Terraforming other planets

A recent article posted on Interesting Engineering covered the topic of terraforming Mars and, possibly, Venus. The article is based on comments by James L. Green, NASA’s chief scientist, who said, in part, “Yeah, it’s [terraforming Mars is] doable. Stop the [atmospheric] stripping, and the pressure is going to increase. Mars is going to start terraforming itself.”

I’ve no reason to think this is false, and the idea has been the staple of many science fiction novels, movies, and TV shows. I’d love to see it happen. Can you imagine what it would be like to stand on another planet! This is something I’ve dreamed of since Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon.

But. (It had to come!)

Look at the world around us. In a little over a century, we’ve brought our own planet to the edge of destruction, through short-sighted selfishness. Even though the devastating consequences have been known since the 1970s (at least!), almost nothing has been done to stop the damage. And even though this has now become a supposedly major issue in our society, governments the world over refuse to take the steps needed to counter the problem, largely down to powerful vested interests.

This continues, even now, just months after the latest “climate conference” and subsequent “commitments.” Nothing has really changed, as we see in the European attempts to classify gas as “green” energy. Plans for oil and gas pipelines continue unswayed. Companies are lying about the steps they’re taking. People talk about such derisory concepts as “clean coal.” Targets are cheerfully unmet, and subsidies to major polluters continue with nary a hint of slackening.

I’m not against terraforming in the least. But the easiest planet to do this on is the one that already supports life–our own. If we’re unable to manage that, how the hell can we possibly hope to achieve it elsewhere? At best, it’s arrogant presumption; at worst, a smokescreen to hide behind.

Let’s not kid ourselves. Terraforming any planet would be a herculean task compared to fixing our own planet–and we can’t even manage that. The way we’re going, we’re more likely to Marsiform the Earth.



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