US Press: pick of the papers

The ten must-read opinion pieces from today's US papers.

1. Reinforcing the church-state wall (LA Times)

Christianity thrives when the state stays out of its business and allows a marketplace of ideas to thrive, writes Jim Burkee.

2. The two Cadillacs fallacy (Washington Post)

Romney's rather authentic moments suggesting he doesn't understand the lives of average people (such as his comment on his wife's two Cadillacs) are dismissed as "gaffes," while Santorum's views on social issues are denounced as "extreme," says E.J. Dionne.

3. When Will Social Media Elect a President? (Wall Street Journal)

Twitter and Facebook will change US politics, as new technology always has. Think Nixon or 'Obama Girl,' says Andy Kessler.

4. Super PACs can't crown a king (Washington Post)

The one certainty about campaign finance laws is that all of them are, and ever will be, written by incumbent legislators, writes George Will.

5. A Civil Right to unionize (New York Times)

The greatest impediment to unions is weak and anachronistic labor laws, write Richard Kahlenberg and Moshe Marvit.

6. Romney and Paul, what a curious couple (Boston Globe) (£)

It's rare to see a bromance flourish in the hot glare of the GOP primary spotlight, but Mitt Romney and Ron Paul have something positively special going on, writes Joshua Green.

7. Fundraising: Obama's real priority (Politico)

The president has likely spent at least 200 hours, or 5 standard work weeks, filling his campaign coffers since April, says Reince Priebus.

8.Health care work force will be tested by reform (San Fransisco Chronicle)

Joanne Spetz asks whether the American health care work force large enough to handle the future needs of the country.

9. Time for Assad to go (USA Today)

For reasons of morality and the interest of not seeing violence in Syria build and expand outward, it is essential to try to accelerate the departure of Bashar Assad, writes Dennis Ross.

10. Who needs higher education? We've got the Redneck Yacht Club. (Miami Herald)

Florida's higher education mired in the mud, says Fred Grimm.

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Stephen Hawking's enthusiasm for colonising space makes him almost as bad as Trump

The physicist's inistence on mankind's expansion risks making him a handmaiden of inequality.

“Spreading out may be the only thing that saves us from ourselves,” Stephen Hawking has warned. And he’s not just talking about surviving the UK's recent run of record breaking heat. If humanity doesn’t start sending people to Mars soon, then in a few hundred years he says we can all expect to be kaput; there just isn’t enough space for us all.

The theoretical physicist gave his address to the glittering Starmus Festival of science and arts in Norway. According to the BBC, he argued that climate change and the depletion of natural resources help make space travel essential. With this in mind, he would like to see a mission to Mars by 2025 and a new lunar base within 30 years.

He even took a swipe at Donald Trump: “I am not denying the importance of fighting climate change and global warming, unlike Donald Trump, who may just have taken the most serious, and wrong, decision on climate change this world has seen.”

Yet there are striking similarities between Hawking's statement and the President's bombast. For one thing there was the context in which it was made - an address to a festival dripping with conspicuous consumption, where 18 carat gold OMEGA watches were dished out as prizes.

More importantly there's the inescapable reality that space colonisation is an inherently elitist affair: under Trump you may be able to pay your way out of earthly catastrophe, while for Elon Musk, brawn could be a deciding advantage, given he wants his early settlers on Mars to be able to dredge up buried ice.

Whichever way you divide it up, it is unlikely that everyone will be able to RightMove their way to a less crowded galaxy. Hell, most people can’t even make it to Starmus itself (€800  for a full price ticket), where the line-up of speakers is overwhelmingly white and male.

So while this obsession with space travel has a certain nobility, it also risks elevating earthly inequalities to an interplanetary scale.

And although Hawking is right to call out Trump on climate change, the concern that space travel diverts money from saving earth's ecosystems still stands. 

In a context where the American government is upping NASA’s budget for manned space flights at the same time as it cuts funds for critical work observing the changes on earth, it is imperative that the wider science community stands up against this worrying trend.

Hawking's enthusiasm for colonising the solar system risks playing into the hands of the those who share the President destructive views on the climate, at the expense of the planet underneath us.

India Bourke is an environment writer and editorial assistant at the New Statesman.

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