Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson have the resources to lift millions of people out of poverty. By leeching off the sweat and blood of the thousands of workers of Amazon and Virgin respectively, the pair have amassed fortunes that exceed that of entire nations.
Yet the unfathomable power the two have amassed has been used for the most advanced ego indulgences in history. Only several days apart, the two embarked on brief journeys to space, marking the first step toward commercial space travel.
Undoubtedly, forays into space have brought improvements to life down on earth. Satellites, the internet, and the international cooperation for research onboard the ISS are evidence that reaching for the stars can be positive when not done in vanity. But the aim of Bezos and Branson is the commercialisation of space travel, merely another opportunity to hoard wealth.
With one of Bezos’ passengers paying a handsome $20 million for their seat, the incentives have never been clearer to see. Both billionaires have set sights on regular ticket prices of $250,000 in the coming decade. The prices are the sweet spot for keeping workers down on Earth whilst an escape to a fantasy of a colonised Mars becomes more feasible to those privileged enough to see the planet as a playground to be left alight.
Capitalism’s relentless need for profitable expansion means space colonisation was always going to arrive one day. Earth is a place with limited resources, but space is not. With the unprecedented pace at which the system has burnt the planet out, the allure of infinite resources is the only way forward for capitalism, even if it means leaving humans behind to perish by the millions from climate change over the coming decades.
The swathes of resources needed for these feats are generated by millions of work hours by hundreds of thousands of people. Yet almost none of these people have any say on how the fruits of their labour are utilised. Those who create wealth will need to take charge on how it is used if we are to prevent a small number of people deserting off into space as the world below succumbs to poverty and environmental destruction. Rather than the gains made circulating back to help those down on earth, its being jetted into the endless vacuum of
Mally Kakembo, is a member of the YCL’s Wales branch