Have you noticed how colonizing Mars has suddenly slipped into the conversation?
The first time I heard anything about it was over lunch with some Silicon Valley types a couple years ago. They were all as excited as could be at the prospect of becoming Martians. I put their enthusiasm down to childhoods immersed in Star Wars sequels and maybe just a tiny dose of aspbergers. But those guys are doers.
I was reading The Week recently and apparently, it is going to happen. Maybe not for twenty five years, but masterminds are already hard at work figuring out how to get us to planet red. Its going to happen because, according to that article, cosmologists like Stephen Hawking think we might need a life boat and a whole bunch of astro types like John Grunsfield have declared, "Single-planet species don't survive."
More importantly, how come we can't get our story straight? On the one hand, some of our fellow earthlings are saying that economic growth is imperative for human survival. Now suddenly a whole lot of really smart - if slightly eccentric - folk are warning that we better start getting ready to get the hell out of Dodge because we've totally overdone it and this baby's going to blow. I am beginning to think colonizing Mars is the aerospace engineer's equivalent of asking the art teacher for a new piece of paper. For the record: I don't want to go to the red planet. I like the blue one.
Lets be clear here -we are not meant to live on Mars. You've seen the pictures. Our bodies are built for earth. "Astronauts are known to experience bone degradation, muscle loss and swollen optic nerves from spending too much time in zero gravity.", said the article in The Week. Furthermore, "Mars travellers could face severe sleep disturbances, lethargy and depression." Been there, done that. Only someone who never had to nurse small babies would think that was no big deal. Scientists also describe a toxic 'ultra fine dust' that covers the surface of Mars. Inhaling it will apparently cause respiratory problems and give us thyroid issues. There are also possible virulent microbes out there. We're still struggling with our own. And the whole water question is making me thirsty.
So be warned, if we do go, we'll have to live in "Space Stations." This may work for you if your idea of the perfect mate back in high school was Princess Leia or Captain Spock (I know there are a lot of you out there), but I actually like real people dressed in natural fibres and I'm claustrophobic. Frankly, the more I think about it, I'm not sure I want a bunch of science fiction fanatics writing the narrative of my future.
I have just returned from a summer holiday beside an astoundingly beautiful ocean. I really like it here on earth. The thought of leaving because we couldn't get it together is terrible. One of the things that crossed my mind as I walked on the beach this summer, watching the sand pipers and the plovers and the monarch butterflies do their thing was how grateful I was for the magic of it all. I don't want us to be in charge. Our little human brains can't compete with nature's intelligence and flair. I don't want to live on a human made spaceship like one of those weebles in Wall e, eating muffins from a cup. Maybe the real delusion about God is that some scientists believe they can take on the job. I mean come on, would we have ever come up with the smell of honeysuckle, the pattern of ocean waves, hummingbirds, a tulip shell? Having spent the better part of the last decade promoting various ways to protect our environment, this whole possibility of having to go live on Mars thing is making me want to get back to basics. As of today my new attitude toward preserving our perfect blue planet is going to be simple: I will take none of it for granted and I will thank my lucky stars that I get to call it home.