From Life to Life Support: Ecotechnological Futures in Space
During the Environmental Era of the 1960s and 1970s, visions of ecologically balanced worlds stimulated high hopes. Systems stability and equilibrium became key concepts. Particularly prominent was the vision of creating closed self-sustained ecological life support systems. The space capsule provided the blueprint to experiment with materially closed cycles. The paper will explore how at the intersection of space research and ecology “life” was transformed to “survival” based on “life support”. Holistic and selective views on life support systems will be discussed that merged sufficiency and efficiency solutions to environmental sustainability. The paper argues that the minimalist principle of survival collapsed images of recreation and creation, of paradisiacal pasts and ecotechnological futures.
Sabine Höhler is an Associate Professor of Science and Technology Studies at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden. Originally trained as a physicist she received her PhD in the history of science and technology. Her research addresses the history of the earth sciences in the 19th and 20th centuries in a cultural and global historical perspective: aviation and atmospheric physics; ocean exploration and physical oceanography; space flight and ecology. Her work on “Spaceship Earth: Envisioning Human Habitats in the Environmental Age” studies the discourse of environmental life support between 1960 and 1990. The book will be published with Pickering & Chatto Publishers, London, in spring 2015.