Kurzgesagt, in their recent video "How To Terraform Mars - WITH LASERS" (just came out a few hours ago as of writing this post), promotes the idea of seeding wildlife on other planets without considering the immense suffering it would cause for the animals on it. Instead of putting thought into the ethical implications of these actions, the video (as par for the course) focuses solely on the potential benefits for humans.
Sadly this problem isn't an isolated incident either, the pattern of ignoring the real risk for immense wild animal suffering is common in almost all major plans and discussions involving the terraforming of planets or space colonisation.
Sure, a new green planet with lots of nature sounds cool in theory, but it would very likely mean subjecting countless animals to a lifetime of suffering. These animals would be forced to adapt to potentially hostile and unfamiliar environments, and face countless challenges without any choice in the matter. There's no way around it that I can see.
You might argue that in these proposed worlds, we'd create an environment for wild animals where there wouldn't be food scarcity, predators, disease, or even anthropogenic harms. Setting aside the immense improbability of such an world (imagine convincing a rhinoceros not to fight to the death for their territory against a wild boar or elephant), none of the terraformed videos or articles I've read have even hinted at wild animal suffering as a potential issue to be concerned about.
Also setting aside the conversation of whether or not we should extend human life into other planets and galaxies (for those who don't particularly follow longtermism, or the staunch antinatalists that might be reading this), wouldn't we be far better off just seeding these terraformed planets with plant life instead?
If the key decision makers of the future decide they have to bring animals to other planets (and we can't convince them otherwise), then just introducing herbivores would be preferred, at the very least. I'd still be staunchly against this unless we could somehow guarantee that the lives of every individual animal would be net-positive, but sadly— we're not even close to getting people to include this kind of consideration into these types of conversations. At least, not that I know of.
Don't get me wrong, Kurzgesagt has always been one of my favorite educational channels to watch. I'll continue to stay subscribed because I think they spread a lot of good, but their promotion of seeding wild life on other planets, without any consideration of the consequences, is unethical, and irresponsible.
Instead of blindly pursuing our own interests and trying to populate every inch of the galaxy with life, we should consider the impact of our actions on other future beings and strive to minimize suffering whenever possible— or in this case, preventing it from happening at all.
Thanks for reading.
Edit: I've just been told in a reply below that Open Phil recommended almost $3 million in grant money to “support the creation of videos on topics relevant to effective altruism and improving humanity’s long-run future.”
They (Constance LI) wrote:
This Kurzgesagt video casually spread an idea (seeding wild animals to new planets) that could lead to s-risk and didn’t even mention that the potential for s-risk exists. They also missed the opportunity to spread awareness of the neglected issue of wild animal suffering. It’s a double loss.
This is something I wanted to highlight as it's very relevant to my initial criticism of the video, and being that it's funded by OP/EA, seems to me to be a conflict worth pointing out. Again, I think Kurzgesagt is fantastic, I just think this particular video was irresponsible.
I also want to take this moment to thank everyone for their comments and positive criticisms, I'm new here but definitely taking pointers and expanding my knowledge on this subject. Much appreciated!