Tag Archive: change

Do we really need to go to Mars?

A good friend of mine asked me this at a party, and it gave me serious pause. In fact at the time I thought it was a real downer, and I had to send it to the back of my mind for future processing. I’d never thought to wonder, should we be doing this? Is going to Mars really what we as a species need to achieve right now? I think from an ethical standpoint there is a massive challenge we should overcome first… but the problem is, I don’t think we can.

In the space of a century we’ve managed to disrupt global patterns of weather and biodiversity that took millions of years to develop. How? Well we use an economic system whose units (corporations) cannot remain in stasis, they actually require constant growth to survive as entities.  This constant expansion finds them bumping into systemic limits all the time, and their usual response is to push past those limits, for example as they use up resources in one region and have to move into another, or as they saturate one market and have to force their way into another. When corporations can’t manage this they devour each other. As our global population also expands, we’re starting to reach the predictable conclusion of these processes: we’re bumping into the planetary limitations to our growth.

Establishing a colony on Mars would be a first step in pushing past our planetary limits. And if we succeed on Mars, that paves the way for us to just keep on doing what we do, right across the universe (or at least until we meet up with another life form that recognizes our virulent nature and decides to stamp us out to protect life everywhere).

If we chose to, we could respond differently. With incentive and commitment we could develop an economic system (and more importantly a value system) that rewards equilibrium instead of expansion, and collaboration instead of competition. We could learn to find a healthy fit in our environment. I think this is truly the most important task we humans can tackle right now… but will we achieve it? Will we even try? We all know we’re driving up to the edge of a cliff, and a few of us have started holding little toy parachutes out the window to slow us down, but we haven’t taken our feet off the gas.

Some people give the Mars One project a low plausibility score, and perhaps it won’t be the first successful colony on Mars. But as an achievable goal, I feel like colonizing Mars is vastly more realistic and immediate than the kind of true behavioral change we’ll need to get us out of this mess here on Earth. One of the things that excites me about Mars is that with a fresh start we have a golden opportunity to experiment with new systems, new economies, new ways of being with each other in community. Going to Mars doesn’t have to maintain the status quo: perhaps it can actually help form a model of change.

So ultimately I think the answer really is yes. We need to go to Mars. Now.

Time slip on the Saanich Peninsula

This place is incredibly peaceful. I was only spending a part of each day on the job search; the rest has been a beautiful mix of cooking and eating amazing food with my mom, walking on the beach, trail running through Tod Inlet, or biking the whole peninsula with its farms and hills and Garry Oak. We buy eggs and tomatoes straight from the farmers, and in the evenings we play Scrabble and watch The Mentalist, maybe visit with our 93-year-old neighbour. Feels like I’ve been here 2 or 3 weeks, but it’s actually been 9.

I should be actively engaged in all sorts of architecture-related activities: to lose the momentum that I gained in the last year of school could put the whole plan in real danger. I’ve learned this about myself: I’m happy with hard work, but I need structure and a little bit of pressure around me before I’ll get down to business. I do well in school and work settings, but here on the island I just drift in a lazy slumber, feeling slightly uneasy that I should be doing more.

This is my biggest obstacle, bigger than not getting a work term position and even bigger than not having the money to pay for next term: I self-sabotage. I don’t fully understand it, but it involves resistance to getting started, resistance to conformity, resistance to learning specialized details, and a weakness for distraction… those are symptoms I suppose, and underlying all of them are some pretty complicated self-esteem issues. I spent my twenties and early thirties building my confidence, so I’m surprised to find these things still have such power to derail me. In that context I have to wonder if not getting the work term position was truly just rotten luck, or if my actions played a part. The truth is I didn’t feel ready for it, so maybe that’s why it didn’t happen.

I can change who I am; I’m in the process of doing that every day. But it’s slow change, like decades long. Rather than trying to magically awaken one day as a totally different person I need to find the path that works for who I am right now. In my case that path seems to be the scenic route: I can walk it meandering and unhurried, only vaguely interested in the destination, but dazzled by the people and the sights along the way. Just as long as I really do get somewhere, someday.