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Journal Article

On the Moral Permissibility of Terraforming

James S. J. Schwartz
Ethics and the Environment
Vol. 18, No. 2 (Fall 2013), pp. 1-31
Published by: Indiana University Press
DOI: 10.2979/ethicsenviro.18.2.1
Stable URL:
Page Count: 32
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On the Moral Permissibility of Terraforming
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Terraforming is a process of planetary engineering by which the extant environment of a planet is manipulated so as to produce an Earth-like ecosystem. This paper explores the ethical questions about the exploration of space and the exploitation of space resources that arise in the consideration of terraforming. I argue that space advocacy (including the pursuit of terraforming) and environmentalism are mutually beneficial endeavors. I show that the moral status of terraforming a planet, at least under traditional anthropocentric and non-anthropocentric positions, is sensitive to whether life exists on the candidate planet. I also examine several attempts—due to Holmes Rolston, Keekok Lee, Alan Marshall, and Robert Sparrow—to show that terraforming a planet would be impermissible even if the planet was not home to life. I argue that no attempt provides compelling reasons for the supposition that terraforming is morally impermissible.

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