NANFA-- NANFA-Re:population control-The O'Neill Equation

Jeffrey Fullerton (
Thu, 03 Apr 2003 02:56:03 -0500

Can we still pull it off in our lifetime?

You can colonize space with 1970s technology- heck even 1960s- or the
1950s! Project Orion- a nuclear pulse ship that was superceded by the
Apollo Program could have planted a lunar colony or a Mars base (instead
of a flag and a few rocks brought back) in a single shot!- and there was
Dandridge Cole's concept of creating huge habitats inside hollowed out
Cole's book- "Islands in Space" was a magnificent forerunner of
O'Neill's ideas- out of print and next to impossible to find even back
in 1986 when I had the pleasure of being able to borrow it from the base
library at Sheppard AFB. These things were huge cylinders several miles
across and 10 or 20 miles long with low human population density - or
else concentrated in towns or living spaces tunneled into the shell of
the habitat which left alot of land for parkland and recreations of wild
places back on Earth. There were scenes of hiking, picnicking and even
trout fishing! Before someone decides to launch on me about favoring
sport fisheries over non-game species there's no reason why habitat
space couldn't be devoted things as obscure as Olympic Mudminnows or
endangered ones like the Devil's Hole Pupfish!

The concept of orbital habitats as a future conservation tool is also
given treatment in O'Neill's other book: "The High Frontier"! I know
someone is going to lambaste me for wanting to live in an artificial
world - so environmentally incorrect these days- ah go ahead- I don't
care- no matter how bad things get here on this planet I will stand
convinced that dispersal of human life and other terrestrial life
throughout the solar system and eventually to other stars will be the
best decision we ever make.

Think about it- you live in a sphere or cylinder a mile or so in
circumphrence with interior conditions fairly Earth-like and you can
even choose the ecotype and climate just by manipulating the light and
themal balance of the habitat. You can even generate electricity with
something as simple as a parabolic mirror and a steam turbine. The
population would be somewhere around 10,000- you could have a very
simple government and simple laws. You could also move your colony to
the most remote reaches of the solar system to put distance between you
and hostile neighbors so not to require much of a budget for defense.
O'Neill incorprated a fictional account of a writter who visited Earth
in "2081". He hailed from a group of colonies out in the Kupier belt-
that zone of cometary debris beyond Pluto- founded by the Society of
Friends- aka the Quakers. He also posed the question of how many federal
agencies would be unnecessary in a space colony?

In his travels this guy, Eric Rawston is visiting relatives on Earth-
actually somewhere here in western Pennsylvania where he encounters many
wonders wrought by the transfer of technology and ideas back from the
orbital colonies. The one I really liked were the "New Towns" which were
encapsulated communities with controlled climate modeled off the
extraterrestrial version. "Waterford Pa" with a tropical climate. It's
actually more energy efficient than conventional towns and cities
because the larger surface to volume ratio plus passive solar effect
that captures natural light and heat in the winter.

So people in colder climates can have most of the benefits of living in
a warmer climate without all the congestion and higher living costs that
result when they migrate to places like Florida and California en mass.

Which brings us to the real benefits of wealth and technology- whether
we create it here or transfer it back from offworld colonies it gives us
the power to meet our basic survival needs and the luxury to look beyond
them to things like pursuing pure research or conserving rare species
for their own sake.
Some of the space advocates suggest that we will one day substitute
minerals mined out of asteroids and lifeless moons for gutting our home
planet for them. Maybe- but more likely we'll build car bodies out of
diamondoid composites with nanotechnology and put wings and turbojet
engines on them . It will be like "Doc" said in Back to the
Future-"where we're going we don't need roads"!

Just think of the benefits to both the natural world and humans. Alot of
fragmented habitats could be rejoined and a substantial tax burden


There have been two lines of demagogic argument that have always gone
down well in history. The first is to tell the poor that the rich have
too much money. The second is to tell the rich that there are too many
poor people.

William Tucker - Progress & Priviledge: America in the Age of
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