Stop talking to billionaires, start listening to climate scientists

A gang of billionaires — Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and Richard Branson — were asked why they were spending so much of their ill-gotten gains on space travel. They answered that they’d been inspired by the space programs of the 1960s, and then, the usual stupid bullshit.

“We humans have to go to space if we are going to continue to have a thriving civilisation. We’re in the process of destroying our planet. We’ve sent robotic probes to every planet in the solar system; this is the good one. We have to preserve this planet. We can do that using the resources of space.”

That’s Bezos. He seems to have a superficial understanding of the fact that we’re wrecking our home, but his excuse is that we can go get stuff from space to reduce our drain on the system, which is nonsense. There’s no oil in space. Mining is always going to be more difficult, expensive, and dangerous on asteroids. The kinds of resources that drive the material development of society are going to be more destructive to the environment if we haul in more of them. If you’re serious about saving Planet Earth, work to end capitalism and build sustainable, renewable institutions.

But I don’t give a damn what self-serving excuses greedy rich fucks give for their profligacy. Skip to the end where Michael Mann (not a billionaire) gives his rebuttal.

“I’ve confirmed that Mr Bezos carries the collected works of the great Carl Sagan on his website. I would advise that he read what Carl Sagan had to say on this topic,” says Michael Mann, a climate expert and professor of Earth sciences at Penn State University.

“Sagan loved space exploration as much as anyone, and he envisioned us eventually travelling out into the cosmos. But he harboured no illusions about the near-term prospects for making that happen. That’s why he devoted the latter decades of his life advocating for the protection of this planet.

“Mr Bezos needs to absorb the sage advice of Sagan and invest his funds in efforts – environmental preservation and, especially, action to avert catastrophic climate change – that might actually accomplish his stated goals.”

He’s polite not to mention that we should also end the concentration of wealth in the hands of people who only believe in concentrating wealth even more.


  1. colinday says

    But outer space isn’t subject to government regulation? Do these guys want that?

    Sorry, I’ll come in again.

  2. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    Platinum group minerals from the asteroid Psyche will do us little good when our soil is depleted of phosphorus, our seas are too polluted to support aquatic life and the temperature sits above 30 degrees C for a full 3 months of every year in most of the country. It sounds to me as if Mr. Bezos thinks he is too busy to understand the problem, and too arrogant to listen to who do,

  3. F.O. says

    We The People seem far too busy wanting to kill those more poor than ourselves rather than go where the money actually is.

  4. Pierce R. Butler says

    If climate scientists are so smart, why aren’t they billionaires, huh?


  5. brett says

    It’s not even philanthropy on Bezos’ part. He could sell just a fraction of his Amazon stock holdings and pay for humanity’s greatest space telescope, or a set of robotic probes that would provide decades of scientific research about our solar system and its planets. Instead, he’s slowly spending it on suborbital tourist flights and a rocket launch business – like a hobbyist turning their hobby into a side gig.

    “Sagan loved space exploration as much as anyone, and he envisioned us eventually travelling out into the cosmos. But he harboured no illusions about the near-term prospects for making that happen. That’s why he devoted the latter decades of his life advocating for the protection of this planet.

    Right in his Pale Blue Dot speech:

    The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

    It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.

  6. numerobis says

    There’s no oil in space.

    There’s plenty of hydrocarbons. No oxygen to burn with them though. But regardless: we need to stop burning them here.

    The idea that if we could get resources elsewhere we’d stop grabbing at the easily-grabbed stuff here is daft. We’d do both.

  7. unclefrogy says

    my Amazon winnings

    that is one of the grossest statements that could be said by a rich fuck. it is also very revealing that he thinks that cheating his employees, who have worked very hard to enable his success is winnings. that he thinks that the failures of others who did not recognize the opportunity an on-line catalog for generating business could become. so now he is just a hoarder of money who had one good idea but is mostly just an ignorant greedy fool.

    We The People seem far too busy wanting to kill those more poor than ourselves rather than go where the money actually is.

    that is said simpler than I could manage
    uncle frogy

  8. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    Yeah, Maybe Jeffie thinks he has too much money.

    When Richard Branson was asked the easiest way to become a millionaire, he said, “Start with a billion dollars and buy an airline.”

    I’d imagine commercial space is going to be even moreso.

  9. chrislawson says

    Not to beat my own drum, but my story “Canterbury Hollow” in F&SF is largely drawn from the fallacy that we can leave Earth if it gets too bad here. Although it’s not made explicit, the point of the story is that even for a well-established interstellar space-faring civilisation, evacuating an entire planet is not feasible. What Bezos and Musk seem to think is that they and their selected friends will leave Earth and the greater mass of humanity will have to deal with the consequences of environmental destruction. They are so enamored of the parasitic mindset that they assume there will be a new host somewhere in space, just for them.

  10. dma8751482 says

    Bezos et al could have at least pretended to be slightly realistic and limited their excess ambitions to “only” a settlement on the moon, but maybe that’s too “easy” for their egos to accept since they wouldn’t have been the first ones there. Plus, they wouldn’t have anything to make a profit off of over there.

    While I believe that the technology for a long-term self-sustaining exclave (I am tempted to use the word “colony” but am aware of its implications, hence the use of a somewhat more obscure term with similar meaning) is unlikely to be ready for at least another couple of centuries, such a thing might actually be environmentally helpful as these rich bums think, albeit for entirely different reasons: fewer people on Earth (the ones running and living in the exclave) means that there would be less drain on Earth’s own systems, and by making it so those exclaves’ resources are not all sent back to Earth their impact on material society here would be blunted.

    Even so, that will be a moot point if things collapse before said technology is ready for implementation, and refining methods of preserving the ability of our planet to support life will also provide valuable knowledge on how to make other planets more conducive to life- maybe not on the extent of sci-fi terraforming but enough to allow stable supplies of air and water to be maintained.

  11. numerobis says

    dma8751482: moving a few people to the Moon means we have the same number of people on Earth, plus a few people on the Moon who are requiring far more resources than anybody on Earth.

    And by a few I mean, say, 100 million.

    You just can’t move enough people off-planet to depopulate Earth.

  12. curbyrdogma says

    One would think they have more than enough money to purchase conservancy land for reforestation.
    @10: But it might be a step in the right direction if scientists could convince certain billionaires that it’s feasible to build a luxury resort they could escape to… featuring the galaxy’s most exclusive golf course… what could possibly go wrong?

  13. DanDare says

    I suppose if you moved the manufacturing base into orbit and used as many space resources as possible it would reduce the load a little down here. I can’t see any economic or timely way to do that but if some one can work that out then ok.
    Space energy production was a project for thought a decade ago. It would replace coal etc. Haven’t seen anything come of it.
    I would prefer to see population growth slow and reverse, waste and unnecessary energy use reduced, bio sphere preservation and management, proper liberal societies and universal education focused not just on vocation but thinking skills and science and understanding society, and universal health care and a universal basic wage.

  14. dma8751482 says


    I did say it wouldn’t be ready for at least a couple of centuries, didn’t I? At any rate, 100 million less people is still a reduced impact, even if it’s a small one.