Thinking about Astro Tourism

If you’ve followed the Courtney posts and blogs of late, you will be aware of our interest in business with a social purpose. It’s our belief that business has a responsibility to be conscious of the impact it has on people and the planet. In this regard, many of us are encouraging each other to learn more, talk more and act more. 

Perhaps that’s why I was particularly taken aback when the most successful business owners among us made space tourism their priority this past summer. I felt profoundly disappointed by these ventures. While the three entrepreneurs were delivering messages about how space exploration would have social benefits, I could only think that  the significant amount of resources required to propel them into orbit would have been better directed to ensuring our planet continues to be inhabitable. 
This space race took centre stage in the media while the world was fighting fires on an unprecedented scale. Western Canada, California and other parts of the US, South America, a wide band through the middle of Africa, parts of Asia, and Greece were staggering to keep up with what we no longer debate is climate change-related heat, drought, and fires. Concurrently, Germany and other countries were fighting the flood waters that poured through their cities. All the while the global population reels with a virus that has significant implications for poorer countries and their access to vaccines.

While I am disappointed in the choices of these individuals, it’s not really where the responsibility finally resides. I wonder how we ended up with a system that allowed this to happen –the amassing of exceptionable amounts of wealth with too few people who are lauded when they use that wealth for social good. The world is somehow dependent on their good will and good judgment. Is it too much to expect and too much to ask? We’re asking those who have earned and who hold large amounts of capital to make value decisions about how it’s spent.

Each of the space tourists has done some great things with their influence and affluence. Branson and his partnership with Whole Earth Water, Musk and his development of the advanced electric car (the Tesla) and Bezos Day One Fund supporting the end of homelessness and other causes. But these recent space junkets negatively affect the environment by loading carbon into the most sensitive parts of our atmosphere.

To be clear, I am not against any space ventures or even all private space ventures. In fact, I believe our communications and other systems rely on them. But – because of the resources it takes and the pollution it contributes – perhaps decisions about space tourism need to be made in the public sphere rather than by private parties — where there can be greater attention on balancing social priorities. More regulation, more scrutiny, more transparency and more public discourse.

There has been so much concerted effort within the shipping industry and every other industry to make real movement in addressing and arresting mounting carbon in our atmosphere. It would be disheartening to have our collective efforts adversely affected by big and opposing actions.

I’d be interested to hear your perspective.


“I’m Paul Courtney and I’ve been in this business for 30 years” 


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