US Press: pick of the papers

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

1. Natural Born Drillers (New York Times)

Republicans say gas would be cheap and jobs plentiful if we stopped protecting the environment and gave energy companies free rein. Krugman says: they're wrong.

2. Obama's oil flimflam (Washington Post)

Petroleum is passe; algae is in! Charles Krauthammer attacks the President's energy policy.

3. Bombing Syria risks making things worse (USA Today)

This leading article argues that the proper course is to methodically align the forces that will remove Assad while limiting the risks.

4. In defense of homeless hotspots (New York Daily News)

George McDonald argues that the new trend of "human wifi" is bringing invisible people into the light of society.

5. The death star of finance? (Boston Globe) ($)

Despite its easy-to-ridicule anguish at the "toxic and destructive'' culture at Goldman Sachs, a recent widely read New York Times piece makes a valid point, says this editorial.

6. Time for some sunlight on pensions (Houston Chronicle)

It's Sunshine week and Texans should be asking the tough questions about their retirement pot, says this editorial.

7. America's Real War on Women (Wall Street Journal) ($)

Some men think they can get away with vulgarity because they're on the "correct" side on social issues, writes Peggy Noonan; others tire of being bullied by the language police.

8. Romney feels Bill Clinton's pain (Chicago Tribune)

But will the struggling candidate have his luck? asks Eric Zorn.

9. How Not to Attract Tourists (International Herald Tribune)

Mark Vanhoenacker advises the government to take a tip from the American people and learn how to welcome foreign visitors in an open-hearted and practical way.

10. The GOP delegate math (Denver Post)

Eugene Robinson explains: If Rick Santorum wants to keep Mitt Romney from wrapping up the Republican nomination before the convention, he should encourage Newt Gingrich to stay in the race, not drop out.

GETTY
Show Hide image

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.

0800 7318496