Terraforming: Terrific or Terrible?

“Perseverance Mars rover: NASA releases first-drive review”.

Yes, it made the headlines last week. We are able to control and make a vehicle move along the surface of another planet, 54.6 million kilometers away and making beautiful pictures of this empty planet. A fantastic scientific accomplishment, no doubt.

 In this moment there are 5 different missions to explore Mars. Even only this one single mission will cost approximately 2.8 billion dollars. Now I started to wonder: why is Mars mission happening in the first place? The real answer is not scientific curiosity, but terraforming. Terraforming is changing the environment of a planet in order to make it habitable for humans from planet Earth. Mars as it is now is not providing an environment where humans can live yet. And so here the second questions arises. Why do we as humans need to live on Mars in the first place? The answer is obvious.

We screwed up this planet so bad, that soon, no not tomorrow, it will be inhabitable for human beings to live on. So basically, because we destroyed and keep destroying our own habitat, our own place to be born, to live, to work, to enjoy, and to die.

It isn’t an alarmist or dystopic message, it is just a fact. We call this geological period the Anthropocene, which means that one single species, Homo sapiens, has had tremendous impact on this planet. Hardly anything on this planet is still untouched by human hands, feet or tools.  And doing so we also exploited this planet’s resources to the limit, we exhausted it, and we destroyed it and poisoned it in return.  That’s is the main reason we have to find another planet to live for future generations of the human species. 

But then, we spend so many centuries doing this to planet Earth and with our current level of technology and our current mindset, it won’t take long before we screw up our second home as well. Basically I don’t think we do not deserve to have a second chance. Only look at the cost of this project and you realize that we could spend that money a lot better by reversing or at least try to reverse some of the damage we have done and prevent further destruction of this beautiful planet. Until we wake up, and finally take responsibility for this planet that is our home, we don’t deserve to move to another one.

To cite somebody who a whole lot more than I do on this topic, Carl Sagan looking at the famous photo of the Earth from space, seeing a pale blue dot:

“Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there–on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”

— Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot, 1994

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *