In the attempt to limit the effects of climate change, and with the conscience that resources on planet Earth are scarce, many advocate for limiting the consumption of natural resources. However, having access to natural resources is essential for our economic development, and particularly to make social mobility possible: without a growing economy, there are no opportunities for low-income households to improve their living conditions.
As humankind (sorry Justin Trudeau, "peoplekind" is unlikely to catch on) progresses, however, we've always seen that the so-called "limits to growth" are overcome through technological advances. "Space mining", or "asteroid mining" may be just be one of the most exciting developments in this area. It is currently a $330 billion industry which is likely to see an even larger increase in new start-ups in the future. One of the big investors in asteroid mining is (and this is certainly close to home for yours truly) the Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg. It's website dedicated for this purpose states the following: "Its goal is to ensure that space resources explored under its jurisdiction serve a peaceful purpose, are gathered and used in a sustainable manner compatible with international law and for the benefit of humankind."
The word "sustainable" should certainly raises some eyebrows. Does the Luxembourgish government know something we don't about scarcity in space, or is the word just thrown in as THE buzzword of modern public policy? When listening to other experts on the subject, we definitely get the feeling that we're dealing with the latter.
Chris Lewicki, head of strategic development for Planetary Resources told Wired in July last year:
"We're hardwired to think in terms of scarcity and competition. But in space these limits don't apply. Exploiting them gives us the opportunity to think about how much more there is to develop and share. There are resources there beyond our comprehension."
The resources we could be able to draw from asteroids include gold, iron, titanium or aluminium. But more importantly, scientists are working on the possibility to make spacecrafts use the resources found on asteroids to continue their journey. This leads to a chain-reaction of conclusions: mining in space doesn't only represent the opportunity to end scarcity on Earth; it opens the door to the colonisation of the entire solar system. If we manage to put an end to the concept of re-supplying spacecrafts on our own planet, our possibilities are endless.
Herein lies the dichotomy of the idea that we need to limit our consumption on Earth for the sake of "saving the planet". There may not be the need for that.
By the time that scarcity gets the best of us, we might have already left.