The Idea of Humanity Moving to Mars Isn’t Just Silly. It’s Harmful

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Lots of people are enraptured by the idea of leaving Earth behind and colonizing Mars. Elon Musk even "plans" to build a colony on Mars in the next decade. After all, if we destroy our own planet, we’ll have to go somewhere else, won’t we?

"Humans will survive no matter what happens on Earth," said Stephen Petranek, science writer and author of "How We'll Live on Mars."

This idea irritates me to no end. Sure, saving the planet is hard. But turning Mars into something livable, transporting humanity there, and starting a civilization is a whole lot harder and more expensive. Mars is a barren wasteland with an average temperature is -81°F (your freezer is 40°F). It's 34 million miles away.

"The truth is that the technology to [terraform Mars] already exists," Petranek went on.

NASA, on the other hand, disagrees.

"Transforming the inhospitable Martian environment into a place astronauts could explore without life support is not possible without technology well beyond today’s capabilities," says NASA's website.

Even if humans could somehow make Mars habitable and move there in large numbers, the pesky fact remains that we happen to be made out of Earth. Earth spoils its children with luxuries like breathable air, drinkable water and temperatures that don't freeze us to death instantly. We were evolved out of Earth, for Earth.

I'm not trying to be a downer. I love sci-fi. If a spaceship landed in my backyard, and a friendly alien invited me inside, I'd go without even taking my bag. And if we ever develop the technology and will to do so, I'm all for exploring space and setting up colonies on Mars. But currently, Mars is a fantasy, and a fantasy isn't a realistic solution to Earth's problems. Dreams about going to Mars are fine, as long as they don't become an excuse for trashing the present. Instead of turning poisonous space gas into something resembling air on Earth, can't we just cut back on the pollution here?

I'm not afraid humans will actually abandon Earth. I doubt large communities will move to Mars anytime soon, no matter how many shows people make about it or TED Talks they give about it. But if people talk about swapping planets like it's a real possibility, then humans might be tempted to ignore the problems that brought us to that possibility. Why not destroy the planet, if we’re going to leave it anyway?