Better Red Than... Green?
by Stuart Atkinson
Page 2 of 2Imagine the scene in a junior school class at the Kasei Base in 2062, the
year Halley's Comet comes back. The teacher is giving a lesson about Earth,
but the kids are laughing in disbelief. What did she just say? A world where
the sky is blue? Where there's so much water it lies in pools in the open
air? Where there's so much water it forms things called "oceans", huge
bodies of water within which live creatures the size of shuttlecraft?! Sure,
they'll have been shown Earth through their parents' telescopes, peered at
its tiny blue and white disc for themselves, but are they really meant to
believe that water actually falls from the sky there - from the sky! - in
different forms, sometimes as a liquid, other times as an icy slush, and
sometimes even as a white powder which settles on the ground and can be
moulded into shapes by hand... and then thrown? Yeah, right..!
Older children will take it for granted, of course. Virtual Reality will
allow them to "visit" Earth and experience terran life for themselves,
they'll know everything about it. But to their younger brothers and sisters
Earth will, for a while at least, until they're "taught better", literally be
just a blue star they see twinkling in the sky before sunrise or after
sunset. It will be as alien a world to them as Mars is to us today.
The very idea of terraforming Mars will be abhorrent to at least some of
these young martians. They'll look out their classroom window, upon the
rolling, rock-strewn orange landscape glowing in the sunlight beneath a
huge, peach-coloured sky, and feel a fierce pride, and some will grow up
determined to fight - politically and physically - against terraforming,
just as campaigners here on Earth fight against pollution, environmental
damage and developments today. Think about it; if people today feel moved
enough to protest against oil-spills, or the burning of the rainforests or
the slaughter of whales - even against having a by-pass built near their
town - is it so ridiculous to predict people will resist having their entire
planet re-shaped? I don't think so.
As we enter March 1998, and the only people striding across the frozen
deserts of Mars are the ones we see in artists' impressions, discussing a
"Red" anti-terraforming movement such as the one found in Kim Stanley
Robinson's books may seem far-fetched, but I am absolutely convinced it will
become a reality, and will even be known by that very name. History repeats
itself, regardless of location, so the Children Of Mars will argue, protest
and, eventually, if necessary, fight to keep Mars red.
I'm not ashamed or embarrassed to say that if I was in their boots I'd do
the same thing, I'd be a Red. I'm a Red now. And I'm not the only one.
I'm not saying that terraforming won't have its native supporters, people
who have seen pictures of Earth and want to be free to walk on their world
without a pressure suit, because it will. But I truly believe most natives
will value Mars' rugged desolation more.
It may be centuries until we have to start worrying about such things, but
we shouldn't kid ourselves that the only obstacles to terraforming will be
practical or economical, or that we will begin to do it as soon as we have
the technology, because it's not as simple as that. Apart from the fact that
we have no right to "play God" by flooding Mars' dried valleys, melting its
ice caps or seeding it with algae and lichen, it's arrogant to assume that
the people who'll be affected by it - the people born on Mars - will just
sit back and let such planetary vandalism happen. The Governments and
businesses in charge of the terraforming had better be ready to tackle some
So, all you terraforming advocates out there, enjoy the peace and quiet
while it lasts. Think up your schemes and dream your dreams of comet impacts
and flash floods and huge, planet-thawing mirrors while you can.
Because the Children Of Mars will have other ideas..!
Copyright© 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002 Stuart Atkinson, sffworld.com. All rights reserved. No part of this may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the author.