Last time I promised to address the urgency of responding to terraforming now rather than putting it off another century or so. I promise to get off this horse when I’m through.
Let’s start where people seem, finally, to be. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems many more of my peers recognize climate change than even a few years ago. Few have recognized its potential, though, and there are many who still think it will be no big deal. But very few, indeed, have seen it as harshly as I do.
When people, many of whom are real rocket scientists, pursue such endeavors as finding life on Mars, they have almost no appreciation of how negatively I regard that prospect. It will be no surprise to me if the fact of there having been life on Mars–or of there being life there now–is confirmed. There are billions of galaxies in the universe, each containing billions of stars, and we are finding out, finally, that most of those stars will have planets, many of which will be in the habitable zones. There is no surprise in there being life off this planet. Much more startling would the opposite be. So why the surprise if evidence of it is found on Mars?
It will be only in the fact that, if it is found, it will be the first evidence of life whose presence is known to exist off-planet. That belies all sorts of religions, and puts human beings in a very different place in the order of the universe than we have always assumed we were.
In fact, it would turn everything upside down. No wonder they tried to stifle Galileo.
Finding life on Mars would say to me something much more disturbing. It would say planets themselves can die, for if life on Mars is proven to have existed at all, it must have once been plentiful. We will know both that it was there and that Mars was a good place to be. We will know that, having died, Mars, too, was once a living being. Seeing Earth that way now makes it impossible to see Mars as any different in the past.
And if Mars died, or even nearly died, then the same thing could happen to Earth.
Therein lies the urgency. Climate change, if it were to do nothing else, should show us vividly that our continued population growth on a finite planet will surely kill it. If we have done nothing to prepare another location for habitability, then we will have nowhere to go–whether we have the means to get there or not–whether we understand the operation of our genes or not–whether we have robots or not. All of our research will have been for naught.
The one thing about terraforming that is currently fully understood is that it will be very complicated and take a very long time–probably in the centuries. We will almost certainly have to have advanced technology the entire time. Getting public support for even beginning such a project is highly unlikely. Our own survivability during the process is very much in doubt.
In the best of scenarios, keeping the technology and the will to complete the task for as long as it takes is an iffy proposition. If we don’t get started very soon, we will not stand a chance.
There is nothing but urgency in it.