Tuesday, May 24, 2005


Terraforming (literally, "Earth-shaping") is the process of modifying a planet, moon or other body to a more habitable atmosphere, temperature or ecology. It is a type of planetary engineering.

The term is sometimes used very broadly as a synonym for planetary engineering in general.

"The concept of adjusting extra-terrestrial worlds to fit the specifications for human life first surfaced in Olaf Stapledon's First and Last Men ( 1930). The phrase "terraforming" wasn't used until 19 years later in Seetee Shock by Jack Williamson .

"Since then, terraforming has been a hot topic amongst scientists. The logistics of such a project are staggering, molding dry freezing Mars into a temperate life-supporting planet is beyond our present technological and organizational capabilities. However, we are tantalizingly close. Most estimates place us within mere centuries of achieving this awesome feat."

The arguments for and against terraforming have shaped the development of this process. Many believe that it is inevitable that we will exhaust/destroy the resources and environment of our own planet. Therefore, in order for the human race to continue into the far future it will require multiple settlements in order to both decrease the strain on Earth and prepare for any dire need for relocation.

In a broad sense of the term, the first clear evidence of terraforming comes from Sumeria, part of the Fertile Crescent and home to humanity's earliest civilizations. The inhabitants of those ancient cities redirected the flow of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers to better irrigate their crops and capture rich silt for use in their fields.

In that sense, the Sumerians used primitive terraforming to make their land far more arable and productive. In the modern world, there have been suggestions that we terraform the Sahara desert in a similar fashion.

Jack Williamson, one of the great Sci fi writers, has a fairly new book out called Terraforming Earth. Its about a bunch of clones that come back to earth to rebuild it after an asteroid destroys all known life.

It seems that the idea of terraforming is based on the notion that we either exhaust or destroy our habitat, or some outside force destroys it for us.

How about if we terraform our own habitat before we destroy it?

Imagine if we took the scientific creativity that some are exercising now to terraform Mars and applied that creative energy to terraform Earth?


How would we make the Earth?

How would we fashion our habitat, our cities?

How would we shape the land and manage the elements?

How would we design our homes and the surrounding gardens?

If we focused on Terraforming?

Not real estate investments.

Not big box stores.

Not cities designed for cars instead of people.

Not streets full of Golden Arches and Corporate Glitzkrieg.

How would we design our cities and communities,

so that we could walk and enjoy a terraformed environment?

Right now, we are designing streets and towns

that are guaranteed to produce






and a wide assortment of other cultural pathologies.

Think about it.

Why can't we walk outside and pick an apple from a tree?

Why is there not a terraformed running brook with water crest

growing in between the round boulders on its banks?

Why is there not a foot bridge overlooking a pond where

your 10 year old can fish?

Why don't we design our habitat

so that food and beauty is everywhere?

Are we so hypnotized by this let the market work capitalist fantasy,

that we are incapable of imagining a truly well engineered,

beautiful habitat for ourselves and our progeny?

We wouldn't put a bunch of MacDonalds and Wallmarts on Mars?

I see no reason to put them on Earth either.

I am all in favor of terraforming...


Instead of destroying our habitat, so we can terraform somewhere else,

Let's abide by the rule of holes.

And stop digging.

And get to work forming.

It seems like the earthfamily thing to do.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

why does this sound totally unrealistic?

7:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought, as I first began to read the post, that we need to terraform our own communities before we head out to rearrange another world. Your point.

Permaculture came to mind. If we began to pay attention to our bioregions and water sheds, we could do a to reduce the stress on the Earth's resources.

We could organize our communities based on a permaculture model - services within a close distance to ground zero and then surrounded it with a green space of farming that supplied the food for the entire community. Those that want to grow could grow. There could be more satisfying jobs and a place for everyone. Buy Locally. Stop trucking Texas peaches to California and vice a versa. Collect our water run off.

Good post.

8:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


10:00 AM  
Blogger oZ said...

I like the permaculture post.

11:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

habitat for humanity.

2:41 PM  

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