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When wouldn't you terraform?

Posted by: SuperShuki - Fri Oct 09, 2009 9:35 am
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When wouldn't you terraform? 

Under what conditions would you be against terraforming a planet?
Even if life is found, I would terraform. 30%  30%  [ 6 ]
I would be against terraforming only if life is found. 45%  45%  [ 9 ]
I would be against terraforming if the conditions for life are found. 20%  20%  [ 4 ]
I am against terraforming in any event. 5%  5%  [ 1 ]
Total votes : 20

When wouldn't you terraform? 
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Post Re: When wouldn't you terraform?   Posted on: Wed Oct 21, 2009 2:30 pm
IrquiM wrote:
Every human are equal - a murder of one, is a murder, no matter race, nationality, height, sexual orientation, sex, etc. Ranking one above another is pointless

We're not talking about ranking humans, we're talking about ranking living things. If I had a chance to save either you or a plant, which would you rather that I choose?

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Post Re: When wouldn't you terraform?   Posted on: Wed Oct 21, 2009 2:57 pm
The powers that be more than likely WONT let you terraform a body that may have or possibly could at some point nearly have life on it. Mars for instance is more than likely is past it's chances for life and is most likely a dead planet. Venus is similar. Both are going to be extremely difficult to terraform anytime soon. The cost would be staggering. We don't seem to be anywhere near going to another solar system to find a body that would be even close to being a reasonable subject to terraform. Unless we can develop faster means of travel (I like this possibility more) then it's a moot point right now. It is a moral issue for sure unless you can go there and leave everyone else behind (interesting but highly improbable). Cloning is 100k times closer to being a debatable issue and DNA modification is really going to be relevant. These things are more likely to destroy us before we even get off this planet.
No we wont Terraform a planet with life on it guy's and most likely we won't terraform anything that could in the near term.

Monroe

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Post Re: When wouldn't you terraform?   Posted on: Wed Oct 21, 2009 7:20 pm
Private spaceflight has no connection to me. There's no way I would be able to afford a $200,000 ticket to space. Still, it's fun to talk about it.

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Post Re: When wouldn't you terraform?   Posted on: Thu Oct 22, 2009 1:07 pm
I'd go for a $200,000 ticket to space anytime as long as it's orbital, and we get to stay there for a while (years?) - not just a couple of minutes of weightlessness. Colonization and, maybe transforming a planet, and I'd buy the ticket today!


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Post Re: When wouldn't you terraform?   Posted on: Sat Oct 24, 2009 9:04 pm
I don't think I've ever shared a forum thread with a religious fundamentalist before. In general cultural backgrounds here seem to be quite diverse, and people outspoken about their world view being the "right" one. Interesting.

This topic brings to mind a lot of science fiction I've read (and I've read piles of science fiction...). Most recently I've been reading Paul Chafe's Genesis, which chronicles the construction of an interstellar (sublight, generation-)ship as well as life aboard during the first couple of centuries. The story itself is entertaining, and it nicely explores religion, political power, human nature and the connections between them. But it doesn't mention terraforming, so while relevant to the thread, it's off-topic.

So, on to my bible, the aforementioned Mars Trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson. Read it, re-read it, re-re-read it, and I still open up one of the books at random every now and then. And here we are re-enacting the great debate that is present throughout the trilogy, where Ann Clayborne and Saxifrage Russell argue whether to terraform Mars or not. That's what should have been the poll's options, "Ann", "Sax" and also "UNTA". (Incidentally, this debate is a version of the key theme underlying most of Robinson's work, the relationship between humans and nature.) For those of you heretics who haven't read the books, a short summary of their positions:

Ann Clayborne, the original Red, posits that the Martian landscape has its own inherent beauty, and that we shouldn't disturb the rock any more than by walking on it. No terraforming at all; humans live in dwellings cut into the rock and venture out in spacesuits and rovers.

Saxifrage Russell, the original Green, wants to slowly terraform the landscape using biological methods, spreading algae and bacteria first to start forming soil and creating an atmosphere, and slowly building up an environment suitable for humans.

UNTA represents the interests of the Earthside corporations and governments that financed the colonisation. They advocate creating a human-habitable environment as quickly as possible by any means, including mass-production of greenhouse gasses, underground nuclear detonations to warm up the crust, and dropping comets into the atmosphere to ship in volatiles. They will then strip-mine the planet of its mineral resources.

Personally, I find this a very hard problem, because I find the arguments for all three positions convincing. I don't agree with the general principle of ignoring what is there and just trying to make everything like what we already know. Exploring the place and enjoying it for what it is seems a better, more open-minded approach. On the other hand, life started out on a bare rock somewhere here on Earth and spread all over the planet; why shouldn't it spread to other planets as well? That's quite a natural process I'd say, and there is no reason not to continue it. Finally, using purely biological means may not be possible, and at any rate will be very slow. Some things, such as the scarcity of nitrogen on Mars, can't be solved by biological means and require technological intervention. And if we are going to completely change the planet anyway, we might as well do it quickly. A couple of centuries or millennia don't matter much on a cosmic time scale, but make a big difference in human terms.

Kim Stanley Robinson doesn't deal with alien life directly, and so when I consider that I end up thinking about Orson Scott Card's Ender series. He introduces "Demosthenes' hierarchy of strangeness". Off the top of my head (hope I got the spelling and the order right, it's been a couple of years since I last read this): Utlanning are others of your race living on your homeworld, Framling are others of your race living on different worlds, Ramen are aliens that you can communicate with (so that peace can be established), and Varelse are aliens that you can not communicate with (and so are doomed to be at war with (think about that one for a bit...)).

The third book in the series, "Xenocide", deals heavily with whether and when it is right to attempt to eradicate another species, the general thrust being that this would be unethical unless the other species is Varelse and it's therefore an us-or-them situation. Even then the question is how much effort should be made to reach an understanding anyway, since it's hard to be sure that a species isn't Ramen but Varelse.

The interesting thing is that you can apply that to Earth as well if you scale it down a little.
By this principle, eradicating malaria is okay, but eating all the dodos (or more recently almost all codfish) is probably not. That seems about right to me.

I'm not too sure about the "doomed to be at war" bit though. Codfish are no threat to us, and Malaria is transmitted by a particular species of mosquito, which doesn't live in temperate climates. So, we could just decide to share the planet, and only live away from the tropics or on mountains in the tropics where it's sufficiently colder to be safe. And in fact, we're doing the latter to a certain extent, building our cities just high enough to avoid the mosquitos. (And now that the planet is warming up the mosquitos are invading our cities. But I digress.)

Card seems to suggest that it's in the nature of a species to fill as much of its ecological niche as possible, and to try and outcompete any other species that is in the way. That's true, of course, but I'm not sure that "it's just in our nature" is a valid ethical argument. An intelligent species that found a potential new habitat inhabited by aggressive Varelse could decide to leave them be, rather than commit xenocide on them and move in itself.

Finally, another option may be to not adapt the environment to ourselves, but adapt ourselves to the environment. Robinson hints at a future in that direction in Blue Mars. Another book I read recently (heck if I'm doing a book column anyway :-)), Paul McAuley's The Quiet War, has humanity colonise the moons of Jupiter and Saturn, with life support partially provided by vacuum-hardened, designed, but still at least partly biological "vacuum organisms". The question of whether humans are going to follow suit and adjust themselves to the circumstances is part of the storyline, although the book seems to me to be more about our currently expanding generation gap than about human enhancement. It's a good read anyway.

I'm not sure what to vote. I think we shouldn't try to replace an existing ecosystem with our own if we can safely (at least for the time being) let it be. Space is big, and there is plenty of room for everyone. Empty rock is probably fair game, as long as we also make an effort to study what is there, so that we can be sure that we can wreck it without destroying something unique. If we ever meet intelligent aliens that we can have a peaceful coexistence with then we should do so. Finally, self-defense is justified, but only as a last resort, and we should always remain open-minded and continue to strive for peace.

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Post Re: When wouldn't you terraform?   Posted on: Sat Oct 24, 2009 9:56 pm
If you're referencing the KSR Mars Trilogy when it comes to the differing viewpoints, then why not when it comes to the solution - leaving the tops of the mountains pristine and terraforming underneath? Mars has sufficient surface relief for that to be practical.


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Post Re: When wouldn't you terraform?   Posted on: Sun Oct 25, 2009 8:31 am
Woke up this morning thinking "Raman! Not Ramen"! I must have been touched by His Noodly Appendage :-)

Good point, I didn't touch on the zoo option. I'm not sure what the value of the saved specimens would be. If we kill almost everything, but keep a few remaining ones in a zoo for our amusement, is that really any better or worse than killing them all? It may be a little different if we are talking about a landscape, especially if we stick to natural barriers. The caldera of Olympus Mons is quite isolated, it won't notice anything of any changes far down below, and even if there was much interaction, it's not conscious, so it won't miss its buddies. But we're talking about human values then more than about ethical behaviour towards other species.

Blue Mars is, at least the way I read it, mainly about the nature of democracy, and the main point of the compromise is that while Jacky and her Greens have an absolute majority, they don't have absolute power. Irishka and the Reds can still stop the worst (from their point of view) things from happening, and force the Greens into a compromise, which provides an important validation of Robinson's proposed world order.

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Post Re: When wouldn't you terraform?   Posted on: Sun Oct 25, 2009 9:07 am
Yeah, I read that series. Even though I read the books, I still have no idea why anybody would want to preserve mars when it could be terraformed.

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Last edited by SuperShuki on Sun Oct 25, 2009 9:12 am, edited 1 time in total.



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Post Re: When wouldn't you terraform?   Posted on: Sun Oct 25, 2009 9:10 am
Lourens wrote:
I don't think I've ever shared a forum thread with a religious fundamentalist before. In general cultural backgrounds here seem to be quite diverse, and people outspoken about their world view being the "right" one. Interesting.

For the record, I believe that most things in the Bible can't be understood correctly without correct interpretation. Certainly, you can't understand the bible correctly based on english translation.

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Post Re: When wouldn't you terraform?   Posted on: Thu Oct 29, 2009 12:43 pm
The only condition that would preclude terraforming; the existence of sentient life. Not microbial life but at the level of human sentience. Otherwise I know that humanity will endeavor to terraform as many planets as possible for the greater good of mankind. Of course bare in mind that the aforementioned would have to be rethought if there were the existence of another alien race that would compete for the same interstellar space that mankind could possible be attempting to change.

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Post Re: When wouldn't you terraform?   Posted on: Sat Nov 14, 2009 3:29 am
If you find singular-cell organisms then you could easily keep them safely in a museum/zoo where they could stay for the rest of history and considering how tough single cell organisms are (Some Earth organisms, Streptococcus mitis, are famous for surviving a trip to our Moon and back stuck on parts of the Surveyor-3 Spacecraft brought back by Apollo-12, they just had to go to sleep during thier 31 month stay but were alive and well again when they got back to be re-hydrated in NASA.). Life on Earth was single-cellular for its first two billion years and only in the latter half has living organisms on Earth become complex multi-cellular organisms thanks to the living conditions being ideal enough for our ancestors the Eukaryote on our planet to Evolve in to invertebrate multi-cellular living things. Earth was like a relatively mild Venus until photosynthesis terraformed our planet in to an Oxygen Rich Atmosphere. Hypothetical creatures on Mars or Venus could not get past single cellular organisms for the rest of the history of the Solar System unless humankind terraformed the planets in our own future. Complex multi-cellular organisms might have evolved on Europa or possibly Ceres under the frozen ice layer and it might be prudent to avoid tampering with the living organisms for mutual safety until a very careful mission is carried out, I have never heard anyone talk about any reason for Terra-Forming these ocean covered bodies in the solar system, Fish Farms would be easier to construct on or in the outer surface of the bodies or maybe further out in orbits. This question is only relative to other solar systems therefore in which case it would be very unethical to destroy a complex living planet that did not support our kind of life outside a habitat (The debate would be how simple would life have to be on a planet for you to want to leave it alone. I would not want to wipe out the environment for alien animals that possess a reasonable nervous system, I would not have any great ethical dilemma about destroying the environment of a single or algal plant or a microscopic worm.). In any case when we have the technology and the wealth to travel to other planets we will have the riches and energy to be able to avoid seriously tampering planets and treat parts of them like conservation parks. Venus is certainly a possibility for Terra-Formation and the method that could be used is having genetically modified Earth sulfur eating carbon dioxide breathing organisms make it in to a thick oxygen rich atmosphere which would not only make the atmosphere very breathable but end the greenhouse gas effect, since Venus is the closest planet to the Earth it might even be comfortable and start a whole new world for exploration and development in to a twin planet for the Earth (I would not worry much about Mars except for a habitat for good scientists and maybe pressurized religious fundamentalists. What is to worry about Venus would be flammable objects.). The designing of a man made atmosphere using genetically modified Micro-Organisms is something that should be done in the future (If it is possible to genetically modify local single cellular organisms then Earth would be doing Venus a mutual favor, like dog breeding.). If complex life is found on Europa or Ceres then the water under the Galilean Moon or the Asteroid should be made in to an area similar to the Australian Coral Sea Conservation Zone. If we find a Planet that has a complex partially dry surface around another solar system then it should be treated like surviving parts of the Amazon Rain Forest are now safely. If complex life is found on Mars and Venus I would be very surprised but it should be conserved in several large zoo's and pressurized habitation zones, and habitation zones, by thier definition do not have their terrain formed so much that their native plants and animals can not survive, when you have the technology to Terraform a planet in comfortable sections then it is ethical to do it but comfort by its very definition requires a complex nervous system to comprehend so it wont be uncomfortable to single cellular organisms. :idea:


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