Terraforma Is Terrafirma

Humans are social, yes. Humans are smart, yes. But most of all, humans are creators. Or at least, molders. We take something bland and add pizzazz. We take something broken and fix it. We take something useless and make it useful. We have been doing so for many millennia, and it is my guess that it will keep happening. We can’t help it. It’s in our DNA.

Take terrace farming, for example. It is common in south, eastern, and southeast Asia today for a variety of crops. It is also used in the Mediterranean basin for vineyards and olive orchards. It was used in the Renaissance era by the Inca people in the South American Andes Mountains, and still is in those areas to prevent erosion and run off. It was used in the Middle Ages by the Huari people, who inspired the Inca, as well as the English people of the same time. Terraced landscaping was used in a garden owned by Julius Caesar’s father-in-law in Iron Age Herculaneum. It is thought that the Bronze Age marvel, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon (really probably in Assyria), were terraced as well. This is an example of humans working with the land around them to their best advantage throughout documented history.

Terraforming another planet or a moon has been seriously considered in science and science fiction since the 1940’s. This is the process of making another world more Earth-like, and capable of supporting Earth-based life, especially humans. This is another example of reshaping the land, but in this second example of how humans can’t help but change their surroundings, I see something darker. In the case of actual terraforming, I see not the enhancement of the landscape, but the obliteration of whole ecosystems, dormant or nascent they may be, to make way for humans.

I don’t know how I feel about that.

What’s your take?


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