Whenever I hear the word ethics I know it's verbal camouflage for an onslaught of bullshit. Here's a good example.
The implied argument is we shouldn't colonize mars now, but without the courage to actually say it. Then in too many words the authors says... How we colonizing Mars will determine its success, but without defining success which would seem to be the important part?
In my opinion, when has a huge impact on success which in this context I would define as a thriving independent group of humans capable of continuing life and growth even if all life on earth were lost.
This is revealing, Hawking doesn’t acknowledge that the disasters he names are human-made, that's true because that has no relevance to his argument. Extinction is extinction regardless of how it comes about. It's revealing because it goes with other arguments that assume human bad/nature good as if humans were not part of nature.
...are we setting ourselves up for a long-term future of planet hopping from one ruined world to the next? Give me a freakin' break. YES, let the havoc begin!
...stripping the planet bare. O.M.G. How can we take anything else seriously after making a statement like this? If we could suddenly transport a billion people to mars and it was their sole intent to rape the planet, they couldn't do it in a thousand years... but let that not dissuade the mindless fantasy about evil humans. How could this level of self hatred even exist?
Let's have a clue about sustainable practices, if they aren't sustainable they self regulate! No effort required. No planning required. Sustainable isn't just a football for kicking around your self loathing. It has a meaning and associated implications. The arrogance of thinking you can decide how things should be, over ruling those that would actually live on mars is beyond astounding. It's practically a case study in this form of lunacy.
If there is life on Mars, then I believe we should do nothing to disturb that life. Just more extreme bullshit. If disturbing life is a problem caused by humans we should just kill all humans because that's the only way to stop it. Of course, my definition of success would argue otherwise. We sterilize martian probes to protect possible martian life. Let me rephrase, we kill existing life to protect possible life. At this very moment our immune systems are murdering millions of life. Killing ourselves is the only hope for these poor microbes (who would then cease to exist because they wouldn't have us to feed upon.) Mars is a planet. It would be impossible for us to kill it.
Zubrin’s approach touts practicality to the exclusion of other considerations. Yeah, let's not be practical or have the least bit of common sense. Let's all hug a rock. Or better yet, beat you senseless with it. Too late, you must first have sense before you can be beaten senseless. Let's apply a single braincell to the question of... the magnitude of the irreversible disaster that could be caused if we are wrong. By definition, we don't know what we don't know. So there is no basis for inaction. Action or restraint from action has to have a basis in knowledge, not ignorance.
What if inaction or even just delay causes our extinction? This isn't hypothetical. We know that disaster is waiting for every basket and we need to be in other baskets to survive. If survival is the definition of ethical then arguing against is the most unethical position.
Then comes the ethics of ownership. Without belaboring the point, denying ownership to a broad base of people is not just unethical but just plain evil. I'm not going to argue it here.
How we colonize will determine success. Individual freedom is success and requires individual ownership.