Book in the Spotlight

Wat is ruimte waard

Author:  Marjolijn van Heemstra
Year of publication:  2023
Favourite book of: 
Marina Moolhuijzen
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Meaningful message

Theatre maker Marjolijn van Heemstra really touched me with her essay on the value of space. Especially her comparison between space exploration and colonisation by the Western world, and what worldview underpins it, was a revelation for me.

The current future dream of a handful of rich states exploiting space, our solar system with its vast mineral resources, is like ancient Europe, which colonised 'overseas' territories for its own gain. Mining (messing around in the memory of the ground) on the Moon is no longer just a fantasy. The Moon thus degenerates into an economic wine region at the expense of everything it is, besides natural phenomenon affecting our Earth, a celestial body of myths and gods. Van Heemstra writes, 'To manipulate a landscape to your liking for profit, a lot must be erased (...) Forgetting that in exploiting that landscape, you also erode your own possibility of wonder.'  

She uses historian Lorenzo Veracini's ideas on 'horizontal' and 'vertical' thinking to explain these differences. For her, colonisation is 'horizontal' thinking resolving a conflict by fleeing it: a key feature of this is that 'the land of arrival is not viewed with curiosity and wonder.' The solution to resource scarcity is sought outside our atmosphere. Not change but displacement. Opposed to this is 'vertical thinking', then you do not see mining land, but an ancient memory of our planet, a grand, earthly archive, a moon of dreamers, poets, and madmen. Those who look vertically, descending into time, find kinship everywhere.

It is time we did not seek solutions outside ourselves, but let our environment change us. I find that a meaningful message.

Marina Moolhuijzen is librarian at the library of the Academy for Theatre and Dance