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Environmental ethics and planetary engineering

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Abstract

The question of engineering lifeless planets so that they can support a terrestrial biota raises new and interesting questions in environmental ethics that involves extending our perspective from here on Earth. Whilst progress in natural science will ultimately decide whether terraforming can be done, it is to ethics that we must turn to ask whether it should be done. In this paper, three geocentric ethical theories, homocentrism, zoocentrism and biocentrism, are used to address the question of ecopoiesing or terraforming Mars. We conclude that none of them rule out such a venture as necessarily immoral. However, one can conceive of a cosmocentric ethic that extends the moral universe outwards from the Earth in which certain cosmic objects are accorded intrinsic worth due to their uniqueness. The permissibility of terraforming within an ethical framework such as this is less clear.

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... Few prescriptions however are articulated with Turner's poetic con"dence. MacNiven refrained from any prescription at all from his study of the ethics of terraforming Mars and was content to #esh out the rival theories that might be applied [22]. Four such rival theories, which are broadly representative of the spectrum of ethical thought, are summarised in Table 1. ...
Article
While proposals for settling in the space frontier have appeared in the technical literature for over 20 years, it is in the case of Mars that the ethical dimensions of space settlement have been most studied. Mars raises the questions of the rights and wrongs of the enterprise more forcefully because: (a) Mars may possess a primitive biota; and (b) it may be possible to terraform Mars and transform the entire planet into a living world. The moral questions implicit in space settlement are examined below from the standpoints of four theories of environmental ethics: anthropocentrism, zoocentrism, ecocentrism and preservationism. In the absence of extraterrestrial life, only preservationism concludes that space settlement would be immoral if it was seen to be to the benefit of terrestrial life. Even if Mars is not sterile, protection for Martian life can be argued for either on intrinsic or instrumental grounds from the standpoints of all of these theories. It is argued further that a strict preservationist ethic is untenable as it assumes that human consciousness, creativity, culture and technology stand outside nature, rather than having been a product of natural selection. If Homo sapiens is the first spacefaring species to have evolved on Earth, space settlement would not involve acting `outside nature', but legitimately `within our nature'.
... Kwestia ta implikuje etyczną dopuszczalność terraformowania innych ciał niebieskich. Etyka kosmocentryczna wskazuje, że przekształcanie innych planet wymaga pogodzenia utrzymania warunków koniecznych dla przeżycia człowieka z koniecznością zachowania istniejących ekosystemów (MacNiven 1995). W dyskusji tej Martyn J. Fogg twierdzi, że transformacja Marsa i przekształcenie całej planety w sposób gwarantujący stworzenie warunków do życia dla ludzi jest etycznie dopuszczalne. ...
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W świetle prognozowanych zagrożeń związanych z możliwością utrzymania życia na Ziemi takich jak zanieczyszczenie środowiska, globalne ocieplenie, wzrost liczby ludności, wyczerpywanie się zasobów czy związane z tymi zagrożeniami potencjalne konflikty zbrojne na duża skalę można przypuścić, że za kilkadziesiąt lat Ziemia przestanie być odpowiednim środowiskiem życia dla ludzi. W tym świetle nowego znaczenia nabierają plany kolonizacji innych obiektów Układu Słonecznego, przede wszystkim Marsa. Projekt taki przewiduje nie tylko prywatna inicjatywa MarsOne, ale przede wszystkim NASA, która przewiduje stworzenie kolonii na Marsie w latach 30 XXI wieku. Wydaje się jednak, że skoncentrowanie się na kwestiach technicznych związanych z możliwością zorganizowania transportu i utrzymaniem życia astronautów na Marsie przysłania znacznie istotniejsze problemy polityczne, prawne i społeczne, które będą związane z tą misją. W artykule wskazujemy na wybrane możliwe wyzwania i zagrożenia dotyczące kwestii politycznych i społecznych oraz prawnych, z którymi zapewne wiązać się będzie stworzenie stałej ludzkiej kolonii na Marsie. Przypuszczamy, że przyszła kolonizacja Marsa naznaczona będzie ryzykiem konfliktów wewnątrz- i międzygrupowych, jak i możliwą rywalizacją między różnymi agencjami kosmicznymi, która może przybrać postać nowego wyścigu kosmicznego.
... MacNiven, while offering no additional reasons, agrees with Haynes and McKay, and further suggests that homocentrism, zoocentrism, and biocentrism would present no moral objection to activities such as terraforming. 25 Nevertheless, some traditional ethical ideas have been applied to the question at hand. ...
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The discovery of what may be extraterrestrial fossilized remains of unique microbial life forms in a meteorite of Martian origin throws into much more concrete terms than previously the issues regarding our interaction with extraterrestrial life forms. In pursuit of these questions, we assess the need for a cosmocentric ethic which establishes the universe as the priority in a value system. As a lens through which to view the title of this paper, we consider the question of whether human space exploration and/or settlement of Mars should take priority over preserving possible indigenous extraterrestrial life. We ask many questions of a planning and policy nature and suggest that the unknown aspects of interaction with extraterrestrial life suggest the need for rigorous scientific attention as well as a cautious exploratory approach as we prepare our first human mission to a potentially life bearing planet. We explore the critical role of values and suggest that a cosmocentric e...
Chapter
Chapter 9 explores theoretical and practical implications for meaning and ethics based on previously developed cosmological theories of value and associated worldviews: cosmological reverence, cosmocultural evolution, and the connection-action principle. The cosmological theories of value ascribe various forms and degrees of value and meaning to the universe and to life and intelligence in the context of cosmic evolution—increasing in degree and implications as we move from cosmological reverence to cosmocultural evolution to the connection-action principle. This chapter explores the relevance of “cosmocentric ethics” and the potential meaning of becoming co-creators of a morally creative cosmos that emphasizes respect for relationships, diversity, and creativity. The chapter finishes with an analysis of practical ethical challenges regarding the search for, and potential interaction with, life on Mars and elsewhere.
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Chapter
Background, evolution, current status and key future trends in the development of space activities that form the subject matter of space migration and colonization;
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The concept of modifying the environment of another planet, so that it can support terrestrial life, is known as terraforming. As a speculative thought experiment in planetary engineering, it has been slowly gaining in respectability and, over the past 40 years, has amassed a considerable body of published work. In this paper, the progress of research into the terraforming of the planet Mars is briefly reviewed. While such an undertaking does not appear technologically impossible, whether it will actually happen is an unanswerable question. However, the control space for thought experimentation that terraforming provides is of use in planetological research, environmental ethics, and education. The subject is therefore relevant to the present day, as well as to a possible future.
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With the recognition of an increasing potential for discovery of extraterrestrial life, a diverse set of researchers have noted a need to examine the foundational ethical principles that should frame our collective space activities as we explore outer space. A COSPAR Workshop on Ethical Considerations for Planetary Protection in Space Exploration was convened at Princeton University on June 8-10, 2010, to examine whether planetary protection measures and practices should be extended to protect planetary environments within an ethical framework that goes beyond "science protection" per se. The workshop had been in development prior to a 2006 NRC report on preventing the forward contamination of Mars, although it responded directly to one of the recommendations of that report and to several peer-reviewed papers as well. The workshop focused on the implications and responsibilities engendered when exploring outer space while avoiding harmful impacts on planetary bodies. Over 3 days, workshop participants developed a set of recommendations addressing the need for a revised policy framework to address "harmful contamination" beyond biological contamination, noting that it is important to maintain the current COSPAR planetary protection policy for scientific exploration and activities. The attendees agreed that there is need for further study of the ethical considerations used on Earth and the examination of management options and governmental mechanisms useful for establishing an environmental stewardship framework that incorporates both scientific input and enforcement. Scientists need to undertake public dialogue to communicate widely about these future policy deliberations and to ensure public involvement in decision making. A number of incremental steps have been taken since the workshop to implement some of these recommendations. Key Words: Planetary protection-Extraterrestrial life-Life in extreme environments-Environment- Habitability. Astrobiology 12, 1017-1023.
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Abstract Proposals to address present-day global warming through the large-scale application of technology to the climate system, known as geoengineering, raise questions of environmental ethics relevant to the broader issue of planetary engineering. These questions have also arisen in the scientific literature as discussions of how to terraform a planet such as Mars or Venus in order to make it more Earth-like and habitable. Here we draw on insights from terraforming and environmental ethics to develop a two-axis comparative tool for ethical frameworks that considers the intrinsic or instrumental value placed upon organisms, environments, planetary systems, or space. We apply this analysis to the realm of planetary engineering, such as terraforming on Mars or geoengineering on present-day Earth, as well as to questions of planetary protection and space exploration. Key Words: Terraforming-Geoengineering-Environmental ethics-Planetary protection-Space exploration. Astrobiology 12, 985-997.
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It is possible in the future that Mars might be transformed into a habitable planet by a process of global environmental engineering known as terraforming. This paper provides a thumb-nail sketch of the terraforming concepts that have appeared in the technical literature, focussing on the steps required in order to render Mars fit for anaerobic life. Its intention is to provide a referenced guide of progress to date for any future researchers of the subject.
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