem facing the planet -- not how much is
being taken away from it, but how much is being dumped back into it.

Everyone on this list is quite aware of the pace of technology, so I am
going to start by assuming some easily imaginable advances and expect that
the reality will be far stranger.

Let us start with the paragraph "Resources-...", the real danger is not
scarcity, but accessibility and as they say later, pollution. Both of these
"dangers" are easily within the means of western hemisphere nations to
solve. Move mining and manufacturing off-planet. The resources are more
abundant, easier to get at, and space borne manufacturing is about as
pollution free as it gets.

The next paragraph works into the world's food supply. Again, off-planet
resources could not only supplement planet side production, but possibly
even equal or surpass it. Imagine millions of acres of hydroponic farms on
the moon, built, maintained, tended and harvested by automatic machinery.
Within much less than fifty years this is easily realizable.

Skipping a paragraph, the world's demand for energy...need I really go into
detail here? Orbital energy farms, vast collections of solar cells or simple
thermal collectors driving heat exchangers, it doesn't really matter which.
There is more than enough energy to power ten thousand times our planet
based manufacturing industry as well as beam power to ANY point on the
planets surface. Moving the manufacturing to orbit will of course
practically eliminate pollution on Earth.

The final paragraph now becomes: by utilizing the benefits of space we no
longer need to rape our planet and dump the toxic products back into the
biosphere in which nine billion people will be living. We can make that
planet a pleasant place for all of its inhabitants while creating a broad
based orbital infrastructure capable of supporting 12 billion people or

Of course I have long insisted that in order for our fifty year timeline for
an interstellar probe to be realized we must first build the infrastructure
in orbit and acquire the knowledgebase for sustained operations in deep

Lee Parker