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The Sublime and the Pale Blue Dot: Reclaiming the Cosmos for Earthly Nature

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Amidst a worsening climate crisis, there is growing public discourse theorising the possible colonisation of outer space to secure a sustainable future for humanity. In the face of these escapist fantasies, political discussion on humanity’s relation to the universe is notably limited and primarily frames space exploration as a dangerous Promethean endeavour. While I do not contest this claim, I argue that humanity’s technological capabilities and acquired knowledge of the universe can alternatively facilitate an Earth-centred engagement with the Cosmos as a sublime aesthetic experience. I frame the sublime Cosmos and its infinite expanse of dynamic material forces, as a site of resistance against Promethean visions of human mastery and colonisation. I then theorise how the sublime Cosmos can be productively engaged as a source of political imagination and spiritual elevation. Recovering a spiritual attachment to Earth is necessary, for we are irrevocably tied to this rapidly destabilising planet.

Keywords: aesthetics; anthropocentrism; outer space; science and technology; sublime

Affiliations: University of Colorado Boulder

Appeared or available online: August 19, 2022

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