Billionaires throw money into space in a pandemic world on the verge of climate collapse – 07/20/2021 – Science

As a virus rules the planet and brings it to a standstill, its richest men begin to argue over who will go further to escape Earth orbit.

In movies, billionaires often appear well prepared to seek shelter from the apocalypse – which is often created by the exploration systems that benefit them. Dystopia today goes beyond cinematic references and requires sociological studies of what has already been termed escapism.

“If this house burns down, it doesn’t matter, they are taking their resources to their other planet, to heaven, to paradise,” French philosopher and sociologist Bruno Latour told Folha, referring to denial (of science, climate and facts ) as a narrative resource. The richest in the world, however, want to take literally the manic game that their powers will eliminate this troubled planet.

Nine days after Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Galactics, became the first billionaire to reach the edge of space, this Tuesday (20) it was Jeff Bezos’ turn, ahead of Blue Origin and also Amazon, whose profits have earned him the current title of richest man in the world. Close behind at the Olympic Games is Elon Musk, who made his fortune with the electric car company Tesla and is now banking on space tourism with SpaceX, which is due to take off for the first time in September.

The billionaires’ dispute signals that their wealth is not in the service of this world (although the opposite is quite evident).

From space tourism to human settlements on the moon, the opportunities for successful startups as a business will further expand the logic that the top of the economic pyramid can escape even this exhausted world in search of a safe place – a concept drawn from the logic of Business elite restricted as a space, private, private, inaccessible. Boasting on the rocket, of course, after all airports have long since become bus stations.

Branson’s 20 minutes to the edge of space cost a billion dollars. Tickets to tour the space can cost anywhere from $ 500,000 (R $ 2.6 million) to $ 28 million (R $ 145 million), an amount that has already been sold at auction.

A deeply unequal world, on the verge of climate and environmental collapse and still going through a pandemic, requires a minimum of ethical consideration given the freedom to enjoy personal wealth.

Without a scientific purpose, the whim of billionaires deliberately throws money into space when it comes to life and death, mask or contagion, bed or vaccine, food or hunger, work or misery. As the catchphrase of the successful Internet actress Ilana Kaplan is, she made fun of it in times of the pandemic: “Is that a good tone? It is not good”.

The embarrassment is likely to be even greater at the revelation by the American news agency ProPublica in early June that the podium places of the world’s richest legally maneuvered to pay less taxes than the rest of mortals.

“In 2007 Jeff Bezos, then multi-billionaire and now the richest man in the world, didn’t pay a cent in federal income taxes. In 2011 he succeeded again. In 2018, Tesla founder Elon Musk, the second richest person in the world, also paid no federal income tax, ”the report said.

The flight of billionaires also costs natural resources and has serious environmental impacts that need to be investigated in more detail before flights spread and become more frequent. If space tourism takes hold, it will have to be regulated so that fuel for spaceships no longer becomes an ecological nightmare.

In addition to the creation of space debris, which endangers the continuity of space activities itself, according to an article published in 2018 by the Aerospace Research Agency, the most investigated environmental impact to date is the destruction of stratospheric ozone by fuels, according to an article published last year was published in the journal Science Direct.

The threat to the ozone layer was overcome by the Montreal Protocol, one of the most successful environmental treaties, which in 1987 established the elimination of harmful gases for the protective layer against ultraviolet rays.

Since then, the world has translated the sustainable development challenge to respect the planetary boundaries that determine human health and life as a whole.

The ecological crisis as well as the pandemic remind us that humanity belongs to earth – and not the other way around. It is precisely this basic truth that they try to escape when they contest the height at which they can be freed from the earth’s atmosphere. Billionaires are trying to prove the superhuman strength of not needing this planet.

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