Space, scotland, and sustainability

Words and art by Samantha Hambleton

Human curiosity has long been captured by space exploration, encouraging us to gaze beyond our own planet and investigate the vast and mystifying cosmos. However, as we venture out into space, it’s important that we consider the environmental and ethical implications of our actions. The rapid growth of space exploration, particularly in the commercial sector, raises concerns about the environmental impact and the potential exploitation of resources, as well as the ethical implications of our exploration.  

In recent years, space exploration has expanded beyond the usual actors like NASA and Roscosmos. Scotland is one of many countries and private businesses getting increasingly involved in space exploration. 

The Scottish government recently approved plans to create the UK’s first spaceport on the A’Mhoine peninsula in the Scottish Highlands. There has been a lot of buzz about Scotland’s new space frontier. On the one hand, the idea has been enthusiastically embraced by many as a development for Scotland’s economy and technological industry. The spaceport is estimated to have a large positive economic impact on the area, generating new jobs and fostering innovation. Additionally, it would establish Scotland as a major participant in the space industry, which might draw additional capital and talent to the region. 

On the other hand, concerns have been raised regarding the potential risks and the environmental impact of launching rockets from a distant, sparsely populated area. Concerns regarding the effects of rocket launches on nearby species and the possibility of pollution from rocket fuel have been voiced by environmental organisations. The spaceport’s distant location has drawn criticism for its potential to make it challenging to respond to emergencies or evacuate the area in the event of an accident. Concerns have also been raised concerning the effects of space debris, particularly in the context of the substantial quantity of waste already in orbit around Earth. Supporters of the spaceport contend that the advantages outweigh the risks, notwithstanding these reservations. 

The Scottish government has gone to considerable lengths to guarantee that the spaceport is run in a responsible, ethical, and ecological manner. They have stated that environmental concerns would be a prime focus and that there are efforts to reduce the impact of the space industry on carbon dioxide emissions. However, we must be cautious of empty promises and responsible in our approach to space exploration, especially as more actors join. It is essential that the potential risks, specifically the environmental impact of space exploration, are considered.  

As climate change continues to pose a growing threat to the future of our planet, many have raised questions regarding the ethics of investing in space exploration. Is it wise to expend a great deal of capital and effort on such a carbon-heavy endeavour in the midst of a climate emergency?  Such questions ought to be at the forefront of the discussion. Scotland’s recent foray into spaceports is an interesting development for the area, but it will be crucial to carefully monitor the spaceport’s effects on the environment and local communities moving forward.  

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