To Save The Earth, Go To Mars
Jim Blair

During the past year several threads have dealt with the general topic of a sustainable economy and the depletion of limited resources. Can the world continue to have population and economic expansion given limited resources? Or do more people contribute to our ability to solve our problems? And the same ideas applied to the country rather than the world lead to the debate over immigration: do more immigrants overload our physical resources, or expand our human ones? For those interested in this topic, there is a very interesting article in the current (November 1995) issue of Analog magazine by Robert Zubrin.

It begins with an extended quote from a late night presentation by an unknown professor from the University of Wisconsin to the American Historical Association at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago on July 12, 1893. His talk revised the entire interpretation of American history, and is the basis for this new interpretation of world history. His name was Frederick Jackson Turner and his essay was titled "The Significance Of The Frontier In American History".

It was Turner's thesis that the presence of a frontier transforms the nature of society. Before there was one, Europe was locked into the "dark ages": a static society where status was predetermined by birth. After the establishment of a frontier in the "new world" Europe under went a "renaissance" and American society was influenced even more. People who were not content with the limited place provided for them in society had the option of going west to make a place for themselves.

Is it real or just perception?

Today the world faces a situation similar to medieval Europe: a world of finite limited resources. More people mean less for the rest of us. Anti- science and anti-technology movements are growing. There is a growing acceptance of the idea that people should be limited in jobs and education by quotas (excuse me, guidelines). We must learn to do with less, since there is only so much to be shared.

But in a frontier society, resources and opportunities are unlimited. Is this real or is it just a perception? Or does it really matter? The earth needs a "new world": a frontier. The author suggests the planet Mars.

How far away is it?

Stated in miles, Mars seems a long way away. But in terms of travel time it is comparable to the distance North America was from Europe in 1490. We could go there if we made a commitment equal (in terms of our resources) to that made by Spain then.

There is a right and wrong way to mount an expedition to Mars. In the 19th century the British Navy mounted dozens of large scale expeditions at great expense to explore the Canadian Arctic in search of the "Northwest Passage" to the Orient. They carried all of their supplies and all eventually gave up with little to show for their efforts. At the same time, small teams of fur trappers and traders were exploring the same territory and living off the land. The article describes some ways for early Martian explorers to "live off the land", and to establish a self sustaining society.

It can be argued that we don't need a space frontier: we can have a frontier of the mind, or in human relations, etc. But although there is always talk about these "new frontiers", they just aren't having the transforming effect on our society that the "real" frontier had.

This is a very interesting article and I hope you will get it from a bookstore or library.

Essays on related topics...

Space Exploration
Title Author
To Save The Earth, Go To Mars Jim Blair


Number of unique visits to Big Issue Ground so far...


visits so far...