Captain Kirk, a spaceship and a shopkeeper

By Stan Rayfield

I’ve always liked Captain Kirk. Back in the day, my whole family would watch Star Trek – not just because there were very few channels to choose from, but because it was exciting. It was the future.

Of course, America has a surprisingly efficient way of blurring the line between movies and reality. In fact, of the last 7 American Presidents, 2 have been screen personalities in their own right. Were they actors first and politicians second? I’ve never worked that one out.

With this in mind, as William Shatner, the actor that plays Kirk, approached a real life  spaceship today, I anticipated a little showmanship that would help blur the line between the 90 year old actor and a real life space astronaut.

I watched on. He rang a bell and was photographed with Jeff Bezos, the billionaire Amazon mogul and owner of the spaceship he was about to ride on. He clambered through the hatch.

All was going well until there was a gap in the proceedings, the TV cut to a time filler from a previous interview. Complete with uplifting background music, Shatner said his voyage was important, and that Jeff Bezos’s concept was to live and build in space and make pollution a thing of the past. He wanted to look back at the earth that was sustaining our lives.

Fellow passenger Chris Boshuizen, a co-founder of the satellite company Planet Labs, went further, ‘The ticket is for the view’ he said, ‘to feel like we’re part of this tiny planet, this little civilization that frankly has a lot of work to do to make earth work better, to make it more sustainable’.

‘Make it more sustainable’?

Their 180 seconds floating in space were thought to pollute more than 300 tonnes of CO2. To put this into perspective, the household waste from a UK family would produce a similar level of pollution – over a 900 year period.

Why am I blogging?

I’m tired of greenwash. Don’t tell me the answer is to pollute more by sending tourists into  space on the basis we might think of a solution once we’re up there. The problem is here and now and the solution is already known.

If the rocket trip added another 300 tonnes of CO2e to our stratosphere today, it will stay there for up to 300 years, trapping more of the sun’s heat and driving our climate in a way we can’t control. Already it’s warmed 1.1 degrees C above pre-industrial levels.

When we reach 1.5 Degrees C above pre-industrial levels (about 10 years’ time) 700 million people will be at risk of severe heat waves and 70% of the world’s coral reefs will be dead.

Far from reporting on space tourism, sea level rise, biodiversity loss, extinction of species, mass populations shifts and wars over resources such as water will start to become regular BBC news topics.

Will space tourism help us be more sustainable and reduce our emissions in the next 29 years? Will it help in time to avoid the conveyor of catastrophic warming that will threaten us and our future generations?….Nope.

But in the spirit of optimism, I’ll make the space tourists an offer. If Shatner and friends would like to join me in a few weeks time in Glasgow at the COP 26 UN climate change conference , we could boldly go where very few space tourists have gone before. They could discover (by train), a new world they hadn’t known existed. It’s called reality.

Kirk out

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