Astroenvironmentalism as SF

Marino, Alessandra (2023). Astroenvironmentalism as SF. Environmental Humanities, 15(1) pp. 25–43.



The New Space Age is awash with discourses about space colonization and resource exploitation, and these happily coexist with the age-old and curiosity-driven question, “Are we alone in the universe?” Astrobiology addresses this question and, at the same time, codifies knowledge useful for protecting our planet and other celestial bodies from harmful contamination. This article critically examines astroenvironmentalism as discussed within astrobiology and attempts to rescue it from becoming a principle of border creation in otherworldly ecologies. To do so, it merges astrobiology with visions and images from feminist postcolonial and decolonial theory, STS, and science fiction, and reflects on the enduring colonial tropes that provide the building blocks of current knowledge on outer space. The same colonial cartographic imagination at play in the much-debated frontier narrative animates the concept of planetary parks. These have gained increased popularity as a mechanism of environmental protection in space, but it is important to note how they entertain a settler future in outer space and legitimize claims to territorial property and extraction. In a dialogue that is contrapuntal to the codification of this form of transplanetary environmentalism, this article traces how Lynn Margulis’s cosmic symbiosis, Donna Haraway’s sympoiesis, and Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Word for World Is Forest (1976) intersect with concerns of astrobiological knowledge. Crucially, they enable the blurring of three types of borders: between science and fiction; planetary inside and outside; life and matter. This border-crossing can be generative of a process of creating more-than-human relationalities beyond Earth-centric geographies.

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