by Mark Hopkins
From L5 News, September 1982
Barring a disaster of such magnitude that industrial civilization is destroyed (such as the Sun’s becoming a supernova), humankind’s advance into space is virtually inevitable. This means that L5’s goal of the large-scale economic development of space and its eventual settlement will be reached.
The reason we can say this with such certainty is the twin forces of resource exhaustion and technological advance. Resource exhaustion occurs as those resources which are the easiest to obtain are utilized, and it pushes the economy toward increasingly remote and difficult-to-use sources of raw materials and energy. Technological advance is the force which prevents resource exhaustion from bankrupting the economy: it continually makes it easier to use any particular source of raw materials.
As an example, consider the oil drilling industry. The industry began a century ago in a Pennsylvania field where oil was obtained by little more than sticking a finger in the ground. As time passed, the industry moved west toward more remote areas of the nation, such as Texas. Later, the industry moved outward to foreign nations such as Saudi Arabia. Most recently the twin forces of resource exhaustion and technological advance have pushed the industry to the northern slope of Alaska and to the seas.
In time these forces (just as they have pushed the oil drilling industry to ever more exotic climes) will push the economy as a whole into space.
It is in space where the vast majority of the Solar System’s resources lie. There are enough materials of roughly the right composition in just the asteroid belt to produce space settlements which would have a combined land surface area greater than 3,000 times the land surface area of the Earth. People will eventually migrate to where the wealth is and space will then become inhabited.
These considerations have major military and ideological implications. If one nation, or a group of nations with similar ideology (such as communism) takes control of space resources, then they will in time have the predominant GNP in human space. Since long-run military power to a major degree, and ideological power to a significant extent, are determined by GNP, such a nation or ideology would tend to become predominant on Earth as well. This is why we consider such things as the Moon Treaty so important.
None of the above gives us a clue as to when victory will be obtained — only that it will be obtained. The “when” depends on the efforts of such groups as the L5 Society and L5 Spacepac.