Outer space and new frontiers to environmental imaginations

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This chapter explores the importance and usefulness of considering outer space as an environment from the perspective of environmental sociology. It identifies that, whilst 'outer space' may imply a space outside of the human environment, global society is increasingly dependent on space technology. Although our notions of 'the environment' are often limited to terrestrial natures, this chapter follows other recent arguments in advocating a closer examination of how different 'environments' are being produced in outer space. The chapter focusses on three different, though inter-related, ways in which the outer space environment is materially, discursively, and imaginately produced. First, it considers outer space as an 'abundant' environment, in which outer space is seen as an infinite supply of resources for economic expansion. Second, it considers outer space as a 'risk' environment crowded with debris that threatens the sustainability of Earth's orbit in particular. Third, it considers outer space as a 'wilderness' environment to be valued either because of its intrinsic worth or because of the role it can play in addressing human destructiveness. The chapter concludes by expressing hope that the lessons learnt from terrestrial environmental sociology can improve our relationship with the space environment in pivotal times.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge Handbook of Environmental Sociology
EditorsKatharine Legun, Julie Keller, Michael Bell, Michael Carolan
Place of PublicationCambridge
PublisherCambridge University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9781108554510
Publication statusPublished - 30 Nov 2020


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