During the first half of the program, George Knapp was joined by entrepreneur Bob Bigelow, who shared his concerns that China is poised to own the Moon. "Either by accident or by design, they are putting themselves in an excellent position for successful execution of this," he said of China's ability to not just travel to the Moon, but to stay there and harvest its resources. He explained that the abundance of Helium-3 and iced water, along with the position of the Moon as a launching pad for further exploration, make it an extremely valuable asset for any ambitious nation. "It's probably one of the few things that you could actually use the word 'quadrillion' as a dollar value," he estimated, "by the time you added everything up."
Regarding the legality of physically owning the Moon, Bigelow said that the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, of which China is a member, declared the Moon "is to be used for the betterment of all mankind" and cannot be owned by any particular nation. However, he noted that a clause in the treaty allows for any nation to opt out of the agreement with one year's notice. This relatively small window of time would allow for China to easily lay claim to vast areas of the Moon, since it would have a significant lead before any nations could react to their plan. "It could be, by the time we get there, we'll have to ask the Chinese for permission to land," he observed. While he acknowledged that the entire premise of China owning the Moon is theoretical, Bigelow lamented that there appears to be no viable method to actually stop the Chinese from undertaking such a plan should they decide to pursue it.
In the second half, engineer, author and building contractor Mat Stein discussed preparing for social collapse, environmental catastrophes and inevitable disasters. He detailed six key areas where current trends suggest impending disaster for the planet: oil depletion, climate change, collapse of the world's oceans, deforestation, food shortages, and overpopulation. Taken individually, each of these are serious issues, Stein said, but since they are happening simultaneously and exacerbating each other, the cumulative result could be even more catastrophic. Ultimately, he warned that "if human beings don't start controlling their consumption and controlling their growth patterns, then nature will do it for us" via famines and plagues.
Expressing hope that the human race could find a way to reverse these trends, Stein joked that "I call myself 'the optimistic doomer.'" That said, he declared that changing the outlook for the planet would require global cooperation in the face of these impending tipping points. To that end, he appealed to corporations to "make sustainability like the God of the marketplace" rather than merely maximizing profits with no regard for the negative effects on the environment and populace. Chillingly, he mused that, by the time the human race decides to make a serious effort to address these troubling trends, it may be too late and "we're gonna go over that cliff, no matter what we do." Despite the potential futility of such an effort, Stein stressed that it's "a good fight that's worth doing" for the betterment of future generations.
Check out some of the items that have recently caught George Knapp's attention, including articles on the smell of space, an army of virtual soldiers, nano-based surveillance:
Bumper music from Sunday February 27, 2011