Ethics of a Planetary Sustainability

The Project

The concept of sustainability is widely acknowledged as a political guideline. Economic, ecological, social and cultural aspects of sustainability are already under discussion. The pressing problem of space debris and current space mining efforts demand that the discussion becomes a broader one about “planetary sustainability”, including the space surrounding Earth. To date, planetary sustainability has mainly been used with reference to Earth only and it will be extended here, elaborating on a similar NASA initiative. NASA envisions:

  1. a world in which all people have access to abundant water, food, and energy, as well as protection from severe storms and climate change impacts,
  2. Healthy and sustainable worldwide economic growth from renewable products and resources and finally
  3. a multi-planetary society, where the resources of the solar system are available to the people of Earth.

While all of these dimensions are essential, the project will especially examine and ethically evaluate how realistic and meaningful the rarely researched third point is. The problem shall be assessed making use of the philosophical and theological approach of a constructive-critical realism.



The project is made possible
through a generous grant
of the cogito foundation.

Envisioned Outcome

The project's purpose is to write a monograph on topic, and to accompany the development of the research with public events.
The book is thought to consist of six larger chapters comprising the core topics of the subject. The public events scheduled are

  1. a project presentation in form of a public lecture in the beginning,
    (took place on 7 November 2017 at Bern)
  2. two to three (or maybe more) conference presentations throughout the project,
    (see "Events" below)
  3. an international workshop discussing the results towards the end of the writing period
    (takes place on 9-10 March 2018 at Bern, see #DEVPLASUS below)
  4. a book presentation after publication.

Cooperation Partners

Additionally, several cooperation partners have signalled their interest in inviting the principal investigator to present his research in a workshop or lecture at their home institution.

Project Runtime

Juli 2017 - June 2018

#DEVPLASUS International Workshop

Developing Planetary Sustainability, 9.-10. March 2018, Bern                                             
F-122, Unitobler, Lerchenweg 36, 3012 Bern                        


14:00     Prof. Dr. Altwegg et. al., University of Bern: Opening
14:15     Dr. Herweg, University of Bern (CDE): Sustainability as a Mediating Concept
15:00     Ms. Matuleviciute, Luxembourg Ministry of the Economy: initiative and sustainability considerations
15:30     BREAK                
15:45     Dr. Bohlmann, ESA, Paris: Legal Challenges of Space 4.0
16:30     Dr. Arnould, CNES, Paris: Ethical Challenges of Space 4.0
17:15     Dr. Persson, University of Lund: Astrobiology and Sustainability
18:00     BREAK                
18:15     Dr. Rowan, University of Zurich: The New Space Economy: Speculation or Reality?
19:00     Dr. Archinard, Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs: UNISPACE+50  and the long-term sustainability of outer space activities


09:00     Prof. Dr. Dr. Beisbart, University of Bern: Realism & the Sciences
09:45     Mr. Barr, University of Chicago: Realist Theological Ethics
10:30     BREAK                
11:00     Mr. Weber, LMU, Munich: Challenges of the Sustainability Concept Today
11:45     Dr. Losch, University of Bern: Concluding Discussion

Space is limited, so register now.

Other Events

The details of all planned, present and past events will be listed on this page. The following occasions have already been identified for presentations:


  • EGU Galileo conference: Geoscience for understanding habitability in the solar system and beyond 25. - 29.9.2017 on the Azores, Portugal
  • Religion and Science Network Germany, 6.-8.10.2017 in Stuttgart, Germany
  • ECOTHEE 23. - 27.10.2017 on Crete, Greece
  • University of Bern 7.11.2017 6:15 pm  Official Project Launch Event (in German)
  • Astrobiology 2017, 26.11-1.12.2017 at Coyhaique, Chile
  • Université Catholique de Lyon, France, Project related talk (Oiko-logy) on 8.12.2017
  • ESA Headquarters Meeting, 19.12.2017 at Paris, France


  • Friedenskirche Bern, 7.1.2018, Project related sermon (in German): "Wann geht die Welt unter?"
  • University of Bochum, Germany, Project related talk (Sustainability) on 24.1.2018
  • (ETH Zurich Alumni+), Project related talk on 16.2.2018 at the Wartburg near Zurich
  • University of Lund, Project related talk (Kant) on  28.2.2018
  • University of Bern, 9.-10.3.2018 Official Project Workshop #DEVPLASUS
  • Life on Earth and Beyond, Project related talk (Is the sustainable survival of humankind of value?) on 23.3.2018
  • University of Lorraine, Project related talk (Critical Realism) on 12.4.2018
  • ESSSAT Conference Lyon, 18.-22.4.2018, TBA
  • University of Fribourg, Course lecture on sustainability in space, on 27.4.2018
  • University of Geneva, Project related talk on 30.4.2018
  • University of Stockholm, Project related talk on 11.5.2018

If you are yourself interested in organizing a talk about the project, please let the Principal Investigator know.