Humans have always looked to the sky, using the stars as navigation guides or to tell spiritual stories. Every human civilization has looked to the stars and used celestial movements to measure time and find meaning.
This insatiable thirst for knowledge combined with technological advances has made it possible for us to dream of traveling to space. These dreams became increasingly real after World War II, the Industrial Revolution, the Cold War, and the large-scale exploitation of the Earth’s resources.
He Lunar Resource Registrya private company that locates valuable resources on the Moon and helps investors carry out the necessary exploration and extraction operations, notes: “The space race is evolving towards space industrialization.”
According to NASA, “the moon has hundreds of billions of dollars of untapped resources”, including water, helium-3 and rare earth metals used in electronics.
The dawn of the Anthropocene
As a group of academics researching various aspects of environmental sustainability on Earth, we are alarmed by the speed of these developments and the impacts that resource exploitation will have on the lunar and space environments.
There is a movement among the international geological scientific community that calls for a new era: the anthropocene — reflecting the enormous extent to which human activity has altered the planet since the end of World War II.
Stratigraphers (geologists who study layers of rocks and sediments) look for measurable global impacts of human activities in the geological record. According to their research, the starting point of the Anthropocene has been identified from the 1950s, and the consequences of nuclear tests.
Read more: How the term ‘Anthropocene’ jumped from geoscience to hashtags, before most of us knew what it meant
To impact humanity and prevent the extensive destruction in space that we have caused on Earth, it may be effective to add a “lunar anthropocene”to the geologic time scale of the moon.
The case of a lunar Anthropocene is interesting. It can be argued that since the first human contact with the surface of the moon, we have seen anthropogenic impact. This impact is likely to increase dramatically. This is presented as justification for a new geological epoch of the Moon.
Damaging the Earth
This new “human epoch” is the subject of heated debate among stratigraphers and researchers from other disciplines. For humanities researchers and artists, the importance of the Anthropocene lies in the power of the concept to evoke human responsibility for bringing the Earth system to its end. inflection point.
In The Anthropocene ShockHistorians Christophe Bonneuil and Jean-Baptiste Fressoz argue that the new human era implies recognizing that techno-scientific advances (which have driven socio-political economies based on extractivism, consumption and waste) have caused the magnitude of damage that we measure on Earth in the present.
For millennia, most societies understood the importance of their relationship with the natural world for survival. But industrialization and ever-growing economy in developed countries have destroyed this relationship.
For example, trees used to be respected for providing wood, food, shade, and more. But our industrial growth changed all that; In the last 100 years, More trees have been cut down. of those that had been cut down in the previous 9,000 years.
Read more: ‘Killing’ trees: how true environmental protection requires a revolution in the way we talk about and with our forests
A lunar anthropocene
And now the Anthropocene, this era of human impact, also reaches the Moon.
NASA estimates that there are already 227,000 kilos of human garbage litter the moonmainly from space explorations, including Moon buggies and other equipment.excrement, statues, golf balls, human ashes and flags, among other objects.
An increasing number of lunar missions and extraction of resources from the moon. could destroy lunar environments. This reflects what has happened on our planet: humans have used this collection of “natural resources” and produced enough waste and degradation to bring us to our current situation. Sixth mass extinction cliff..
Our throwaway society leads not only to habitat destruction on Earth, but also on the Moon and in space. We must rethink what we really need. Without a fully functioning Earth system, including biodiversity and nature’s contribution to life, we will not be able to survive.
If the intention is to issue a word of caution and preemptively shock and provoke a sense of responsibility on the part of those actors likely to impact the lunar surface, it may well be the right time to name a lunar Anthropocene. This can help prevent the kind of extensive and careless destruction we have caused and continue to see on Earth.