Liftoff of launch site should be aborted
Our elected leaders are cheerleading for construction and operation of a spaceport launch site north of Marquette, within the heart of one of the most beautiful natural recreation & tourism areas in the United States.
Many living here feel this is not the type of development that will improve the quality of life for Marquette County residents and visitors. The cost to benefit ratio is much too high and ultimately it will hurt our region and destroy our real treasure.
What makes Marquette and the Upper Peninsula so different and special, and what draws people here to visit and live, is that the volume of the natural world is turned up much more beautifully than in most other places that have overdeveloped at the expense of their natural beauty.
A natural experience to recharge our spirit and rebalance our soul in today’s machine dominated world is becoming a very rare, and valuable attraction for many, many people today. The U.P.’s real wealth now and into the future will be its forests and trails, our water, the natural vistas of Lake Superior, the natural world sounds, smells, and beautiful nighttime dark skies.
A rocket launch site with a massive forest clear cut, accompanied by noise, outdoor lighting, machines, sonic booms and vapor trails across our lake is not supportive of our real richness and is a serious degradation and destruction of precious, sacred grounds on our pristine Superior shore. There is no way to spin this as a “green development.”
It’s yet another assault on our Mother Earth – an ugly slippery pollution of the commons for our region. Are you aware that last summer all the people living within a five-mile radius of a Texas spaceport were told they would have to leave their homes when there were launches because overpressure could shatter windows (Brownsville Herald, August 2019)?
Is that the reason for the sequestering of this abomination on a pristine coastline along the North Country National Scenic Trail in the midst of city and state nature parks?
Driving this “progress” is mainly greed and hubris in its raw and most aggressive form in a space race to capture the last 10% of the planet’s internet “market share” from the low population density areas of Earth. Since further expansion of e-commerce by large web based retailers seems to be the major driving force for these low Earth polar orbit launches, what is the economic impact on local brick and mortar businesses? Maybe we would all be better off as a species with some places of refuge as internet free zones to detox from our internet addiction where no cyber bullying occurs and social media likes and dislikes don’t exist. Think about the environment we are creating so devoid from our very roots in the natural world. It’s making us sick with its excess, and loss of quiet time, confounding development of critical thinking skills. We are in desperate need of wisdom and balance. The natural world experience that the U.P. offers can provide healing. We appear foolishly on the verge of sacrificing this.
The number of low Earth launches being planned in the next few years in order to provide high speed internet access to remote areas primarily to facilitate e-commerce is staggering – at least 60,000 satellites and counting (Science News, 2020).
Since this dwarfs the approximately 1600 stars visible with the unaided human eye, the breathtaking beauty of our night sky is scheduled to be replaced by a disco ball of shiny man-made objects. Heads up astronomers and all those who find inspiration and perspective of the meaning of human existence by gazing at a magnificent natural star field on a clear night. This has been so important for countless generations of humans on this planet. The amount of space junk orbiting Earth, already a problem, and space fallout crashing to Earth, is expected to dramatically increase in coming decades (Sky & Telescope, 2019). Why support this?
The costs are too great and the benefits too little to allow this spaceport to happen here. I would submit to our elected officials that enabling this is not “advancement” for our quality of life. What is the real cost for all of us? What are we losing in exchange for this “progress”? Just because we can technically do something, does that mean it is wise for us to be doing it, promoting it?
This goes much deeper than any narrow economic analysis for Marquette County. This is an existential crossroads our species now faces on many technological fronts on our small planet.
Each of us should consider the much larger, ramifications and abort liftoff here.
Editor’s note: Scott Emerson, MD, is a medical toxicologist and integrative medicine physician who resides in the Marquette area.