Two words: The Moon.
Think about all of our problems, as a species: overpopulation, pollution, climate change, wealth inequality. The moon can solve all of these problems. No, seriously. Check it out:
The moon has an area of 14.6 million miles. This is about a third the size of Asia (which is pretty damned big) and, given its complete lack of weather systems, no environment to ruin, and low gravity, building there isn’t such a huge problem. Colonies on the moon would have access to some water indigenous to the surface and, while scant, could be sufficient to support bases or perhaps a few colonies. Yes, this won’t solve all of the Earth’s overpopulation problems, but it could serve as a waystation to colonies even further out in the solar system, spreading humanity’s reach and, therefore, giving it more room to expand.
The moon would make a kick-ass dump. Millions of square miles of airless, dusty, barren rock upon which to dump all the nastiest, foulest, most dangerous chemicals and junk the human race can produce. Hell, if you organize it right, you could just shoot the trash to the moon in rockets made of more trash. So long as you can reliably hit, oh, say a 10,000 square mile patch of the moon (which shouldn’t be that hard), you don’t even need people there to supervise. Fire and forget, and that trash is never going to bother the Earth again.
Furthermore, moving various heavy industry to the moon wouldn’t be such a bad idea, either, since ‘air pollution’ needs ‘air’ to pollute. Of course you’d have the issue of having the workforce present, but aren’t we moving towards automated factories, anyway? Provided we can reliably get to the moon and back (which is something that all of this argument is predicated upon), this would make our planet significantly cleaner without really affecting the moon in any negative way that matters.
As indicated, the moon has no climate. You can’t change it, and you could conceivably ‘outsource’ activities that do change our climate up there. The big culprit–fossil fuel and power plant waste–would still exist here, but with more responsible ways of disposing of nuclear waste and batteries (i.e. on the moon), we can see a surge in more green technologies.
Hmmmm…okay, I lied. The moon doesn’t solve this problem. Of course it does make our own inequity a bit cleaner and less crowded, right? Maybe?
Okay, so maybe I’m exaggerating a bit here, but still, it deserves some thought. The moon is the closest and largest piece of unoccupied real estate in the galaxy, and it’s just sitting there, literally staring us in the face. We’ve even been there! There’s just no excuse for the human race not to find some kind of use for it. None at all.