Our world as we know it today is greatly influenced by colonization. Though, the first notable colonizers (like Christopher Columbus) were remembered primarily for discovering new land, many colonization events throughout the years have caused both human destruction and development. Effects of colonization are still felt today, whether through the ongoing colonizing behaviour towards the tribes of First Nations people or the racial injustices stemming from the colonization of Africa. Now, this article isn’t about colonization on Earth, but rather in Space. Considering the current state of human exploration on Earth, the question remains of whether humans ought to have a change in perspective to colonizing Space in the same manner.
When explorers first set foot on ‘undiscovered’ pieces of land, they were intrigued and fascinated by the riches and resources any pieces of new land had to offer. This fascination turned into a hunger for more land — to attain, own, and treat land as a commodity. Land was given more priority than people. As land became scarce, war and injustice followed. Now, we are beginning to see the uncanny similarities between the early colonization of Earth and the imminent colonization of Space, which will be made clear by exploring how humans plan to colonize Mars.
OUR SEARCH FOR RESOURCES HAS NOT ENDED ON EARTH.
Many Western societies on Earth live in abundance as of today, so it is no shock to any scientists or researchers that the rate humans are using their resources on Earth is at an unsustainable rate, and that these limited resources will eventually run out. Although we are developing sustainable plans, getting better at conservation and protecting our planet, space research has reached out to other planets in the solar system, looking for an alternate planet to house the future. Currently, Mars is under the microscope as the most liveable planet next to Earth.
Mars is currently uninhabitable, but researchers have discovered that its polar cap holds water molecules from the atmosphere, which is a sign that it is more habitable than other planets. With small signs such as evidence of Mars’ warmer and wetter past being discovered, humans are becoming increasingly intrigued with how we can live on Mars sometime in the future. That’s right, I said we. Because we live in the Anthropocene era, some may have the opinion that human beings can make anything work for them, and that the planets cannot provide if we just let processes take their natural course.
Although a shocking comparison, early colonizers were able to manipulate and exploit the resources they discovered, just as we in the twenty-first century seem to be doing to Space and the galaxies around us.
So it seems there is no end to our search for resources. However, it is important to keep in mind that:
THERE ARE MULTIPLE PARTIES LOOKING TO COLONIZE THE ‘BEST’ PARTS.
This includes various countries, space organizations like NASA, and even large NGOs and community groups that are active players in deciding the fate of what happens to astronauts and where they decide to go. Who’s going to ‘own’ the planet if it proves habitable? What’s the infrastructure going to be like? Where’s the money coming from to do all this? These are all questions that will plague the debate, if the competition ever comes to this point.
With different actors all with various perspectives, it is no surprise that there are often clashes of opinion and thus, conflict. Although there has not yet been any large blown-out wars or disputes, arguments have escalated in the past. For example, the Cold War in the 1900s remains the poster child of wars that have almost been fought due to Space technology competition. Fought between the United States and Soviet Union, this was an ongoing missile crisis that could have led to the bombing of countries, but thankfully was resolved after long, tumultuous years.
Now, although this case does not exactly parallel today’s colonization of Space, some factors are identical. I believe these have the potential to disrupt our current peaceful co-existence and any future peace Earth could possible have. These simple factors being the different opinions colonizers have, and even the greed and thirst for more and more, being at the root of the human spirit.
This may be a rude awakening for the human race, but if we continue to search for answers with our current human-desire based attitude, the outcome of this search may not be what we desire to discover. Yet, there may be hope for the future if we so choose to prevent greed from leading our discoveries. A change in attitude is needed.