Amid the horrifying realities in our world, have you ever looked up and wondered why God, karma, the universe – anything – isn’t doing something?
I don’t know about God or karma, but the universe does, in fact, have something. World Space Week (WSW) occurs yearly from Oct. 4 to Oct. 10 in over 86 countries. It is meant to educate people on space findings, the importance of space exploration and the role of space in sustainability on earth. I found out about WSW only recently, and having gone to the event in Lebanon, I met the Lebanese National Coordinator Cyrine Nehmé, an astrophysicist.
“The only way we are going to save the earth and the universe is if we elevate to a higher frequency, and to think differently,” she said. “We are not just flesh and blood, we are other.” She added that, although she wasn’t speaking very scientifically, she said those words responsibly.
In the 19th century, scientists noticed that sunlight reflected in some objects generates an electric current called solar cells (or photovoltaic power), which became solar panels meant for spaceships. Satellites, Google Maps, television, wireless products — all are results of space education.
Looking to outer space for a more sustainable use of earth’s resources isn’t new — it’s one of the goals of space exploration. The role of WSW is to make this information available to non-scientists, to reach as many people as possible. Space belongs to everyone; it’s our right to know how it can benefit us and how we can use that knowledge to help solve some of the problems we created.
Living in space requires a strong sense of rationing — everything is limited and should be used efficiently. That alone is something us earthlings can learn from. Water scarcity is expected to become an imminent threat in the next five years. According to the WWF, two-thirds of the world’s population is expected to suffer water shortages by 2025.
There are techniques that were initially developed for astronauts to purify wastewater into drinking water. According to an article in Space News, the University of Kenitra in Morocco uses these techniques to purify nearby groundwater supplies. This provides clean water for 1,200 students, thus reducing the need to transport clean water, which reduces carbon emissions.
Like solar panels, technologies meant for outer space have a place here too, and an eco-friendly one at that. In a 2016 BBC article, Daniel Thomas wrote that NASA’s Ames Research Centre built a “green building” in California, where they’re testing energy-saving technologies.
“Sustainability Base leaves ‘virtually no footprint’ and uses several innovations from space, including solid oxide fuel cells of the type found on Nasa Mars rovers to generate electricity, and a system that reuses wastewater to flush toilets,” wrote Thomas.
According to the WWF, agriculture plays a massive role in climate change; from greenhouse gas emissions to water pollution, deforestation to loss of wildlife biodiversity, the impact is significant. Growing food in space became possible last year, and has also set the idea of virtual farming a “highly sustainable form of agriculture,” as Thomas wrote. Space farming uses LED lights which increase productivity and are sustainable.
Sustainability is built primarily on humanitarian ideals: meeting the needs of the present without compromising future generations’ ability to meet theirs. World representatives at the UN’s Fourth Committee spoke about the benefits space education had for their countries, from developing technologically to alleviating extreme poverty. Other benefits include improving the efficiency and facilitating the achievement of the UN’s 2030 agenda for Sustainable Development Goals, satellite communications, enhancing disaster preparedness and mitigation, and even improving the understanding of “symptoms relating to aging.”
There’s already a lot from space technology we can adopt on Earth for a more sustainable use of our limited resources. Yes, let’s march and raise awareness about climate change, it’s important that we highlight the problem. Yet, we should also spread information about the solution – look up, it’s in the stars.
Graphic by @sundaeghost