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How much of the Solar System should we leave as Wilderness?

Status Report From: arXiv.org e-Print archive
Posted: Sunday, June 2, 2019

Martin Elvis, Tony Milligan

(Submitted on 24 May 2019)

"How much of the Solar System should we reserve as wilderness, off-limits to human development?" We argue that, as a matter of policy, development should be limited to one eighth, with the remainder set aside. We argue that adopting a "1/8 principle" is far less restrictive, overall, than it might seem. One eighth of the iron in the asteroid belt is more than a million times greater than all of the Earth's estimated iron reserves and may suffice for centuries. A limit of some sort is needed because of the problems associated with exponential growth. Humans are poor at estimating the pace of such growth, so the limitations of a resource are hard to recognize before the final three doubling times which take utilization successively from 1/8 to 1/4 to 1/2, and then to the point of exhaustion. Population growth and climate change are instances of unchecked exponential growth. Each places strains upon ouru available resources. Each is a problem we would like to control but attempts to do so at this comparatively late stage have not been encouraging. Our limited ability to see ahead suggests that we should set ourselves a 'tripwire' that gives us at least 3 doubling times as leeway, i.e. when 1/8 of Solar System resources are close to being exploited. At a 3.5 percent growth rate for the space economy, comparable to that of the iron use from the beginning of the Industrial Revolution until now, the 1/8 point would be reached after 400 years. At that point the 20 year doubling time of a 3.5 percent growth rate means that only 60 years would remain to transition the economic system to new "steady state" conditions. The rationale for adopting the 1/8 principle now is that it may be far easier to implement in principle restrictions at an early stage, rather than later, when vested and competing interests have come into existence.

Comments: 18 pages, 0 figures, 1 table. Submitted version of paper published in Acta Astronautica

Subjects: Popular Physics (physics.pop-ph); Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP)

DOI: 10.1016/j.actaastro.2019.03.014

Cite as: arXiv:1905.13681 [physics.pop-ph] (or arXiv:1905.13681v1 [physics.pop-ph] for this version)

Submission history

From: Martin Elvis 

[v1] Fri, 24 May 2019 19:35:45 UTC (300 KB)

https://arxiv.org/abs/1905.13681

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