From 18-22 November, the World Space Forum takes part in Vienna, conjointly organized by the United Nations and Austria. The honour to be invited to participate is an obligation. I want to monitor the situation regarding sustainability in space as on Earth, and also promote the idea for an 18th Sustainable Development Goal (SDG): “Our space environment”. #SDG18
The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) already propagates the many uses of space for the sustainable development goals, a framework called Space4SDGs. It also advances the Space2030 initiative, aiming at the same fullfillment period as the SDGs. I believe, however, the full link between sustainability in space and on Earth still has to be established.
What are the implications of space faring for our planet? Certainly a crucial question to discuss is the imagination of continuous growth, which is somewhat part of the current SDGs (cf. SDG#8 “Sustainable Economic Growth and Decent Work for All”). Continuous growth will lead humankind necessarily sooner or later into the need to use outer space and its resources.
Not only space mining, but also space tourism, many more satellites and a “moon village” are being planned. I believe we therefore need to incorporate space into our planetary sustainability considerations now and fully, for a sustained development and survival of humankind on planet Earth with its space environment.
I think, at least the way we develop needs to be discussed. While seeing the long-term necessity to go into space, I also recognize more pressing needs, and I recall the Club of Rome calling for an economic equilibrium model. On the World Space Forum, I will hence humbly ask some qualified questions. To understand this move, regard this scientific evaluation: even if the SDGs would be achieved, this might transcend our planetary boundaries already.
What are my qualifications to do so? My project “ethics of planetary sustainability” raised many relevant questions early. A very prominent fruit has been a collection with Cambridge University Presses’ high-level journal GlobalSustainability (https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/global-sustainability/collection/planetary-sustainability), where I served as guest editor. (Editor in Chief is Johan Rockström.) Within the COSPAR community we raised our voice, too (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2214552418301019).
I am currently in a transition and have time to continue the important project; I am looking for further funding to be able to refocus on it. If you like the idea or like to follow my endeavours, kindly spread the word, support this project or get in touch with me.
Dr. Andreas Losch