The Psychological Boost of Believing in AGW

From The New York Times (*):

“Let us talk about the weather.” What is to be said of such weather as we had in the middle of the week? How is it that the weather experts do not give us some good, or at least plausible, excuse for it? Every year we have a few days of exceptionally warm weather early in the season. Usually it comes in April. It is altogether unusual for it to come in March. Some persons remember very distinctly that the days of the warm weather just past were the anniversay of the great blizzard. Why is the weather so inexplicable?

Climate has always scared us like a wild beast, so it’s all to natural for humans to kid themselves into pretending it can be tamed.

Centuries ago we would have had to sacrifice cattle to a Weather God, nowadays it’s all about “fighting Anthropogenic Global Warming”, and getting a Prius.

(*) March 13, 1898

Free the Women

Former U.N. envoy Stephen Lewis, at the 16th International AIDS Conference in Toronto, Canada, 2006, recently quoted by Jane Roberts in “Five years later, girls around the world need help more than ever:

I challenge you to enter the fray against gender inequality. There is no more honorable or productive calling. There is nothing of greater import in this world. All roads lead from women to social change.

I agree wholeheartedly. But arguably the contemporary relative freedom of Western women has been an accident of history, borne out of the men-hungry tragedies of both World Wars. Is there any hope and any means to make that happen elsewhere, the empowerment of women that is but without forcing their societies to live quite a long time without much of the male workforce?

Not to mention the futility of trying to inculcate freedom for half of humanity, from the outside.

The Future of Marriage

The future of the religious form of marriage is in the hands of the respective clerics and faithful people.

The future of civil marriage is to be placed away from the hands of the State, until it lasts. And for civil wedding to be eliminated.

What is the State for, in fact, but to manage conflict situations also within its own society?

If I establish a friendship with a neighbour, do I have to make that public in the Town Hall? Of course not. But if I start an argument with them, it may go as bad as to warrant the intervention of the Law (the Police, or even “just” a lawsuit).

And so it should and surely will be that there will be no hand at all of the State when two people want to live together: whilst the weakest component of the couple, if the love and friendship disappear, will only have to demonstrate the two were living “as husband and wife” (in Ancient Rome, more uxorio), for the Law to act in their defense.

Even if policies dictate incentives for couples, again all they should have to show is that they are a couple (perhaps, a stable couple in the second year of cohabitation)…how it all started, and if there was a ceremony with a mayoral representative mimicking the religious ritual, all that must surely be immaterial from the point of view of the individual’s rights.

The above will finally re-align legality and societal mores, now so completely at odds with each other. With the added bonus of further separating God and Mammon, as Somebody recommended to do a few years ago…

Suicide Bombers Few and Far Between

There is something rather odd in the field of terrorism via suicide bombing.

Possibilities are aplenty, but few opportunities are being taken, strangely everywhere but in Iraq and possibly Palestine. Why would that be so?

If there really is a lot of people trained to explode themselves in the middle of innocent civilians, where are they? Anywhere in the world, what is preventing them to walk into a crowded market (as in Iraq), or a hotel’s lobby (as in Jordan), or an airport (as in Rome), and pop themselves (into Hell) and some luckless bystanders (into Heaven)?

After all, to create terror one doesn’t have to kill 2,000 or even 200 people. Just a couple of deaths twice a week or more in wholly unrelated, preferably urban environments, such as train stations (as in Madrid) would be more than enough to establish one’s terror group strength and political importance.

The USA and the world economy suffered because of 9/11, but I am sure the collapse would have been far greater if instead of 4 planes in a day, there would have been 4 al-Qaeda attacks in the space of a month.

Such a tactic would also obviate at the second-most immediate downside of terrorism via suicide bombing, namely the need to hide, from police and other security forces, the procurement and management of explosive material and the bomb manufacturing.

And yet, all of that is not happening. Iraq aside, and Israel and 9/11 included the number of deaths by suicide bombing may add up worldwide to less than 5,000 in the past decade. In the meanwhile, tens of thousands have died in car accidents, by AIDS and other curable or incurable diseases, etc..

The best possible explanation for such a situation, is that in reality, very, very few people are willing to kill themselves.

After all, the topmost immediate downside of that kind of terrorism, is that it takes at least 20 years to replace any suicide bomber. Whatever the propaganda or the inspiration, numbers can only dwindle down to zero in the medium term (a fact explaining, alongside the Wall, the recent sudden mellowing of Palestinian terror groups, after the large rate of suicide bombings in Israel a few years ago).

That of course raises the question of how much propaganda we are getting about Iraq?

How many terrorist attacks over there have actually been committed by suicide bombers, rather than far-easier-to-manage remotely-controlled explosive devices?

It may take hours, not months and definitely not years to find and prepare a new car bomb.

Is anybody playing to us the dangerous game of showing suicide bombing as easy and common in Iraq, thereby increasing our fears and willingness to give up civil rights, but also inspiring a whole bunch of untrained idiots to cobble up the crudest of bombs, as in the Glasgow airport accident?

One day, even the idiots will manage to kill somebody, by chance or mistake.

Recover from Live Earth – Join Apocaholics Anonymous

Apocaholics Anonymous

(April 20, 2007) Hi, I’m Gary and I’m a recovering Apocaholic. I am currently Apocalypse free for nearly 18 years. I left the church of the Religious Apocalypse in 1976, over 30 years ago, and I resigned from the secular church of the Financial Apocalypse in 1989. Yes, I still feel the urge to proclaim the end of all things, from time to time, but I white-knuckle my way to a history book for a little perspective, and then I breathe easier. If you wish to join AA, the only requirement is that you give up the adrenaline rush of media-fed fantasies.

Since I spoke to you last on this subject, in 1994, we have survived “Bankruptcy 1995” (the original epidemic of Hockey Stock charts), the Big Bang in Hong Kong, years of Y2K scare stories, a SARS epidemic, Mad Cow disease, Bird Flu, a real threat on 9/11, Triple Deficits (Budget, Trade and Balance of Payments), wars in Serbia/Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan, Deflation in 2003, Inflation since then, The Perfect Storms of 2005 (Katrina, Rita and Wilma, the 3 Witches of the Bermuda Triangle), and today’s reigning fears of Global Warming, $200 Oil and the Sub-prime Housing Loan Crisis Implosion […]

Environmental Cleanliness Isn’t A Novel Concept

Who could remember, 50 years ago they had the same concerns for the environment and fellow human beings as we do.

And so time and money was spent on the development of a… clean H-Bomb

William L. Lawrence, Construction of a ‘Clean’ H-Bomb Presents Formidable Problems for the Experts – June 23, 1957 – The New York Times

How comforting…perhaps after a future war, when scavenging for survival through flattened cities there will be little danger, at least of the radioactive variety.

90 Years After Killing Itself, Europe at the Crossroads

The umpteenth EU summit is taking place in Brussels from tonight.

The issue at stake is far heavier than in past meetings of Heads of State and Government. With the expansion to include countries formerly behind the Iron Curtain, the EU has to find a way to work despite its components living in different histories.

Call it “Constitution”, call it “Treaty”, call it “Donald Duck” but a new set of rules is needed for a future of prospects rather than implosion.

As I wrote yesterday, the best way to keep one’s life truly alive is to deal with the diverse times that cohabit in one’s soul: just as well for the European Union. Its old, Western core is several decades in front of the new Eastern members in matters of handling national interest in a multi-state Union.

It is not that the Poles or the Czechs are slow-witted: it is that by wrapping their national evolutions in ice under the Soviet domination, it is all too natural to them for history-heavy questions such as strategic defence and World War II considerations to be on the table right now.

Unfortunately, those are exactly the questions that cannot interest their Western counterparts. Because to them, history is at best a nuisance.

———

Europe and European culture committed suicide around 1917 and perhaps didn’t stop stabbing itself for another 30 years. All the Empires that boldly entered World War I in 1914 were irreparably damaged by three years of war, and in all the participating countries only the most rabid types were not appalled by the pointless carnage.

To compound the situation, millions had joined the fight inspired by enthusiastic nationalism, almost invariably spiced up by religious references. Ominously, they had done it in Britain, in France, in Germany, in Russia, in Italy, everywhere following similar patterns.

They literally marched on to kill one another, seemingly unaware of their extraordinary similarities. And obviously in hindsight, their war could not end, as they were able to perfectly match and outwit one another.

That’s why it was a mass suicide, of bodies and of culture. The U.S. officially joined the war on April 2, 1917. Their mere presence was enough to finally put it to a stop. Old Europe heard its bell tolling.

———

Fast-forward to 1947. Hell-bent on destroying themselves, Europeans had managed to complete the Great War with the even bigger World War II. A great chunk of them were taken out of history by falling into the hands of that failed experiment called Soviet Communism.

Another large chunk, to the West, decided to forego history altogether, laying its soul finally to rest. No more violent nationalism, no desire to stomp on one another, no talk of reparation of this or that historical tort, and since they were at it, steam ahead with a Union of nation states, but down with religion and all mores of old (from “Father knows best” to “A woman’s place is in the kitchen“). Some call it “modernity“.

Sixty years later, the process is almost complete. There is no aspect of contemporary (Western) European life that has not been affected by modernity. The artistic renovation s of the 1920’s have fathered an incredible variety of movements. Religion is on the wane, especially organized religion, and it has become perfectly normal to practice homosexuality and to raise single-parent children, things considered quite deviant as recently as 30 years ago.

Frankly, it is more than absurd to imagine the great-grandchildren of those knowingly sent to die at the Somme or Caporetto, accept any Government initiative without much skepticism.

————–

That’s not the experience elsewhere on the Continent and beyond. For example it is almost impossible to deny the impetus given to liberation of Western European women by the request to work during both wars in stead of their war front-bound men. That’s not exactly what has happened in Communist countries (where the desire to free men and women alike somehow became synonimous of morphing citizens into State servants).

And that’s not what has happened in the Middle East either. Who knows, without World War I there would still be little or no voting rights for female citizens of…liberal democracies! (The U.S.A., of course, is a whole different topic).

————-

And so the new bunch of countries cannot simply join the European Union without a lot of kicking and screaming: Poland especially, a former Empire in itself from the Baltic to the Black Sea, then put together, dismembered and forcibly moved westward by its neighbours.

Will the Brussels meeting be any fruitful? Usually, if a summit like that fails, it is simply forgotten. But let’s hope it does succeed, so it will leave a mark in history.

Imagine if Germany could finally accept Poland’s requests, recognizing each other’s completely different historical paths, and convince it to actually become a leader in the Union: putting to rest at least 13 centuries of enmity.

———–

If the EU will be able to rationally accommodate so many countries with such a variety of experience, cares and worries, then it will be ready to expand even further: Turkey, the Ukraine, Israel, Morocco, Tunisia…and why not?

As a sort of grass-root United Nations, the EU could then become the first gift to Humanity by a more peaceful, re-born Europe. 

Every Day, a Christmas Carol for the Soul

In Charles Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge is an aging man, money-tight and with a soul drier than the harshest desert, finding happiness and moral redemption only after meeting the Ghosts of Christmases Past, Present and Future.

Most of us will not receive any visit by eerie presences: still, we all risk to see our lives wither away in a hailstorm of irritability and sulking.

Fortunately, there is a way to recover youth and enthusiasm the way of Scrooge: by looking at our inner “ghosts”, the pieces torn from our inner selves one by one by Time itself.

=========

As the years go by, in fact, the constituents of one’s soul lose “sync” with one another. Some parts of the inner being survive as throwbacks to the past, becoming the Past Inner Ghost, “Ego Praeteritus”. Other elements live in the here-and-now, making up the Present Inner Ghost, “Ego Presens”. Others still have their basis in what is yet to come, belonging to the Future Inner Ghost, “Ego Posterus“.

For example, women and cars, fast or slow as they be, provide the best evidence that an important element of our souls does indeed live in the present. In fact, an obvious component of the Ego Presens is the sense of fashion: contemporary in the extreme and constantly a-changing, with wardrobes getting refreshed not just of worn-out items and impossible-to-find (as new) the same stuff of a few years earlier.

Female beauty itself means changing body shapes every decade or so, even if the owners of the proverbially beauty-beholding eyes don’t all die off that often

That is exactly what happens with cars. Look back at the vehicles in the market 20 or 30 years ago, and apart from true “classics”, you will see primitive, ugly boxes of metal, not the sleek lines, inviting quality, and superior engines of today’s automobiles (alas! themselves destined to turn into ugly boxes of metal… by 2027!).

Politics is itself not immune from the “spirit of the times”, the zeitgeist. Big worldwide debates appear to be coming and going, monopolizing it all for a while, then becoming either boring and outdated or boring and obvious (another definition for “being fashionable”?).

In the past century, colonialism, imperialism, protectionism, fascism, communism, democracy and universal suffrage, worries about nuclear war, civil liberties, poverty, the environment: nowadays, “global warming”.

Are we then “Citizens of the Zeitgeist”? Or “Prisoners of Our Times”, with our Ego Presens socially and commercially pressured into “freely” thinking with the consensus and “voluntarily” getting the most up-to-date gadgets?

=========

Not completely.

It’s an altogether different story for musical tastes. For some reason, most people get their melodic preferences cast in stone between the ages of 16 and 25. So if you’re 50 you may have to accept that your preferred music was recorded at least 25 years ago, and is unlikely ever to re-appear in the charts but for a very short time.

That’s an example of what constitutes the Ego Praeteritus, the inner Ghost of the Past. Other instances include lifelong friendships, usually forged by the end of the “teens” years, as anybody that has ever left hometown can attest; and most personal fears including fully-fledged phobias, rooted perhaps in the first 3 or 4 years of one’s life (just like family ties: are all those related, one wonders?).

And of course, we are bound to keep accumulating memories, those images and feelings condensed (and filtered) in an increasingly-heavier baggage capable of influencing all our thoughts and actions.

Worse still: parts of the Ego Praeteritus appear to become lethargic, if not dead altogether, around 16 years of age (as famously quipped by Benjamin Franklin). For instance, the ability to change and embrace innovation; the sense of academic excellence, invariably coinciding with one’s own year of graduation; morality, inevitably going down the drain since the days of one’s own youth; youths themselves, not showing any longer the respect of old to parents and adults in general.

=========

It’s in the Ego Futurus that one can find life instead, in the very dreams that keep us alive.

Those may be the hope of getting to see another day, or of seeing one’s children live long and prosper, or of being able to buy whatever one desires. Whatever their kind, still those are hopes, the last bits of us to die, and without which life would be absolutely pointless.

Hopes and expectations are not only rooted in the future: they belong to it. Fulfillment of one’s desires may be what we think we aspire to, but more often than not, when that happens it strikes as anticlimactic.

No need to be an Apollo astronaut back on Earth or a retiring World Leader to ask oneself that most open-ended, unsettling, and desperate of questions: “now what?”. A question that we will all have to face.

=========

As times goes on, and dreams come to materialize (or fail to), one’s Ego Posterus can only fade. In the meanwhile, the Ego Praeteritus grows bigger. More and more of one’s inner self gets anchored to the past, resulting in a progressive larger detachment from the “real world”, and from one’s slowly disappearing Ego Presens.

This may be the strongest sign of having an elderly mind: when the soul is left with almost no connection with the present, or the future.

Sadly, that’s a well-traveled path, with one slowly but steadily growing “grumpy”, stagnatingly aged in spirit instead of just old in body.

=========

How can one avoid such an end?

Perhaps some good memory erasure would help. There would be plenty of space to learn new musical tastes and how to become a different person.

A more practical way may be to become instead aware that parts of the soul do not live in the same epoch as the rest of them, or the World out there.

Accepting all internal differences on a temporal level too, we can then confront our Egos of the past, present and future, day-in, day-out, in an unrelentingly rejuvenating “time travel of the soul”.

=========

In fact, it’s the Christmas Ghosts that bring back grumpy extraordinaire Ebenezer Scrooge to a happier life, better connected to the world out there and at peace with what went before, what is happening now and what is yet to come.

Newsmedia, not History Books

Somebody has posted a great list of all that is wrong with newsmedia:

1. Great emphasis on the dramatic
2. Failure to distinguish between opinion and fact
3. Repetitive dissemination of original reports from a few limited sources without checking or questioning information
4. A catering to what the media perceives as the popular belief or their belief over reporting the facts
5. Reporters that have disturbingly low levels of knowledge in the areas they report on
6. Sometimes blatant misrepresentation of the facts by reporters in major news organizations
7. A tendency to run with the “latest story” to the point of boredom at the expense of broader, more informative reporting
8. Information becoming “truth” based on degree of repetition

Those points truly are the way contemporary newsmedia work, and especially those dealing with day-to-day stuff.

We should never forget that newspapers, newsmagazines, TV/radio news programs are meant to be sold and capture the widest possible audience.

They are built to re-inforce the prejudice and convictions of the people that are going to buy them. Sometimes, they could challenge their readers, but bankruptcy is in order if they do that too boldly.

You simply can’t do that by being 100% honest, informative, opinion-free…articles based on that would bore to death most of the readership.

That’s why history books are written by scholars, instead of being reprints of old newspapers.

=======

The above is not meant to be taken as an insult. Hey, I am a part-time journalist myself!!

I see it more as the way things “are”, just as new models of cars are always presented with scantily-clad girls and watches invariably point to 10 past 10 in photo ads.

People have tried to act differently but few if any of those businesses have survived.

On the other hand I do agree there is no internal, contemporary  “media trend” toward alarmism. Readers’ titillation has always been the order of the day, so any change is likely to have been as a result of a change in what the readers wanted.

As an example, compare the opening pages of London’s The Independent from 20-30 years ago with the screaming trendy single-issue front page of today. And don’t forget the failure of the “good news” newspaper put out a few years ago, again in London (by the Guardian, I believe)?

I don’t think I need to mention any self-proclaimed “Fair and Balanced” news network here.

Perhaps the newspapers of 1907 were scary, exciting and dramatic for their readers, but they don’t appear as such to us simply because (by definition) we are not the people those were meant to be sold to.

=======

There is only one challenge for all the readers: and that is to provide ourselves with the tools for critically managing the streams of news we are bombarded with.

And by that I mean being able first of all to look for cause-and-effect, so that if event A should cause event B, don’t believe A has happened until B has showed up too.

The High Priests of Contemporary Atheism

Truly gone are the days of Epicurus.

Gone are the discussions about Free Will and the existence of Evil. Recently, some vocal atheists apper to be thinking it is time for puerile opinions instead.

Sure, many “persons without God” (including agnosticists such as Breaking the Spell”’s author Daniel C. Dennett) have a healthy respect for the experiences and beliefs of fellow human beings, be them atheists or not.

But then what can one say when an otherwise brilliant thinker like Richard Dawkins publishes without a grain of self-awareness the “Ultimate 747” argument, a so-called “definitive proof” that God does not exist?

It is a sort of an updated “who created the Creator” question that anybody with a brain can beautifully, simply and quite obviously take apart (hint: the Creator doesn’t have to be part of the Creation).

In Italy, philosophy Professor Maurizio Ferraris finds it worthwhile to spend his time arguing that Jesus is akin to Santa Claus, whilst mathematician extraordinaire Piergiorgio Odifreddi can’t even think of belief in God as anything else than irrational superstition.

Things look like going even more downhill now, with Christopher Hitchens’ new book “God is Not Great”: apparently, a masterpiece with pearls of wisdom such as asking if the Jews did not know that murder and adultery were wrong before they received the Ten Commandments.

Obviously, the problem is not with Hitchens, a professional polemicist that utters outrageous statements for a living (sort of a male Ann Coulter with just a tad less smell of sulphur). The problem is not even with Dawkins’ anti-fundamentalist crusade that truly throw the baby (Faith) with the bathwater (religious establishments).

There is a much larger issue at hand: the blind acceptance of their half-backed arguments by people evidently in need to justify their atheism to themselves.

Take for example Michael Kinsley’s review of Hitchen’s book (With brio and anger, an atheist takes on religion”, International Herald Tribune , May 12, 2007).

Mr Kinsley finds “entertaining” some blatantly silly questions such as “How could Christ have died for our sins, when supposedly he also did not die at all?” (Answer: please do read at least one Gospel, once).

Worse, Mr Kinsley is “satisfied” with (yet another?) “disproving” of the existence of God. Wow…it’s nice to know that age-old questions can finally be set aside: why don’t Messrs. Hitchens and Kinsley explain to us the Meaning of Life too?

Mr Kinsley is also quite happy to repeat Mr Hitchens’ thoughts on religious ecumenism. “if any one of the major faiths is true, then the others must be false in important respects – an obvious point often forgotten in the warm haze of ecumenism”. Boy, have they “obviously” squared the circle or what?

Do people like Kinsley and Hitchens realize how deeply, reactionarily catholic (with small “c”) is such a limited view of Faith (one God, one Truth, one World)?

How much was the Mahatma a “moron, lunatic or liar” then? That’s their definition of a modern believer. After all he did say “Non-violence requires a double faith, faith in God and also faith in man” and “One’s own religion is after all a matter between oneself and one’s Maker and no one else’s.”

Doesn’t anybody remember Quintus Aurelius Symmachus? One of the last pagans in ancient Rome, Symmachus protested the removal of the Altar of Victory from the floor of the Roman Senate by a Christian Emperor by saying “We contemplate the same stars, the Heavens are common to us all, and the same world surrounds us. What matters the path of wisdom by which each person seeks the truth?”.

(No need to waste your breath on our activist atheists, o civis Symmachus! They wouldn’t even know what you’re talking about).

Anyway, there is just the faintest of hope of some reasoning capability left in the activist atheist’s mind. Mr Hitchens writes that a sustained argument about the (non-)existence of God shouldn’t be either necessary, nor sufficient. I am sure only the most fundamentalist believers and atheists will disagree with that.

What is for atheists then the point of writing books belittling something they do not have?

Perhaps, just perhaps, one day people like Mr Hitchens and Mr Dawkins will realize that they may as well uselessly ponder on mysteries such as why a wonderful person as my wife ever fell in love with a less-than-perfect guy like me. Good luck with that!

Is this really what millennia of debates between believers and atheists have gone down to? Somebody will rightly point out that there are plenty of idiots that believe their Faith should be expressed by insulting, outlawing, threatening and killing others.

Yes, there are!

But two wrongs don’t make one right: weren’t Dawkins et al. supposed to be the Brights, the superiorly intelligent humans capable of shedding silly arguments and superstition from their lives, and from the lives of anybody that would follow them?

Why are they then switching off their brains whenever the conversational topic is Religion?

If theirs is the Light, we live in a very dim world indeed.

Like the Conquistadores in the Americas, these Brights are fighting to destroy what they can’t understand in the belief of improving the human lot. The bringing down of anything spiritual, it has become their spiritual quest. The attitude of the vast majority of their fellow humans, they consider it a primitive relic unworthy of their own perfection. Several thousand years of contributions in logic and philosophy, that doesn’t mean a thing to them.

Having discovered the “definitive arguments” for the double impossibility of proving the non-existence of any Divinity, they put themselves outside of human history. And they even gather around their books of wisdom, to accept with little sense of critique anything that is said to belittle the very idea that human being can believe in God.

It’s a hubris extravaganza.

Contemporary (activist) atheists truly set themselves in competition with God: here’s a hint of why they find so compelling to make however flawed an argument against the scandal represented by anybody not believing in their “religion of atheism”.

The Elephant In Europe’s Integration Room

HDS Greenway leaves as an exercise to the reader to complete his reasoning on European attitudes on integration (“Europe’s integration problems“, IHT, May 4).

What would it mean if Europeans accepted “that theirs is a society of immigrants the way America has always been“?

Under those most unlikely of circumstances, Europeans would publicly recognize that no nation comes from a single heritage, and immigrants have been positively adding to the new home nation’s culture for centuries.

It is high time indeed that European societies abandon their superiority complex to allow those to contribute culturally and socially as well as economically.t

Alas, nothing of the sort is currently allowed by the snobbish ways of France’s total assimilation or the UK’s diversity-conservation. And so there is no such a thing as a Moroccan-French or Indian-Briton to compare to Irish-Americans or Italian-Americans.

Even President Sarkozy of France is and cannot be no Hungarian-French…he is, and he has to be, just French. Anything else, and he would be rejected.

The Darfur Conflict From a Different Perspective

The Dirty Political Underbelly of the Darfur Conflict by Ayesha Kajee – April 25, 2007, Pambazuka News

[…] Darfur possibly has undiscovered reserves of uranium, bauxite and copper. Geological surveys also imply that Darfur has unexploited oil reserves, which may go some way to explaining the intense and sustained global interest in Darfur over the past few years.

There is indubitably a massive humanitarian disaster in Darfur, and the mobilisation of civil society around the globe is warranted and welcome. But it is worth questioning why this tragedy receives concentrated attention from the world’s media and why advocacy for multilateral intervention in Darfur has managed to mobilise millions, including celebrities from every sphere, when similar situations in northern Uganda or Central African Republic get far less coverage […]

Given the complex internal and external political implications of the Darfur conflict, the biggest losers are the Darfuris who have been killed, maimed and driven from their homes and livelihoods.

They are the ‘dispensable’ pawns of political manipulators from within and outside Sudan.

There is a crying need for multilateral intervention in Darfur, and an enhanced peacekeeping force with a strong mandate to protect citizens would bring much needed stability to the region as a whole. But the potential ramifications of such an intervention merit careful consideration as to the composition of the deployed force and its mandate. […]

There are several things I never understood about Darfur, including why there would be several rebel movements none of which able to protect civilians, and why would the Sudan government embark into such an awful adventure immediately after freeing itself from decades-long war in the South Sudan…the above is a good start to understand the situation.

Reasons To Be Optimist

Early XX century: millions in Europe dream of a bright future of “continuous progress”.

They will confidently march towards their deaths in the fields of the First World War.

Early XXI century: millions in Europe can only imagine a nightmare future of environmental and social catastrophes…

Spock’s Principle: The Many, The Few, The One

or…”Ethics and Emotions

There’s been quite some interest in new scientific evidence about “the Heart ruling the Head“. But I haven’t read any mention of its extreme consequence: the extraordinary, apparently illogical moral code we reserve for the special persons in our life.

A new study published in Nature has hinted on the fact that ethical decisions are a combination of emotional and rational choices:

[Some] philosophers […] psychologists and neuroscientists [argue that] when faced with a moral dilemma […] we rely on emotional reactions as well as our powers of reasoning. In a study of brain damage […] neuroscientists report evidence that emotions indeed exert a powerful influence on moral judgments.

Paradoxically, of all the fictional characters ever imagined, the one that comes nearest to declare as much is logic-fixated Mr. Spock, when in the second Star Trek movie uses this line to justify his sacrifice to save others:

“the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few … or the one.”

In fact, one can easily follow the reasoning about “the many” vs. “the few”…but was there any need to specify “the one“?

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There was. Because it’s easy to speak in general terms, but much more difficult if we are personally involved in the outcome.

For example, more or less everybody will declare that bringing down an airplane of 100 is morally justifiable if such an action will save the life of 4,000 (even if the German Constitutional Court was not impressed by similar thoughts last year). It is much harder if not impossible to follow the same line of thought, when the plane is carrying is one of your special Ones, a close friend or family member.

Who could honestly say that they’d kill without any doubt or ado their mother or son or husband or daughter or father or wife, or best friend?

Even when things may rationally be clear-cut, we are likely to end up emotionally scarred. In the movie I, Robot Will Smith’s character Del Spooner cannot bear the thought of having been rescued by a robot that abandoned a little girl instead on the basis of survival chances: a little girl that became for a few, very important moments the One for Spooner.

Is this because of innate tribal solidarity? Would life be bearable otherwise? Whatever the reason, we are indeed hard-wired to this apparently “irrational” behaviour. And so, in the third Star Trek movie, Kirk tells the resurrected Spock how little he actually cares about the latter’s original thought.

Because the needs of the One really outweigh “the needs of the many“.

(this expands on my previous blog The One And The Many – The Truth Behind Spock’s Principle)

Consistently Sinning

Help the American Heroes of the Iraq War

Dear American Citizen

The Iraq War has been going on for more than 3 years now. Many Americans soldiers are being sent back home daily, dead or wounded (the latter sometimes, a fate worse than the former)

With no clear indication for an immediate stop for that, and a very uncertain political future for Iraq itself, that’s simply too tragic: it is high time every individual provided all the help they could

I am referring especially to all the people that are convinced that a continuing presence in that country is necessary: if you are of the right age, enlist at once

If you are not, do find a way, any way to help the soldiers, and their families

If you don’t want to enlist or help, actively support the immediate withdrawal of all US troops from Iraq

(If you are, or anybody in your family is already a war veteran, I respect you)

——–

I will not deal with the reasons for the USA to invade, stay or leave Iraq, or talk about any other country, since the importance of American decisions and actions cannot be overestimated

Whatever the color of your politics, there surely is a big problem now: American soldiers are dying or being maimed in Iraq in large numbers

Tragically, some of them may even be dying for no other reason than because the mid-term elections are in a few weeks’ time, and not tomorrow

And especially in case of a quick exit leaving Iraq as death-stricken as ever, a lot of those soldiers and their families may have had their lives ruined, interrupted or ended needlessly

Like all veterans of all long-standing wars, the US soldiers serving in Iraq are all heroes to me (apart from those guilty of crimes)

Does it make any difference the fact that the US Army is made of volunteers? After 3 years of war, it does not. Surely there is no draftee as such: but then what would you call a person that is called on for their third tour of duty?

Didn’t they know what they were going to be asked to do, when they enrolled? Well, all those that joined the army before the war surely did not. And I am not sure how many are really willing to carelessly undergo three tours of duty in present-day Iraq

Don’t they get paid well for their efforts? They are not paid “well”: at best they are paid “right”. And if they have no choice but to return to Iraq, there is little consolation in any money

Aren’t they sacrificing their lives to let the rest of the people get on with theirs as if nothing ever happened? After a few hundred billion dollars of US expenditure in Iraq, and with no end in sight, that question is too tragically ironic to deserve an answer

What if one does not support at all the intervention in Iraq? Well, if you believe those soldiers are there for no good reason, you will surely be motivated to save them one way or another

——

And so, unless you are or anybody in your immediate family is already a war veteran, I suggest there is only one way forward: support the American Heroes of the Iraq war, all of them.

If you are of the right age, enlist at once and save a soldier and their family from having to survive the icy-cold months of the soul of another tour of duty (What about those that have committed crimes? All more the reason to get them repatriated asap)

If you are not of the right age, there surely must be a way to help the soldiers and their families

If you don’t want to enlist or help, join an organization advocating the immediate withdrawal of all US troops from Iraq

Six Billion Eichmanns

Not long ago I blogged about the gathering clouds of a holocaust of Muslims, especially in Europe: “A future Holocaust of Muslims? Letter to BBC’s ‘Any Questions’”  (11-Feb-06 1:56pm):

The Western reaction to the brouhaha about those idiotic Danish cartoons has been […] [about[ flaunting the “superiority” of Western culture […] making no distinction between millions and millions of peaceful Muslims and a handful of violent protesters

[…] “superior Western Culture” (especially European) cannot deal with the concept of properly respecting, or even letting exist an “alien” minority in their midst. Look at what happened to indigenous Americans in the North and the South, to the Aborigines in Australia. Think what happened to the Jews. […]

With the security services busily imprisoning people for the crime of “wrong religion” (or “wrong beard”, or even “wrong hydrogen peroxide”), the forecast remains uncertainly pessimistic.

This sounds preposterous: I have been told that Western civilisation has come a long way from the 1930s, that Law is definitely the Rule now, that human rights are enshrined in too many bills and constitutions.

Maybe. Would our forefathers have believed that they were going to become genocidal? Who could have thought about Auschwitz in the Germany of Bertold Brecht and Karl Valentin? Who was expecting the Sarajevo of the 1984 Winter Olympics become a territory of war and massacres barely 8 (eight) years later?

Of course, we are better than out ancestors. Of course we can learn from their experience. Too bad that’s exactly what they would have said of themselves.

Of course we are better than Germans in the 1930s-1940s, or Jugoslavians in 1992, or Rwandans in 1994. Too bad the very act of pretending that we are better than anybody else, is fundamentally anti-Christian, hence a betrayal of whatever good has been produced by “Western Civilisation”

=================

In truth, we have been killing our own citizens too many a century to seriously believe things are different this time around. What then can help us prevent any reversion to our old thirst for killing friends and foes?

(1) Acknowledging that things are not well: and that they are not well, with us as individuals.

No need to believe my words: here is what David Cesarani writes about the ordinary nature of evil (“Becoming Eichmann: Rethinking the Life, Crimes, and Trial of a ‘Desk Murderer’”, Capo Press; reviewed by Barry Gewen on the New York Times, May 12, 2006 in “A portrait of Eichmann as an ordinary man”)

Under the right circumstances, normal people will commit mass murder, [Cesarani] says, and the circumstances of our age – with its racism, ethnic cleansing, suicide bombers and genocidal killings – are ominous. “Eichmann appears more and more like a man of our time,” are his concluding words. “Everyman as génocidaire.”

It is important to note that Adolf Eichmann, the Nazi war criminal tried and hanged in Israel in 1961, was no rabid anti-semite

In Austria, Eichmann had Jewish friends, was employed by Jews […], had Jewish relatives by marriage. […] it wasn’t anti- Semitism that led Eichmann into the party. […] The turning point came after 1941, when forced emigration gave way to genocide. Under the pressure of his new duties, Eichmann changed.

(2) Keeping in mind that idealistic political goals are the more likely to ruin us, the more wonderful they look on paper (and in mind)

A poignant example is provided by French philosopher BHL (from an interview by Jan Tunku Varadarajan of the Wall Street Journal, Jan 23, 2006):

When the Hegel of modern times will write this history, he will say that the real crucial event was Cambodia…Because till Cambodia all the revolutionaries in the world believed that revolution had failed because it didn’t go far enough, because it wasn’t radical enough…The first revolution in history to be really radical…And what we discover, all of us? Instead of paradise, revolution gives absolute hell.

Tellingly, it took years for the Cambodian crimes to be fully recognised by leftist parties, just as the enormous numbers of dead Chinese peasants during the Great Leap Forward at the end of the 1950s did not impede cultured “progressive” intellectuals from supporting Chairman Mao to his death and beyond

(3) Refusing and repudiating any talk of us-vs-them, and all forms of political propaganda capitalizing on division and even the slightest hint of hate

Here again BHL in the same interview:

We are engaged in a war against terrorism, but the war is a political one, not a religious one, not a civilization one…It is suicide to say that this is a civilization war, because if it is such, it is an endless war, bloc against bloc. If you say “political” you make a bet on the outcome

(4) Keeping in check the societies and cultures each one of us belongs to, instead pontificating on what is wrong in other societies and other cultures

If, say, you believe it is your duty to “defend Western Civilization” then it is your duty to understand and put into practice the old saying about motes and beams. Otherwise, you are betraying the deep root of your very cause

============

Gewen ends his commentary in hopeful despair, talking about Hanna Arendt, who wrote several reports for The New Yorker at the time of Eichmann’s trial, and a book, “Eichmann in Jerusalem

Arendt’s approach was unyieldingly universalistic. Her analysis of Eichmann was a demand for individual responsibility, an insistence on the need constantly to exercise personal choice, whatever society might dictate. This is a cold ethic, as severe as Kant’s, so difficult it has a quality of the inhuman about it. For who among us can maintain the unceasing moral awareness she calls for?

And yet, we ought to strive at least for that goal.

So please do keep vigilant.

It took just half a decade to get a failed minority party into an organization of thousands getting trained for mass murderers. In the age of the Internet it may take far shorter a time than that

Think the Unthinkable: Make Bombing a War Crime

Lives of enemy civilians have already little importance but in hypocritical declarations for the media.  

The progressive increase in the ratio between civilian and military casualties has been a sad trend during the history of war. Together with the overall rise in our weapons’ killing efficiency, it will only mean that in a few decades if not years, wars will be fought with zero dead among the warriors, and millions among the rest of humanity

Actually, the fact that wars mainly kill and maim people with no weapon, no intention to use weapons and posing absolutely no danger whatsoever to the enemy, is considered sound and sensible. It is accepted. 

But it really makes no sense

———-

I was surprised actually this week at my relief when finally Israel soldiers marched into Lebanon, instead of just the usual rounds of military airplanes trying to “surgically” act and killing hundreds of bystanders in the process (not to mention the distorted lives of countless children living in terror of the sound of bombers flying nearby)

Finally, I thought, there will be real people fighting each other directly, not through bombs far away

And so there will be the hope that a soldier won’t kill groups of children, like an airplane pilot does: perhaps, by the mere fact that the soldier will have to look at whom he’s killing, whilst the pilot gives his soul away to a robotic murderer.

————

Can bombardment be anything but a war crime?

In fact, say you are a Hizbullah fighter shooting rockets towards Israel. Are you aiming them at anything in particular? If not, anything and everything is your “target”. But then what are military advantages gained in killing mothers and children, something that is bound to happen? And if there aren’t what are you doing shooting those rockets but an indiscriminate killing, a crime then against the rules of war?

Say you are instead an Israeli pilot releasing a smart bomb to destroy a building where you’ve been told Hizbullah wdfd shooting rockets from. Imagine now the bomb actually hits that building, and not one nearby. Say, tens of children are killed. Even if somebody would be able to demonstrate the military advantages gained in doing that, who is going to do that? What independent tribunal will check your behavior? And still, if you were sorry about those children, what will make you less liable than a just-as-sorry person guilty of manslaughter?

This is not limited to Israel and Lebanon. The US and other forces have periodically justified the bombings of villages in Iraq and Afghanistan, as a justified way of targeting al-Qaeda terrorists.

Just as in Vietnam, we terminate lives in order to free them

————

The above does not even cover the use of cluster bombs, merrily floating towards the ground while luring little children to get near them toy-like killers

What do we do with killers and people committing manslaughter in “normal” life? Why would that have to be any different in war, apart than when all the people involved in the war are consciously doing so?

————

What kind of civilization are we talking about: one that has learn its ways out of the Nazi’s destruction of
Guernica in Spain during the local Civil War?

Are we willingly equating ourselves to the supposedly despised Nazis? Has any other Nazi policy or strategy been accepted in any other part of life?

And yet for some reason we all espouse the idea of “total war”, where every pram and every hospital bed in the enemy’s hands is to be bombed like an aircraft carrier or a dirty-bomb production facility

Instead, for the sake of safeguarding our lives, we give the Governments we have freely elected the power of taking out somebody else’s, however innocent, however young or old. How nice to sleep soundly with our consciences bloodily clean

Truly the Pearly Gates will open only for a few elected people!

————

What should a State do then, to fight another State or militia? Use a “novel” approach: send infantry with the precise aim of finding, routing, destroying the enemy soldiers.

You’re going to lose plenty of soldiers (if you can’t stomach that, surrender at once): but you will concentrate your fire power onto getting rid of the enemy’s ability to harm you and your country.

————

How can anything else be taken as reasonable?

What would you think of a racing driver wasting fuel in knocking down the mechanics of the other teams and their families, instead of focusing on winning the race with the minimal effort?

A more complete analogy would be: what would you think of a racing driver intent at (1) knocking out down the mechanics of the other teams and their families, (2) making the other drivers’ racing easier, and (3) lining up his own mechanics for the others to eliminate?

Because bombings have always elicited a stronger fighting mood in the enemy. And any civilian that dies as “collateral damage” is an argument in favor of exploding terrorist bombs among innocent bystanders

————

And so the Geneva Conventions must be expanded to prohibit all kinds of remote warfare, starting with bombing, but in the most exceptional circumstances (such as the targeting of military compounds)

We must protect civilians for our own sake. Because the idea that children and the elderly can be considered legitimate targets or even acceptable collateral damage surely is repugnant to anybody but mass murderers. Because it’s our lives that are becoming more and more cheap and expendable.

We must go back to the old ways of military confrontation between military forces. Anybody touching any person not actually fighting should be considered a war criminal and treated as such

————

Is this feasible? We know we could win wars by slaughtering each and every one in our enemy’s population. That’s what happened for thousands of years, and yet, we have managed to outlaw such a crime against humanity.

Many nations could have access to chemical arms of untold horror and killing potential. Many have used them, in World War I and up to the Second World War. And yet, we have managed to outlaw such a crime against humanity too

Ditto for nuclear weapons

————

The only thing preventing us from seeing bombings and all other kinds of “remote warfare” for the crimes they are, is the same thing that prevented our forebears to understand that wars need have rules too: and so until the Red Cross was founded, wounded enemy soldiers were left to die, and bayonets were badly-shaped for un-necessary harm

————

Think the Unthinkable: Make bombing a war crime

How to run a successful political campaign

Recommendations For How to Run a Successful Political Campaign

As extracted from a lecture given at the British Interplanetary Society in London on June 29 by UK parliamentarian Lembit Oepik:

The main gist appeared to be (a) get yourself prepared, (b) learn how to communicate, and most important of all (c) do not act like a True Believer, treating with disdain anybody not yet married to the cause

  • Be an expert
  • Describe a danger or issue that people understand
  • Do it with a smile
  • Don’t involve yourself in other issues
  • Keep in mind the ultimate goal: be ready for when the danger materializes
  • Clarify from the start your assumptions, the barriers on the path to success, and what organization you are going to need
  • Politically, the main goal is establishing a Task Force to get the Government to take ownership of the problem.
  • Facts and responsibilities must be clearly established. “Take it to the top”, i.e. the Government itself
  • Prepare the Parliamentary debate beforehand
  • Question yourself: why would a Government care?
  • Write to your MP asking for something to be done
  • Understand the letter will be passed to a “researcher”. Write it so as to help the researcher find the necessary information
  • For the Media, prepare a handful of established pictures and stick to those, so you won’t have to describe the basics of your problem again and again
  • Get ready for a long wait for “next big push”, when the campaign runs out of steam

——————

Lembit Oepik has been the LibDem MP for Montgomeryshire in Wales since 1997

Officially, his lecture at the British Interplanetary Society in London on June 29 was on the cheerful topic of “We are all going to die

Self-styled profile provided at the lecture included age, Estonian parents escapees from Stalin, a birth in Northern Ireland (admittedly, not the wisest choice for emigrating a place to), a degree, a long-standing passion for Astronomy, and being a risk taker.

His grandfather was Ernst Julius Oepik, who did NEOs NEOs (Near Earth Objects, i.e. asteroids and comets flying close to our planet)work in the 1950s and 1960s, when it was particularly unfashionable.

Lembit Oepik wanted to get the UK government interested in NEOs.

He started by asking himself why would a Government care, so that they’d take seriously the threat of an asteroid smashing against our planet

Cynically, Governments won’t be interested in “extinction level events” wiping out most of humanity: if that were to be announced, all the Government would think of is that they will not lose next election.

It’s all different with relatively small impacts: a 300m-diameter asteroid could cause catastrophic effects on the economy or social cohesion, without killing billions of people. The Government would be left with the job of patching things up together again.

How to establish then a Campaign to defend ourselves against NEOs? Oepik and his team defined their Assumptions (date is early 1999)

1. A future impact is a certainty
2. It can definitely destroy civilization without wiping out humanity
3. We are taking care of lower risks already, incidents and disaster with far easier consequences
4. The threat from NEOs is not taken seriously
5. There is no sign of any Government working on this.

(Three interesting facts as an aside:
(i) If the Tunguska asteroid or comet of 1908 had hit a few hours later, say, just on top of Westminster Abbey (similar latitude), most of London would have been wiped out
(ii) A 15-km asteroid would be enough to kill up to 90% of humanity. That would leave alive a still sizable 600 millions of us)
(iii) Whatever solution we come up about the threat of NEOs, it may still not be enough. An asteroid zipping on the other side of the solar system that gets aimed at us as if straight from the Sun, would be invisible in the glare of the stellar light, and detected (if at all) when it’s way too late)

Then Oepik listed the Barriers:

1. Governments follow “fashion”
2. Governments think about elections, voters’ fears and anything that can hurt them
3. On a human timescale, hugely-disastrous NEO collisions against our planet are rare an event. If we would be living for 100,000 years, we would witness a couple of terrible impacts. We can only expect a Tunguska event every 100 years.
4. Space is not as fashionable nowadays as in 1969

The Campaign was then organized around:

a) Goal
b) Core Proposition
c) Timetable
d) Team
e) Political Strategy
f) Media Strategy

Goal: Create a NEO task force to investigate the threat and publish a Government report with recommendations for actions

Core proposition: Present the effort for tracking NEOs as an insurance policy (comes down to around 10€ per citizen). Computations were based on actuarial risks: insurance experts can calculate the short- and long-term costs of action and inaction, for countries and insurance companies. This is easy then to compare with impact devastation, and with other risks

Timetable: Relevant Ministerial Department contacted in March 99; Parliamentary debate in April 99; Task Force established in December 99; Report published in December 2000; Actions from 2001 onwards

(Actually, finding the right department has been a challenge in itself. Oepik run into a bit of luck as the long-standing Minister for DTI (Lord Sainsbury) was personally interested)

Political strategy: Make NEO threats a public talking point. Establish facts and responsibilities. And “Take it to the top”, i.e. the Government itself

It is also important to prepare the Parliamentary debate beforehand, making sure the Government spokesman on the floor is aware of what request is going to be submitted.

Media strategy: Elicit press interest. Scare tactics are Ok in this case as the upcoming disaster is a certainty. “Near misses” by NEOs must be publicized, along with the effects they would have had had they stricken our planet.

The aim is to balance the politicians’ neglect and the media’s sensationalism, sometimes destructive irony and sarcasm.

(Oepik saw himself described alternatively as the Savior, or the Destroyer of Planet Earth, when the asteroid sporting his grandfather’s name was mistakenly thought approaching our planet)

A handful of established pictures are very helpful, as after they are distributed through the popular press, they can easily be used in the future to recall the whole issue in the minds of the readers without having to explain the whole problem all over again.

(In another case of hard luck, a “miracle” happened in the midst of Oepik’s efforts, and 2 movies came out of Hollywood on the topic of NEO threats: “Deep Impact” and “Armageddon”, the latter with Bruce Willis. It became much easier to get the media interested)

Situation now: The Task Force was established without much of a problem, and included topmost scientists. As a positive sign of strength, Oepik himself did not have to be a member of it.

After a year, the Task Force came out with 14 recommendations. Only one of them has been implemented: the Government has pushed for NEO threats to be considered as facts, with regular coverage by the media.

Oepik is now waiting for the opportunity for “next big push”, something to get the remaining 13 recommendations back on top of the Government’s priorities.

He is also asking everybody interested in the issue to write to their own MP asking for all recommendations to be implemented asap

The evening ended with a Q&A session. Oepik re-asserted his conviction that scare tactics are in this case justified, as chances of dying because of an asteroid impact are superior to those winning the UK lottery. He wasn’t clear however on how he planned to differentiate his campaign from others also using scare tactics.

Finally, Oepik strongly recommended not getting oneself embroiled in other, even similar campaigns, so as not to lose focus

Free the Poor from Social Housing

Why would the poor remain poor?

Surely even they must be able to understand the obvious advantages of being rich? And so is it right to treat them with condescension, as a fellow member of a mailing list once wrote “If they're born into and stay there, then they stay there by choice”?

Choice? What choice?

People born in squalid conditions, "educated" in squalid conditions and inhabiting in squalid conditions…aren’t they obviously less likely to take advantage of opportunities for the mere fact that they simply cannot see them?

Because they have seen few of them in the past, have been "taught" to live in squalid conditions, have had little exposure to people that "made it" (apart from successful drug traffickers and other gangmasters)

Not to mention the fact that "opportunities" are hard to take advantage of when the daily struggle is how to avoid having one's apartment taken over by crazed drug addicts

There is some data showing that in the UK the people of Afro-Caribbean descent less likely to be poor nowadays are the ones whose families were unable to get a flat in those gigantic housing complexes for the poor (that have since then turned in labyrinthine no-law areas)

For more than a decade after blacks began to arrive in Britain in large numbers, they were excluded from public housing and occasionally from private rented accommodation too. By 1971, 44% had bought properties. Fortunately for them, many of those properties were in central neighbourhoods that have seen enormous price increases. […]

Many of those who fought their way into public housing, on the other hand, have become stuck in the inner city. Having been placed disproportionately in high-rise blocks, surrounded by criminality and malfunctioning schools, they lack the means of advancement. Black women's finances are not helped by a rate of lone parenthood that is more than twice the national average.

I say, let’s destroy asap all old-style social housing projects. Redistribute the people in the real world, as intermingled with other social strata as possible. And especially at the beginning, help their children 24/7 to find a way out of what life has taught them so far.

A tragic result that should make us think twice about the bovine application of simplistic socialist ideals

W.W.W. MOON? The Why, What and When of a Permanent Manned Lunar Colony

Presented at the Human Future and Space Symposium – 28 Apr 2004 – The British Interplanetary Society

(an edited version has been published in the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society, Vol. 58, No. 3/4 March/April 2005, pp 131-137)

The aim of this presentation is to define the basic reasons, means and timescale for the establishment of a permanent, manned lunar settlement. Going beyond a review of the vast existing literature on the subject, the underlying goal is a call into action (=launches) to all people and organisations involved and interested in the exploration and use of the Moon:
· the BIS
· the Planetary Society
· all Moon-related Societies (such as the Artemis Society)
· every single Lunar and Planetary scientist and
· for reasons that frankly should be obvious to everyone, also the Mars Society

Introduction

Structure

This work is structured into three main sections, plus introduction and conclusions:
· Why go to the Moon? What are the reasons for sending humans?
· What are the technologies needed? Where will the settlements be located?
· When will the human race go back to the Moon? And when can we expect a permanent lunar settlement to be established by?

Background

A few points of note to explain the main assumptions: first of all by "human settlement" it is intended a self-sustaining permanently-manned colony, inhabited not only by scientists and astronauts. In the sense of being opposed to the idea of a "lunar outpost", the structure must be as far as possible from the old concept of "habitable tin cans" ('a la International Space Station).
Furthermore, there have been centuries of Moon-based dreams, for the past five decades or so with some technological flavour [1]. Practically, we do have the Apollo missions, with an equivalent extra-vehicular activity of around 7dd field work at most (more like 3 days, mostly by non-scientists) [2]. Apart from that, and some Soviet missions, it has all been a matter of dreams. The present work aims instead to be all about being pragmatic in the extreme, keeping also in mind that there IS an obvious conflict-of-interest: as one of the Author's goals is to be a member of the lunar settlement; thus helping oneself while helping humanity make use of the Moon.

Issues and Obstacles

Pragmatism means starting from the obstacles between us and the permanent lunar settlement. Very briefly, where is the interest in a new lunar adventure? [3]:

· There is no shortage of grand plans on paper (for example a Lunar Hilton Hotel) and of good ideas about living on the moon, left to collect dust whilst new projects are sketched (thus lowering ever more the likelihood that any of them is put in practice.
· Whatever plan is put forward, it will have to cope with the fact that space flight has always served a political mixture of civilian and military purposes [3]. And when the Apollo lost its political rationale, it was fully cancelled [4]
· A recent example is the amount of duplicated efforts in the R&D for the ISS, or the sorry story behind the stored "GoreSat" having had the wrong sponsor at the wrong time
· At this point in time, there is no political "lunar constituency" [5]. Some quote "Been there, Done that": since Apollo has shown that we can achieve the goal of reaching the Moon, there is little reason to do it again
· Despite earlier ideas there is no strategic military importance in a Moon base [1]. And the scientific environment has not been united (as reported for example by Spudis [6] about the Clementine Mission, and in the obnoxious, baffling "Mars vs. Moon" saga)
· Finally, the attributes usually associated the Lunar environment include hostile, harsh, extreme and dead. As a consequence it is generally believed that it is "very difficult to set up a base there" [7]. In other words, the Moon IS seen as a single patch of rather uninteresting desolated land. It can be explained with the dominating grey hues from the Apollo surface TV transmissions, but still as we will see it is based on a misunderstimation of all the Moon can provide.

Challenges

The establishment of a Lunar colony will include challenges beyond the resolution of the issues listed above:

· Permanence implies a sustainable Lunar economy. But without practical experience the field of lunar economics can only remain in the theoretical space
· There is a non-zero chance that simply the return will be indefinitely postponed. What will that mean [8], and how can we minimise that risk?

Pragmatism on the other hand cannot mean keeping a negative outlook. Let's remember that whatever task we want to achieve, it is by all means much simpler than what presented at the time when President Kennedy promised to land a man on the moon and return him safely within the decade [9].


WhyWhat makes the Moon unique? What are the reasons to go back to our natural satellite, and why with humans? For some reason, those reasons are not actually obvious, despite countless books, articles, conferences in the past.

One could argue that if the reasons were that clear, somebody would have done it already.

Astronomy

There is something that really makes the Moon a unique place in the whole Universe: the Far Side, permanently shielded from Earth by hundreds of kilometres of rock. There is no other place anywhere else that combines radio silence from the cacophony of terrestrial transmission and access to atmosphere- and ionosphere-free skies in the absence of a magnetic field.
The lunar Far Side is thus one of the best places to investigate what is invisible to terrestrial astronomy, that is most of the EM spectrum [10][11]. One example is in the very-low frequency bands [12], where we literally have never collected any data at all.
An advantage of using the lunar surface over orbit-based telescopes is also the possibility of setting up large interferometers without having to develop extremely precise formation-flying controls.
Another example that has been suggested is neutrino astronomy, especially with energies between 1GeV and 10TeV, where the background noise is reduced on the Moon compared to the Earth, Whole-sun neutrino observation would be possible [13], a rather important activity given the somewhat still quite open-to-debate theories about the amounts and types of solar neutrinos.

Lunar, Terrestrial and Solar studies

Obviously, a settlement on the Moon would also provide a great opportunity to understand more about the Moon itself. After all only a few acres have been explored in detail, so there is still plenty that needs to be studied. We miss information both about peculiarities (what is exactly the bright soil at "Reiner Gamma" made of?) and the overall conditions on the Moon (e.g., if the Moon's rocks have been formed in absence of water, what was/is the composition of volcanic gases [14]?). By having a lunar settlement, we can understand that and more, without having to bring rocks and samples back to Earth [15].
Those studies need not only have a local relevance. Apart from the Moon being as good a base as any for the discovery and tracking of Near-Earth Object, due to the amount of data collected during the 1960's the Moon is THE reference for planetary science [16] [17], a differentiated body with significant episodes of volcanism and plenty of crater types, where very little (if anything) is changing now.

There are even open Earth geology questions that can be better answered on our natural satellite. We do have a practical result in this field already. The post-Apollo mainstream lunar origin theory (an impact between proto-Earth and a Mars-sized body) does explain the excess iron in our own siderophile mantle [18].
One of the most interesting, relevant and important questions to ask on the Moon is, has Earth undergone recurring asteroidal/cometary "bombardments"? This has also biological consequences. Whilst traces are hard to find on our planet, the verdict should be well preserved in the lunar soil, starting with the impact crater frequency curve [19][20][21].
The same lunar soil's regolith contains also an at-least-billion-year-long record of the solar activity [22] [23] [24] that would help a lot in the understanding of the behaviour and evolution of our star. Just as well, buried regolith deposits are expected to preserve traces of the very young Sun [25]. Still, no need to stop there: the regolith of permanently shadowed craters at either Lunar pole may contain our best chance to read about the history of the Galaxy.

Exploration/exploitation of the Solar System

Thanks to its low surface gravity, the Moon can be considered a natural interplanetary spaceport. It is much less energy-consuming to go from there than from the Earth to any place in the Solar System (apart from terrestrial surface), including, paradoxically, to Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) [26] [27].
The Moon can then become a source of materials for the exploration and exploitation of the Solar System [28], including the classical example of asteroidal mining.
Given its proximity to our planet, launch opportunities occur quite often, a matter of weeks compared to years to reach even NEO's: it appears then logical to test stuff such as landing gear and autonomic robotic exploration on the Moon instead of waiting months and months to get the right alignment just to launch towards another planetary body [29].
Economical to reach, economical to land onto and depart from, and with frequent launch windows, the Moon's main strategic scientific and technological value may indeed lie in where it is [30]: "near but not here".
As an example, the Moon is a much better place than Earth to bring back Martian dust and rocks in a Sample Return mission, as chances of contamination of the specimen by Earth living organisms would be dramatically reduced (just as the risk of any Martian life to roam unchecked our planet) [31].

Geopolitics of the Moon

But even if the Moon is indeed unique for certain undertakings, our only effective example of its exploration is the 1960's Space Race between the USA and the USSR, when the "why" was purely a matter of political prestige to be gained by one superpower over the other.
We all know that race was won by the Americans. Little more than twenty years later there was no USSR left at all. From our 2004 point of view it can be argued that the USA effectively sealed their commanding status over the rest of the world by achieving the Apollo 11 landing.
If that is true, the first nation to return to the Moon will then either keep or destroy a huge chunk of American prestige.
If the next moonwalker will NOT be an American, commentators will have enough to seriously start talking about, and people to seriously start believing into witnessing the "End of the Empire". Just like in 1969, it is obvious that the entire geopolitical situation on Earth will appear wholly different if, for example, a local Chinese crew were to welcome in 2030 the first NASA manned mission to the Moon since December 1972.
Curiously enough, the present stalled situation, with the American Lunar capability dismantled and the potentially Moon-bound Saturn V machines gathering rust in open-air museums for political reasons, strongly resembles the 1400's Imperial Chinese Navy, destroyed by the Emperor after having explored (and effectively subjugated) much of the Indian Ocean decades before the Portuguese [32].
We all know that "race" was won by the Europeans. Little more than three hundred years later there was no Chinese imperial dominance left at all.

Social significance

Those apparently heartless political calculi of national prestige are (also) based on the very tangible social impact of "adventurous" manned space flight (i.e. the one where the astronauts effectively do go somewhere apart from orbiting Earth).
No better evidence about it could come than from Buzz Aldrin's own words when being shown a recording of the TV broadcast of the first lunar landing: "We [Aldrin, Armstrong and Collins] missed the whole thing". Grown-up commentators became so emotional to literally have to wipe off their tears in front of the first examples of planetary-wide audiences. The USSR's Pravda couldn't help printing the news in its front page, however small. Space exploration with humans is an endeavour that fascinates and enthuses all of us. It brings hope and shows that it is possible to "do the impossible". Generations have been born already for whom the proverbially impossible "flying to the Moon" is a reality.

Those generations are as sophisticated as any, though. As shown by the cool reception of President Bush's space initiatives, it will be much harder to convince them to go back to the Moon without a very healthy dose of pragmatism.

Humans or Robots

As quite often heard, humans ARE indeed costlier and riskier than robots. Environment control is easier in an automatic probe, there is no need to carry food not to recycle waste, etc. etc.
Still, in the history of Lunar exploration it would be hard to argue the unique advantages that humans bring to fieldwork [33] [34].
Take for a start Apollo 16: it was a mission conceived, designed and organised to collect volcanic rocks from an area consensually believed to be volcanic. It wasn't, but the astronauts were quickly able to focus themselves on collecting what was needed to understand the local soil [35]. Would it have been the same for a robot programmed specifically to investigate volcanic rocks?
Another example: the so-called KREEP rocks, unexpected, new and enigmatic collections of Rare-Earths [36]: would a rover (even as sophisticated as those in use in the XXI century) have been able to bring that back? Just as for Apollo 17's "orange soil", hardly a feature of any orbital mapping or automated lander's photograph.
Robots, of the kind feasible in the foreseeable future, can only do what they are programmed to do, so they will only examine and report according to their limited set of instructions…consider the Galileo space probe, designed to study Jupiter: as it passed by Earth in the early 1990's, it managed to get only hints of the existence of biological life (as gases in the atmosphere) and technological activity (as radiowave emissions).
Combine this with Mark Twain's musings: "there is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.". Years can be wasted (and important data remain uncollected) simply by building and sending robotic probes built around the wrong conjectures.
The only practical way to discover and understand something new (apart from chance) is by sending people [37].
We can generalise that people are needed where research would otherwise be prohibitively difficult [38]. And as the recent debate about repairing/upgrading the Hubble shows, humans are still too hard to substitute when there is the need for a complex upgrading or repair of instruments. From a Moon base, astronauts would be well placed to reach the new generation of telescopes built for one of the Sun-Earth Lagrange points [38]. Sure, their presence may degrade the natural lunar vacuum, but even with minimal precautions we have reasons to believe it will still be better than on Earth [39]. Finally, a Moon settlement is an alternative rest/rescue station from LEO operations [40].

Commercial Moon

Clearly the full-scale colonisation of the Moon may start and be much encouraged if feasible commercial reasons could be defined.
We have already mentioned the mining of materials for LEO and for solar system exploration: this could include the rather easy-to-extract lunar soil oxygen [41], ready to be sold to space transportation systems unwilling to carry it all from Earth surface. There has been much talk for years about extracting the exceedingly rare Helium-3 from the lunar soil as clean fuel for nuclear fusion reactors [42], but this may be classified as a non-reason as the first customers won't materialise for five or more decades.
Given the fascination astronautics has with the public, with the right kind of infrastructure in place there will undoubtedly be lunar movies, documentaries (e.g. IMAX's documentary about the ISS). And if costs for Earth launches and return trips will be lowered by a factor of 10 to a 100, tourists [43] will be able to start travelling to a Moon offering new kinds of sports, the chance of flying using one's own strength, and acrobatic shows featuring "impossible" feats. Furthermore, it will be in a low-g environment that would benefit all and especially those helped by hydrotherapy.
We do have an example of a one-g town built out of nowhere and quite good at self-sustainment at one-g, and it is called Las Vegas.
In the wake of plots of lunar land allegedly being sold on Earth, a market for memorabilia is expected, including moon dust, moon rocks, but also recovered items such as Apollo 16's forgotten film.

Legal environment

Short of transforming the Moon into some kind of frontier town, the settlement there by humans and the development of a lunar economy will need a legal framework agreed and understood by people and nations and companies alike. We will analyse this in next section. For the time being let's consider some legal reasons for going to the Moon.
In fact, many points about the legal conditions of all space activities need to be clarified, and historically those clarifications have come out from specific initiatives. For example the American effort at flying a satellite during the International Geophysical Year 1957 was sponsored by the government as a way of setting a precedent regarding over-flights [3] (and it worked). However trivial it may appear, there is an ongoing court case about the right by a certain company to claim ownership of the surface of asteroid Eros, and as such to be able to collect "parking fees" from NASA, that landed there one of its probes. Not to mention (at least for now) the Lunar Embassy, self-proclaimed owner of all planets and satellites apart from Earth, and the counterclaim by somebody asking for an "illumination fee" as sole owner of the Sun. Hardly stuff worth involving some Supreme Court somewhere, and yet the simple fact that all of this may even happen is the clearest sign that legal precedents and agreements need to be set.
And the longer they will not be, the less serious the whole idea of space travel will appear.

Issues

As yet nobody has been on the Moon for more than 30 years. All the reasons above have been somehow effectively nullified by counter-reasons. Among those, changing political climates especially in the United States (there is little if anything worth mentioning about other nations anyway). Bush Sr.'s space initiative was rapidly forgotten by the newly instated Clinton. And of course we are living in the shadow of Nixon's decision to concentrate on developing the Space Shuttle thereby making obsolete the successful Saturn V and shortening by several hundred thousand miles the range of manned space travel.
For years much has been done about humanity's fascination with (if not obsession about) finding life [44], thereby undermining all plans about returning to the Moon. Maybe it is only now that the idea that one needs not promote a single target for astronautics to expand: let's hope that NASA's exploration culture will not become a version of "All eggs in One Mars". On the side of lunar and planetary scientists there have been few examples of effective, politically aware and timely pressure on. At the time of the cancellation of Apollo 18 and 19, it can actually be argued that had the scientists lobbied Senators and Representatives early enough with the strength displayed when protesting against the decision, one or both those missions would have actually happened.
Or perhaps it was the Apollo era to be uniquely special. Within this interpretation, before and after Apollo the Moon [45] has simply been neglected because [46]:
– too close
– too easy
– too dead
– too "well-known"


WhatTechnical areas that will have to be dealt with to establish a permanent lunar settlement include travel and construction technologies, but also organisational, financial, legal and political aspects. Also, who do we expect will inhabit the Moon? And where will the settlement be built?
The following section analyses some of the issues involved: anyway, as the Apollo experience shows, what will actually happen will depend on circumstances simply unforeseeable (e.g. Saturn's S-1C's size being dictated by the make-up of the factory where it was going to be built [47]), including apparently insurmountable problems that will be solved when necessary.
As such, the minutiae of the technical details are not warranted the attention given instead to the overall outline of the what.

Technology

Given the accumulated experience it may appear more likely to be NASA leading the way towards a return to the Moon. President Bush's plan described in December 2003 does indeed call for a manned mission after a series of robotic rovers. It remains to be seen if this plan will go the way of so many others: clearly there is still a difference between recurring, partisan calls to space and a grand vision outlined as a fight for national survival by a young, prematurely killed President. With NASA following orders more than leading consensus on space exploration, it will be a hard call for presidential staff changing every 4 or 8 years to maintain the same policy about space flight for many years in a row.
How about forgetting the politicians then? Private space travel [48] is likely to be somewhere in the middle of its infancy, with the famous X-Prize perhaps going to be won by 2005 or 2006. Some companies are already planning cargo flights to the Moon and appears ready for the undertaking as soon as the right number of clients is achieved: Transorbital's Trailblazer and Orbital Development's MoonCrash. Definitely primitive stuff compared to a 1969 human landing, but no doubt progress will be made quickly were a viable entrepreneurial case be made (or found…), for example in providing services to the lunar settlement, starting with a detailed lunar map.
Space travel aside, a lunar settlement will have necessarily to be tested at first as a terrestrial mock-up [49]. For the beginning it may be appealing to simply re-use ISS technology, with slight changes to accommodate a non-zero gravity environment. But the endeavour will be viable only by development of ISRU (In-Situ Resource Utilisation): in other words, transport the building machines, not the goods [50]. Several studies indicate that lunar regolith can be used for construction, apart from extracting basic materials such as oxygen and iron. Water for making lunar cement and other manufacturing purposes may come from polar craters if confirmed (and if reachable): otherwise there may be a case for a thorough investigation of available small-size, water-rich NEO's.
Surface and local transportation of goods and people may involve ballistic trajectories on the airless Moon, and/or building of regolith-resistant railroads. It is also not difficult to imagine way-stations on Lagrange points acting as transmitters for some kind of lunar GPS (low-orbiting satellites not being viable due to uneven mass concentrations Mascons near the lunar crust)
Other important details include telecommunications (likely of the photonic variety wherever possible); power generation and distribution, with polar or orbital solar generators perhaps as first tests of microwave energy transmission across vast distances before implementing that technology on Earth.

Inhabitants

Much has been made of the fact that of 12 moonwalkers so far, 11 were not scientists (and the only one has been effectively sent at the last available opportunity). Apart from the very beginning, it will be difficult to maintain such a disparity in favour of professional astronauts. Next to the scientists there will likely be other service personnel (again, not only astronauts), all of them likely in monthly or quarterly shifts. With the settlement becoming more suitable to human habitation, visionaries/entrepreneurs will then lead the way to tourists, explorers, TV crews, etc….and to dubious characters, including bounty hunters (why expect men on the Moon behave much better than on Earth?)

Organisation & Financing

If the settlement will not be almost entirely devoted to political considerations, it will be run by an international public/private consortium [51] among all those entities aiming at benefiting from using the Moon. There are several possible examples on Earth, such as having a "Lunar Port Authority" or even a Lunar Economic Development Area [52]. It has been proposed to finance the enterprise by issuing bonds, however in general creative and effective ideas in this field (short of getting the taxpayer foot the vast majority of the bill) are still in short supply.

Legal and Political structure

It has been argued that if Intelsat is the appropriate precedent, there are no additional legal problems for lunar profiting [53]. However, as said above there are several possible legal hurdles to pass, including the "land ownership titles" sold by the "Lunar Embassy" to around 40,000 clients.
However idiotic the situation may appear, only a small percentage of the 40,000 would be enough to warrant some huge legal headache to any Lunar Port Authority, unless the related treaties are amended according to common sense.
Other legal bounds make much more sense. It should be clear to everybody working on the Moon that the unique local environment should be left as much untouched as possible [54], at least for scientific reasons [55].
This is a rather difficult endeavour. Apart from conservation of the historical sites, the extremely tenuous atmosphere is easy to be disturbed. It was for example doubled in mass by the exhausts and leaks of the Apollo missions.
It should also not be dismissed the call for the "conservation of the regolith": after all it has taken billions of years to "create the regolith"…as such it shouldn't be simply considered raw material or disturbing garbage. Again, it is all going to mean a revision of the international laws and politics about the Moon. At last, we may even get a new Lunar Treaty [56].

As for the local decisional structure, the best example appears the flexibility of the Antarctic base [57]. Hopefully certain ideas about social engineering, like attempts at founding the "perfect community" on the Moon, will simply remain on paper (or rather isolated)

Physiological considerations

It has been computed [58] that on average a maximum 20% of time should be spent by humans outside the protection of a minimum 4 meters of regolith. This should not be difficult to achieve, and there is anyway a good deal experience on the physiological needs of people, thanks to the work on the ISS.
Debates flare at times on the effects on muscles and bones of low-g compared to the known issues after long exposure to zero-g: a continuative presence on the 1/6g Moon would answer many questions, with implications including the planning of human activity in the 1/3g of Mars.
Some consideration (again not wholly unrelated to a Mars trip) should be also given towards making the atmosphere of the base as dust-free as possible [59]

Location of the settlement

Everything considered, the initial location is likely to be polar or equatorial, the only areas where orbit access is every 2 hours [60]. Traverses between pre-delivered rest-stations (like in Antarctica) could be organised to explore more [61].
And while it is true that in general an equatorial base would be easier and safer to reach from Earth, on the other hand a polar location is preferable, as it means smaller temperature variations, and probably water, with half of the sky (maybe even the Sun) continuously visible [62] [63]

Underground Habitable Structures

A particularly interesting area of study concerns the establishment of inhabited structures several meters below ground level.
Those are ipso facto shielded from both cosmic rays and UV radiation. There is little cross-contamination with the surface. They are protected from impacts, and harder to sabotage. The bedrock is easily accessible, for example to anchor equipment. More lightweight materials can be used and construction much simplified. Plastics need not be protected from UV degradation. Finally, such a structure is repeatable in the establishment of colonies and outposts anywhere in the Solar System.
On the Moon, underground structures could be housed, at least initially, in one of the "lava tubes" [64][65], of which there are many [66], some hundreds of meters long and with 10 meters or more of roofing material. Given the relative size with similar features on Earth, it may even be expected whole huge cave-like "tubes" to be available somewhere on the Moon. Alternatively, there have been already investigations on melting-while-drilling techniques [67], or even excavation through detonation (given the absence of water in the rocks, it is expected that the roofs of artificial caves will not collapse as it would happen on Earth) [68].

P.O.L.E. Peak Of Light Eternal

The P.O.L.E. concept (Peak Of Light Eternal, poetic licence taken) combines the advantaged above in the establishment of an underground polar settlement.
Possible locations depend on a detailed mapping of the polar regions: for the time being they may be the rim of the Peary Crater, or the flanks of the Shackleton Crater at the lunar South Pole. An earlier version was described as a 5-mile-long structure, 3200ft wide and 1600ft tall [69].
With plenty of space available, P.O.L.E. inhabitants would live in large Earth-like caves illuminated as if in the full glare of the Sun. They would not have to continuously look at the Earth outside their windows, and would not experience as much "longing back home" (as for example some Apollo astronauts). They would not be reminded of the Moon "desolation": still, the Earth, the lunar surface, the far-side would be available at short distance.


WhenThe science of astronautical forecasting is very imprecise, with grand targets being notable mostly for their continuously postponed delivery targets (again, the only exception is Apollo). Using past timescales as guidance, there is all the chance that we are in for a very long wait. How can we speed things up?

Current Initiatives

The latest "American President" Plan includes an Orbiter in 2008 and a Lander in 2009 [70]. It should be noted that at least 5 years are expected between the decision and the landing, despite several orbiters and several landers having been sent toward the Moon already (and despite several rovers having landed or getting readied for a Mars landing). General consensus is to send robots to explore the surface, without people at least for another decade [71]. On the private front, Transorbital appears ready to go as soon as the financial situation is right, and others are claiming to be more or less near a launch.

Lessons from past estimates

But it is hard to believe in any published timescale of space exploration as for decades almost every estimate has been proven very wrong, starting from several American President space initiatives (including the Space Shuttle), all the way down to grand promises by folded companies (e.g. Luna Corp, Applied Space Resources).
Truth is that without the USSR there is no race [72], so aims are achieved too late and over budget…if they are achieved.

Infrastructure development

All in all, we can only expect (very) long timescales.
Even if a minimal infrastructure has to be thought-through and readied, there is no sign as yet of an effective long-term exploration planning. For example the Martian satellite Deimos is a neglected body despite its extremely easy accessibility [73] and the fact that Mars exploration and a manned Mars mission are generally considered much more interesting [74] for the public than anything the Moon can offer.
If the politically baffling, even naïve Mars First vs. Moon First debate will be considered a zero-sum game both goals will suffer, with the Lunar projects being most neglected.
And yet, consider also that Mars Society's brilliant efforts and high visibility have brought lots of attention but little practical return on their ultimate goal: there is no plan for a manned Mars trip for a long time to come.
How much more difficult a Lunar equivalent, as evident in the sadly sterile campaigning by moonwalkers Aldrin and Schmitt?

The above can only suggest an even slower implementation of any return-to-the-moon plan. We can reasonably assume that, in the absence of another version of the Space Race, either between nations or between corporations, there will not be any attempt at human landing, let alone at starting the construction of a lunar base before the end of next decade.

Timescale shortening

With forecasting after 2020 as true as meaningless, and too many reasons to go to the Moon to simply consider the whole situation hopeless, let's give a target for the establishment of a permanent manned settlement by 2069 as a tribute to Apollo 11.

Still, there is the possibility of accelerating things by carefully using the acquired experience. A good example is the Clementine mission, designed and built by a small team in 20 months instead of several years.
Even if carrying "sub-optimal" experiments [75], Clementine has shown what can be done when delivery time is key. In general, the less the effort in developing new technologies for new missions, the shorter the time-to-launch (compare to Clementine the years wasted in developing the never-flown X-33).
One may even argue that nothing will really happen as long as Astronautics remains the realm of untamed R&D, with every new mission breaking new grounds: it would be interesting to see if research engineers will prevail over scientists and entrepreneurs [76]. In the meanwhile we can acknowledge that the only means to reach the ISS is the rather old technology of the Soyuz.

Side-effects of long timescales

With long timescales expected, we have to consider how the situation will look different several decades into the future.
Robots will of course get better. Advancement in robotics and telerobotics could effectively nullify some of the "why" points, decreasing the chances to develop the human colonisation of outer space by removing some weight from the whole concept of manned space exploration.
From this point of view a push for having humans explore the Solar System as soon as possible, starting with the Moon, is of the outmost importance.

In any case, it is difficult to imagine any robot becoming better than a human in field studies and the investigation of the unknown.


ConclusionsSome open issues still need to be solved. What will be the economy of permanent settlements? How often do we want to use the Moon? (This would have consequences on the choice of expendable vs. reusable vehicles). What will be the security needs of a Lunar base? (a whole new subject to investigate)

Negatives considerations remain aplenty. Sarcastically, some have said that we should go to the Moon by stacking up all the papers written about how to go to the Moon: or perhaps, all future attempts will be buried by their own bibliography.
In the meanwhile humans are developing astronautical experience by working in the wrong place, disturbing zero-g experiments in LEO instead of exploring beyond Earth orbit [77]. The Space station is replicating the Shuttle in over-promising, over-running and under- (or even un-) delivering.

All more the reason to consider the "why" the most fundamental point about establishing a permanent manned colony on the Moon.
The "what" is anyway heavily subordinate to the "reasons". The "when" depends on our capability at making an effort to achieve our goals instead of developing technologies for their own sake.

As such it is important to prioritise lunar action over plans and studies: enough with optimal missions, big probes, complex new, perhaps too advanced technologies…

Just do it!

As it is hopefully going to happen thanks to initiatives such as the Artemis Society and SpaceFuture's space tourism plans.

Is that going to herald a cultural change in the public space industry as well [78]? Will all the people, societies, companies involved in Space be able to build public interest into a long-term solar system exploration plan, postpone if not outright stop public squabbling and get into the business of actually going to the Moon?

With robots able to do and humans able to explore, and years needed simply to wait for a launch window outside the Earth-Moon system, lunar astronautics may as well be a way of keeping astronautics going instead of waiting for uncertain Mars missions while wasting away making LEO orbits.

Perhaps one day this will finally start to happen: maybe an innocent will rise and people will say, in the words of Bridget O'Donnell, "she didn't know it couldn't be done, so she went ahead and did it"


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Petroski’s Cycle or Humanity’s Oblivion Spell

History will never teach us anything

This is a rather sad characteristic of Humanity, not just Engineering as identified by Henry Petroski in Success Through Failure (reviewed by Steven Cass in "Learning from Failure", IEEE's Spectrum, June 2006)

[…] a sequence of significant bridge failures […] have occurred at roughly 30-year intervals since 1847, when metal began replacing stone as the material of choice for crossing spans.

And it's not just bridges that exhibit cycles consisting of long periods of success punctuated by disaster: spacecraft, nuclear power plants, and other highly engineered artifacts have followed a similar pattern.

In his latest engaging and readable book, Success Through Failure, design guru Henry Petroski analyzes this cycle and other flaws in the things around us to show that the old truism "nothing succeeds like success" is in fact a recipe for doom.[…]

I do agree it’s a matter of memory. 30 years or so is less than a generation nowadays.

Look outside design and engineering, for example at the mostly manufactured Gulf of Tonkin Incident that escalated the Vietnam War in 1964 and the mostly manufactured evidence of WMDs in Iraq culminating in the invasion in 2003.

What's apparent is that despite the lengthening of the human life, nobody seems to recall the mistakes of the past

And so avoidable calamities, wars, genocides are bound to stay with us

Nothing new under the sun, until we will free ourselves from this evil spell