Note — May 19, 2019

Oh, Jeff

Seen in → No.80

Why Jeff Bezos’s Space Habitats Already Feel Stale

Jeff Amazon wants to go to the Moon but he’s using old ideas, old imagery, and doesn’t bring much new perspectives to the problem (except for his rockets). Fred Scharmen brings the historical context (I mean, he literally wrote the book on this), the O’Neill colonies, the critique, and the irony in this piece on Bezos’ announcement.

His plan to change these trends started with an outpost on the Moon. There, a small number of people could begin a mining operation that would support the next phase—the construction of large-scale, rotating habitats in orbit that would contain reconstructions of Earth’s cities and landscapes, becoming home to millions. […]

Now, in 2019, Jeff Bezos wants his private space company to take over the public imagination about life in space. Bezos is the head of a retail empire, and he knows how to sell an image, but what he’s offering today is a watered-down version of nostalgia for yesterday’s future. Bezos’s proposal is a version of O’Neill’s project that somehow manages to look and feel less futuristic than its predecessor. […]

It’s not just the imagery that’s stale. The framing and assumptions behind the whole enterprise are outdated, too.

Jeff Bezos wants to colonise space, but he’s paying for it by destroying Earth

Amazon is courting and selling to oil companies. Jeff has given up on Earth and is trying to sell us his re-heated space settlement “vision.“

Last year, the company announced plans to run its own delivery services. But unlike FedEx and UPS, which are slowly electrifying their fleets, Amazon ordered 20,000 diesel vans. And, perhaps most damningly of all, the company has aggressively courted clients in the fossil fuel industry, pursuing partnerships with the likes of Shell and BP to provide data services (including one called Amazon Glacier) to oil fields. A page on the AWS website describes how Amazon can help fossil fuel companies “find oil faster,” “recover more oil” and “reduce the cost per barrel”. […]

Enlisting the help of a private company such as Blue Origin may well prove a cheaper way for the US government to achieve this goal, but it means that the benefits – all the science and technology innovations – won’t trickle down to the rest of society as they do with Nasa. […]

Amazon is already sacrificing the climate at the altar of convenience. Blue Origin wants to asset-strip the moon to build refuges for the rich, and it’s paying for them by destroying the Earth.