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, which at its current development stage is basically the idea, that we live in one world with one science and one nature with many cultures and religions, which all contribute with their point of view to some degree to our always partial access to truth; and science certainly contributes most.



Funding has been raised through crowdfunding efforts on and through workshop sponsors. Donations or ideas for further funding are much welcome.

2017-2018 Support

The 2017-2018 project was made
possible through a generous
grant of the cogito foundation.


With support of the Swiss Bible Society, the project could be re-established on a small scale, focussing on the lecture series "Mehr als Sternenstaub?" [More than stardust?].


We brought together key space actors and sustainability thinkers at a workshop for an assessment of the current situation and the formulation of ethical ideas and questions. The position has been reestablished to organize and evaluate the #PLASUS21 workshop, including writing a report and a research paper based on it.


The project's original purpose was to write a monograph* on topic, and to accompany the development of the research with public events.
These 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
    (took place on 9-10 March 2018 at Bern, see #DEVPLASUS below)
  4. a book presentation* after publication.

*After the extraordinary success of #DEVPLASUS, the book plan was postponed, however, to do a special issue on planetary sustainability with the brand new CUP journal GlobalSustainability. I thank the sponsoring cogito foundation for its flexibility. Additionally, a second workshop #SPLASUS took place, see below.

Original Cooperation Partners

Several cooperation partners had 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 - December 2018
March - December 2021
January 2022 -
(a further extension is important)

Workshops and Events

#SPLASUS International Workshop

>> READ THE Workshop Report (PDF, 106KB) <<

Space & Planetary Sustainability, 30. November - 1. December 2018, Bern
Room 028, Main Building, Hochschulstr. 4, 3012 Bern

FRIDAY Afternoon

13:30 Greetings and Opening Remarks – Natália Archinard, FDFA, Bern

13:45 Introduction: The Idea of Planetary Sustainability – Andreas Losch, Bern


Moderation: Natália Archinard, FDFA, Bern

14:00 Sustainable Satellites for Science and Society – Adrian Jäggi, University of Bern

14:30 Space Debris, its Impact on Earth & Space Environment – Thomas Schildknecht, University of Bern

15:00 Space for all Countries – the Space2030 Approach – Simonetta di Pippo, UNOOSA (via video message)

15:30 Space Lab visit: Space environment testing for flight hardware – Martin Rubin / André Galli (University of Bern) including coffee break


17:00 Planetary protection and planetary sustainability - what are the implications for space research – André Galli, University of Bern

17:30 Only business? The responsibility of the technological lead – Andreas Losch, University of Bern (with input from Erik Persson, Lund)

18:00 Plant Life in Space – Günther Scherer, University of Hannover

SATURDAY morning

09:00 Brain Teaser: The Exploration of Oceans as an Example – Chris Armstrong, University of Southampton (via Skype)


09:30 Why Asteroids are worth mining – Ben Baseley-Walker, Andart Global, Dubai

10:00 Forward to the Moon: the Moon Village as a sustainable, multi-partner Concept – Piero Messina, ESA, Paris

10:30 Social and cultural Challenges of Humans going into Space – Kai-Uwe Schrogl, ESA, Paris

11:00 Coffee break

11:15 INNOVATION LAB by Where to go, and how to proceed?

#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

The details of all planned, present and past events are listed on this page. The following occasions had 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 (Astrophysics & Theology)


  • University of Bochum, Germany, Course Lecture (Sustainability) on 24.1.2018
  • 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 Bern, Public Lecture on (Is the sustainable survival of humankind of value?) 10.4.2018
  • University of Lorraine, Project related talk (Critical Realism) on 12.4.2018
  • ESSSAT Conference Lyon, 18.-22.4.2018, (Paper: "Preserving" the Heavens and the Earth) and 20.4. sponsored reception "Into Space"
  • University of Fribourg, Course lecture on sustainability in space, on 27.4.2018
  • University of Geneva, "On Oiko-logy. Towards an ecological theology of our common planetary home" on 30.4.2018
  • United Nations, UNISPACE+50 preparatory event (active participation) & high-level segment (observing), Vienna, 18.-21.6.2018
  • SOFTE (Séminaire Œcuménique et Francophone de Théologie de l’Écologie), l'Arbresle (Couvent de la Tourette), Project related presentation, 5.-8.7.2018
  • "Religion & Science: Friends or Foes or unrelated?", Conference at the University of Zürich, Lecture "Our Common Cosmos: Appreciating Faith and Culture in an Age of Scientific Reasoning", 29.09.2018
  • Center of Theological Inquiry, Princeton/NJ, Project talk 18.10.2018
  • University of Bochum, Course Lectures (Theology and Science) in German on 22.10. / 19.11. 2018 / TBA 2019
  • University of Bern, 30.11.-1.12.2018 Official Project Workshop #SPLASUS
  • University of Zurich, Course lecture (Sustainability) in German, 10:00-12:00am on 6.12.2018
  • University of Copenhagen, Lunch Talk (Astrobiology and Theology: sketches of a dialogue), 13.12.2018
  • Friedenskirche Bern, 7.1.2018, Project related sermon (in German): "Wann geht die Welt unter?"
  • (ETH Zurich Alumni+), Project related talk on 16.2.2018 at the Wartburg near Zurich
  • CVJM Eschwege, "Elixir"-Gottesdienst "Glauben trotz Naturwissenschaft?" (in German), 1.9.2018
  • reformierte kirche wädenswil, 6.9.2018 Talk in German, (Astrophysik und Theologie)