What does it mean to contemplate colonizing Mars?
A former professor of mine is working on the Mars One project, recommending qualities of persons selected to colonize Mars. This is generating quite a bit of discussion on the list serve of alumni and current students. Reactions have ranged from “is this real?”, to “cool”, to answering the professors’ request for suggestions with a list of qualities.
Only one person questioned the actual project, wondering why billions would be spent putting people on Mars when we need to figure out how to live on Earth.
So far, I have been digesting it all, silently horrified about this idea of colonizing Mars as an actual undertaking that could happen in our lifetimes., and have been pondering my reaction, a queasy feeling in my stomach.
When another professor weighed in to say that it is inevitable that we humans will have to “deplanet”, I found my voice. I was shocked by what seems to be a collective disconnect from a profound sense of Earth as home, to casually consider “deplaneting” a good idea. (Or even possible). So I weighed in to the debate.
“A couple comments on this discussion about “deplaneting”. One is the arrogance of humans to think that we could export life from Earth successfully when we (meaning first world, urbanized, westernized societies) are just waking up to the need to live responsibly with other life here on our own planet! Earth is an incredibly, wonderfully complex interdependent network of elements and life forms that co-evolved together. We forget that, having been taught to look at things in isolation from each other.
Another comment is on the idea that maybe we have messed up this planet so perhaps lets go find (or create) a new one – the ultimate delusion of a throwaway consumer society. The reason we are having problems on earth is because we have ignored what nature is capable of giving us when we live with nature’s principles rather than against them.
The problems we are experiencing are human problems, not biological problems. It is possible to live in balance and within the limits of the earth. The reason we are not isn’t because we must increase our population exponentially or that we have to use up earth’s resources at breakneck speed. Change is required on a human level to collectively live within limits, to use and reuse resources, to restore biological support systems. We have a human system that is out of whack, and must be changed – and yet we think that it is the biological system we could improve and the human system is worth exporting.”
If we stop and pay attention, we can find that we are nourished emotionally and spiritually by the web of life on this planet. And this planet is in trouble, in terms of supporting life that supports us. So we need to take care of it and each other.