Thursday, July 22, 2010

So when does it end? Part Deux

The image of the human race marching towards extinction like single file ants on a log still haunts me, but I have another perspective on it, I believe.
Earlier today, I was reading articles on and looking over photographs of the planet Mars.  I'll try to take you through the crooked highways and by-ways of my thought patterns as best I can.

Here's Earth as seen from Apollo 17:

Here's Mars as seen from the Hubble:

Both planets are comparable in size and both have polar ice caps.  The obvious difference of course is that Mars is devoid of our water and vegetation.  Yet as I looked over a photograph similar to the one above, I was struck by its similarity to a few of the more extreme projections I've seen of climate change here on Earth.  Such things are all theory of course and subject to the bearing out of evidence, but it really stuck with me.  Could we be looking at the future of our world if the environment continues to deteriorate?  Imagine massive droughts and windswept barrens.  Vegetation dies and seabeds dry.  Would it not resemble Mars?  Our we looking at ourselves?  Let's go in for a closer look via a shot from the Opportunity rover:

Indeed, it resembles a few areas on Earth that already are deserts.  But were there ever any wet areas?  We can see that there is water on Mars in the form of ice, but the big question is whether or not the planet ever had it in liquid form.  Certain ravines and geological markings that have been found by NASA rovers have already built a strong case for past bodies of water.  But it's all gone now.  Near as anyone here can tell.
Since almost the moment humans could write down or otherwise mark what we could see in the sky, we have been fascinated by Mars.  My chief familiarity with this fascination comes in the form of literary works, such as the obvious War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells and the John Carter series by Edgar Rice Burroughs, but the examples stretch farther afield than those.  What sparked this fixation?  Was it the planet's reddish hue in the night sky?  Was it Percival Lowell's speculation that there were canals on the surface of Mars, thus evidence that there were Martians?  Whatever it was, the Red Planet took a hold of our imaginations and has yet to let them go.  It has such a lock on us that there are schools of thought dedicated to proving the existence of archeological artifacts on Mars (e.g. "the face.")  What accounts for all of this?
Here we drift into the field of psychology, one in which my understanding is murky at best.  So here, dear Strangers, is where you will be treated to yet another one of my musings extempore.   Here goes.
What if there is something about Mars that rests in our collective psychology?  What if it is a sense that when we look at that planet, we see ourselves?  Perhaps even what we could be?  So much so that we long for it to be inhabited, even if in the dim and distant past?    I'm not saying that there were ever sentient beings on Mars and that the current state of that planet is due to their own global warming or another such eco disaster.  I suppose there are those camps that say humanity is an offshoot of a Martian race that evacuated here after their planet grew uninhabitable.  Good stuff for science fiction, but I'm a long way away from even entertaining that notion.  No, I think we all have a sort of gut feeling about the place, an intuition, maybe even a "sixth sense" that tells us "watch out or you'll end up like this," or maybe even "you're all headed here one day."
I've harped before on the imperative need for offworld colonization.  Imagine the delicious irony in migrating to a barren world in order to escape our own miasma.  All because we ignored a sort of "orbital cautionary tale" in space...even if our intuitions tried to tell us otherwise.  
At any rate, I hope people remained fascinated by Mars.  It will make things easier when their next home looks like this:

Of course there won't be any planetary body that large in the Martian sky.  This was the only depiction of a Mars colony I could find that was not copyrighted.
All other pics are from Wikipedia.
Now to bed, perchance to dream of an iced latte tomorrow morning.

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