Mars Isn’t Plan(et) B.

Individually, a lot of humans tend to be bad at thinking and believe totally untenable things, because they think emotionally, superficially, and “psychologically” for lack of a better word (and also just crazily), but, culturally, the ideas that gain inertia, become social waves, go viral, or just happen to be shared by a lot of people tend to wash out individual follies. However, there are some social waves that retain an uncanny level of folly for being social waves.

One of those insanely ridiculous waves is the idea is that traveling to and colonizing Mars will save us from our own self-destruction and the destruction of Planet Earth.

Why doesn’t this make sense? Mars is completely barren, more so than Earth will ever be. Mars doesn’t have a breathable atmosphere, or hardly any atmosphere at all. 60-mph dust storms are common. The temperature goes down to as low as -225°F. There is no water. There is no plant life. There are no animals. The entire surface is covered by one or two types of rock, all seemingly of the same color. It has no magnetic field, so solar wind, cosmic rays, etc. would be a major threat to anything living on it.

I know that the idea is to transform the surface of Mars into a livable habitat, or “terraform” it, or build buildings with all our necessities in them and wear suits outside to protect us from the elements, but people probably vastly underestimate how difficult this would be, on account of the prevalence of science fiction. Even more importantly, however, is the fact that, no matter how bad Earth gets, it will always be more livable, and/or easier to terraform, than Mars.

What could possibly happen to Earth that would make it more barren and uninhabitable than Mars? Even if we succeed in completely destroying the biosphere, causing global warming, ruining the topsoil, rising the sea levels, and mining out all the minerals, Earth will still be way more livable than Mars because the remains of a once thriving ecosphere and the remnants of other conditions that were once good enough to support human life will still exist. We couldn’t make it as bad as Mars if we tried.

And, probably, whatever resources we need on Mars, we’d have to haul all the way from Earth. Besides the tremendous effort and resources this would take, wouldn’t it just make a lot more sense to keep the resources on Earth and use them there? Maybe “(re-)terraform” Earth?

After all, we’d probably still have an ocean, even if it’s polluted and the habitat is mostly gone. We’d probably still have atmospheric pressure. We’d probably still have oxygen, even if the proportions of various gases would be out of whack. We’d probably have some life left. We would, in all likelihood, still have our magnetic shield. We’d still have our moon, which is vitally important for critters during the night and their evolution. We’d have a more suitable amount of gravity than Mars. We’d still have a relatively wide array of elements and compounds available on the surface, and what we’ve largely mined up we could recover by “mining”/processing dump sites!

And all this is to say nothing of the wisdom of moving to Mars to try to escape our problems even if it were tenable. Obviously, nothing would fundamentally change about the human race just because we move to or expand to a different planet. So, we’d take all our problems with us. What we do on Earth to make ourselves and everybody else miserable and kill all the plants and animals, we’d do on Mars. It would only be a matter of time. And do we really want to be a Borg-esque species that jumps from planet to planet, laying waste to each one before moving onto the next?

And what about the obvious wisdom of trying to fix ourselves up, working in cooperation instead of competition, starting to behave like an intelligent species, stopping destroying the planet, and beginning the process of healing it (and healing ourselves, emotionally), basically growing through the here and now instead of attempting the ultimate in escapism?

Another problem is, besides being escapist an untenable, the idea that we can just move to Mars if we trash this planet up too badly serves to lead people to ignore the problem and keep participating in the devastation of the biosphere with reckless abandon, instead of feeling the very due pressure to engage in activism regarding the environment, degrowth, sustainability, and the governmental reformations or revolution that’s required to enact those things.

Leave a Reply