The Coming Desert: Kropotkin, Mars & the Pulse of Asia


About dmf

alienist @ large, mostly on foot
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One Response to The Coming Desert: Kropotkin, Mars & the Pulse of Asia

  1. John Doyle says:

    Near the end of the last century I attended “The Case for Mars,” a weekend conference organized at the U. of Colorado by the nascent Mars Society. Lots of astrophysicists and astronauts and aerospace engineers were in attendance, already being in Boulder for a NASA conference held during the preceding week. A couple of weeks later I drove down to Denver to see Mars Society founder Bob Zubrin, who gave me a tour of the prototype Mars lander he had built in his backyard. At the time the Society was moving toward its first simulated landing in the Arctic, where a few proto-settlers were going to set up a station and live for several months.

    Here’s a thumbnail sketch of one central concern addressed at The Case for Mars, incorporated into a fiction I wrote later:

    Prop O’Gandhi knew there were other Realities to be explored, lots of them. He just wasn’t sure he’d ever been to one before. He wondered: when they set out, had the first American explorers concerned themselves with the idea of a New World? Mostly they seemed to want gold and land and glory, all of which were in high demand but short supply back in the old country. Hacking their way into the interior, the explorers would come as walking miracles: every inch of new ground they covered became instantly transformed into an extension of the Old World. They had brought with them the most portable of tools: a set of values. With values, you can create goals and customs and politics and institutions and enemies. Maybe only afterward, when America was starting to feel smothered by its Old World values, did it reinvent itself as “New.” But by then it was too late.

    Prop O’Gandhi could feel the gravity of the situation pulling him over the precarious precipice on which he stood. Here he was, preparing to send people willy nilly through the Portals into Alternate Realities, like he was doing those Realities a big favor, whereas in fact he was about to become the most lethal vector of mass infection ever introduced. The Travelers were carriers; every new Reality they touched would become infected.

    Once Prop had attended a conference on interplanetary ecology. The topic had been the exploration of Mars. There were some in attendance who saw Mars as a great testing ground for every ecological sustainability project ever put forward on earth. To turn the red planet green would require ingenuity, discipline, cunning, perseverance. Mars wasn’t rich in readily exploitable mineral wealth. Its greatest export would be its spirit of innovation, an upsurge of ingenuity so forceful it would keep both planets alive. “Bullshit,” countered the anti-settlement contingent: as soon as humans set foot on another planet they’ll wreck it. It’s not the distance from earth that makes Mars an alien planet; it’s the fact that it remains uncorrupted by the earthlings. “Keep it red,” said the radical Greens. “Leave it alone. Don’t go there.”

    Prop could see the Red Green Party’s point. How could he encourage the exploration of other Realities without undermining their redness, or purpleness, or any other strange properties that these Realities might possess, properties that defined their very Otherness? For a while Prop began to doubt his entire project.

    He decided to make himself a cup of coffee.

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