Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Sympathy for the Spaceman

Why the moon base may be the least-crazy thing Newt talked about this week

We are not so different, Newt Gingrich and I. On the surface, perhaps we don't have so much in common. I am a chronically broke publisher of an underground newspaper who hangs drywall for a living. He is a clinical sociopath on a quest for Fuhrerdom over the Amerikan Homeland. But underneath it all, we are just a couple of sci-fi geeks with a penchant for post-apocalyptic fantasy and a disturbing lack of regard for societal norms.

Both Newt and I grew up consuming science fiction. We both believed in the promise that man would explore the stars in the 21st century. I would bet that Newt, like I, as a boy dreamt of doing laps around gravity ring of a donut-shaped space station and planting the stars and stripes on Martian surface.

Now, Newt has trotted out his boyhood dreams in the run up to the Florida primary in what is seen by many as a cynical ploy for votes on the economically devastated 'space coast.” Critics in both parties are crying out against Newt's promise of colonizing the moon in times when U.S. workers are worried enough about outsourcing of jobs to China without worrying about losing work to the moon.

Honestly though, for politicians and businesses who are still clinging to the concept of the “growth” model of economics, Newt may not be the crazy one. As we have seen, the idea that growth can be sustained by creating wealth out of thin air with alchemical “financial instruments” has proven to be a fallacy. Real "economic growth", 50's, 60's style growth, is dependent on humans tapping into new territories, physically expanding to tap into new resources. Either we "grow" off the planet, or we shrink.  We can't have it both ways.

On last night's “Rock Center” onNBC, Hayden Planetarium director Neil deGrasse Tyson discussed Newt's plan with host Brian Williams. Tyson stated that “we have SO stopped thinking about tomorrow” (sorry Fleetwood Mac) and says of Newt's plan “...it's very reachable scientifically...but now people just think about surviving the day.”

Newt also understands the flip-side of sci-fi's message. If we do not expand into space, earth will undoubtedly become a dystopian hellscape, populated by leather-clad mutants and zombies. Newt is, despite recent attempts to downplay it, a believer in climate change and he knows where we are headed, id we don't reverse humanity's cancerous growth. He understands the downside so well, in fact, that he has worked for years co-authoring books with William Forstchen, a Montreat College professor of history and writer of apocalyptic pot-boilers. In the foreword to Mr. Forstchens latest novel, “One Second After” Newt speaks earnestly of the the role of sci-fi authors- from Wells to Orwell- as harbingers of things to come. He also writes extensively of the dangers of EMPs- Electo Magnetic Pulse weapons. But that's a topic for another day.
Still, as Floridians go to the polls in what is predicted to be the end of Newt's 15 minutes as republican loon-du-jour, I can only hope that, as Newt returns to the Fox News green room to lick his wounds, somehow, maybe his crackpot message about the importance of the space program lives on.