For the latest edition of her series on Sacred Ecology, Ruth H. Hopkins turns her gaze skyward. With recent headlines about lunar settlement and extraction comes a vital question: Is history doomed to repeat itself with the colonization of the Moon?

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About 4.5 billion years ago, a planetary body about the size of Mars struck the Earth, transforming the debris into an orbiting natural satellite we now call the Moon.

 

Folklore across cultures and spanning through time is replete with stories about the Moon, including mine. To the Oceti Sakowin (Great Sioux Nation), Hanwi, the Moon, is a Goddess. Hanwi is the wife of Wi, the Sun God. Long ago, they traveled through the sky as one, but Wi started to take Hanwi for granted. During a ceremonial feast for the spirits, Wi allowed Anog Ite to sit in Hanwi’s place, at his right hand. Hanwi felt shame at having been forgotten and pulled her shawl over her face. Skan, the Motion of the Universe and the most powerful of all spirits, saw this and was incensed. He chastised Anog Ite by turning one half of her beautiful face ugly, and banished everyone involved in the plot against Hanwi, namely Iktomi, the Trickster, to the underworld. After that, he punished Wi in the worst manner imaginable—by taking Hanwi away.

 

From then on, Wi controlled the day, and Hanwi controlled the night. Wi would spend eternity in pursuit of the wife he loved more than anything, barely catching glimpses of her on the horizon. Only during an eclipse would they be allowed to become one again, but just for an instant. Grandmother Moon still hides her face under her shawl, only removing it when the Sun is farthest away. This is when the Moon is full.

 

The Oceti Sakowin are terribly passionate. Romantic stories aside, the Moon is an integral part of humanity’s existence. Because of the Moon’s regulation of Earth’s wobble on its axis, we enjoy a stable climate compatible for life. The Moon’s daily and monthly rhythms have long served as our timekeepers, and scientists are still studying how her pull affects the Earth’s cycles and tides.

 

Those of us with fertile ovaries are especially connected to the Moon, sharing similar 28-day reproductive cycles. That’s why some religions use the Moon to personify the Divine Feminine.

As Ina Maka (Mother Earth) becomes less inhabitable due to a climate emergency caused by humanity’s own carelessness, and her finite resources expire, the same capitalist ilk who caused this crisis are looking to jump ship.

Ruth H. Hopkins

Since the dawn of time, humans on every continent have shared a fascination with outer space and the night sky. We grouped stars into constellations and made note of galactic events like meteor showers and supernovas. It’s no wonder our curiosity drove us to explore the cosmos.

 

In 1969, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) put a man on the Moon. Since then, there’s been somewhat lofty aspirations of setting up residence there. As technology progresses, however, settler dreams of colonizing our Grandmother have become more realistic and attainable.

 

We’ve long known that there was some type of hydration present on the Moon, but in 2020, NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) verified that water, the very same molecule that comprises 60% of the human body and that we need to live, is on the sunlit surface of the Moon. Finding water on the Moon is a big deal, because the presence of water on any planetary body is foundational to human occupation.

 

As Ina Maka (Mother Earth) becomes less inhabitable due to a climate emergency caused by humanity’s own carelessness, and her finite resources expire, the same capitalist ilk who caused this crisis are looking to jump ship.

 

Working with NASA, SpaceX, a rocket company started by billionaire Elon Musk, launched 4 astronauts into the stratosphere on November 15, 2020. They will orbit the planet, then dock with International Space Station where they will stay for six months. This is the first operational flight of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft.

 

Elon Musk has been vocal about his desire to colonize both the Moon and Mars for scientific and commercial purposes. In a recent presentation, Musk shared an illustration entitled “Moon Base Alpha,” revealing how he is planning on establishing a human settlement there. While he’s brought up research as a potential purpose for such a presence on the Moon, he’s also catering to potential customersinternational companies from the private sector. Another billionaire, Jeff Bezos, is also investing in these endeavors and plans to visit the Moon with Musk by 2024.

 

Bezos has no qualms in expressing that he wants to colonize the Moon and Mars and any other planetary body he can get his hands on because he says the Earth “will run out of energy.” Apparently, he’s discounting the promise that wind and solar power hold.

Colonization, especially in this day and age, is the result of unmitigated arrogance and an unforgivable transgression that we cannot allow to be perpetrated against any more of our relatives, be it two-legged or four-legged creatures here, the land, waters, or the stars above.

Ruth H. Hopkins

An essential component of the human condition is inquisitiveness and the need to study and explore. Examination, investigation, analysis, and synthesis of new data is an important part of our individual and collective evolution. For this reason, venturing out to research, learn, and grow is critical to our development as a species.

 

But exploration does not equal colonization, and I wish research was all these parties were seeking to accomplish on Grandmother Moon and beyond. Even tourism doesn’t seem quite as bad as the alternative—mining. Musk, Bezos, governments around the globe and corporations alike believe the Moon holds enormous wealth in the form of minerals and predict a future lunar gold rush. According to the 1967 United Nations Outer Space Treaty, no nation can claim ownership of the Moon. However, there are currently no laws that would stop extractive industries from claiming property rights and destroying the Moon for profit.

 

Besides being scientifically unethical, mining on the Moon, like it’s done here on Earth, would cause tremendous environmental damage and compromise the Moon’s ecosystem, which we are still learning about, forever. We have no way of knowing how the vampiric colonizing and mining of the Moon would affect us here on Earth’s surface and any change in how Hanwi influences cycles and tides could be catastrophic. Also, while the Moon is believed to be bereft of life, we do not know if anything exists there that is beyond our meager understanding.

 

It’s not just vain or ill-advised to attempt it. Colonizing the Moon would be just plain foolish. Have we learned nothing? Western “civilization” is drenched in the blood of enslaved Black people and millions of murdered Indigenous. Colonization, especially in this day and age, is the result of unmitigated arrogance and an unforgivable transgression that we cannot allow to be perpetrated against any more of our relatives, be it two-legged or four-legged creatures here, the land, waters, or the stars above. Money is not real, and the Moon is not man’s to rape, pillage, and destroy. It doesn’t matter where you plant your flag. The Universe and its contents do not belong to us. We belong to it.

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