Nautilus

The Argument Against Terraforming Mars

When it comes to the ethics of actions, such as the decision to terraform Mars, we should ask: What sort of person would do that—a virtuous or vicious one?Photograph by Kees Veenenbos / Science Photo Library

In Kim Stanley Robinson’s science-fiction Mars Trilogy, human colonists “terraform” Mars, turning the rocky red planet into a lush green world. The colonists melt the polar ice caps with nuclear explosives, inducing a greenhouse effect that warms the planet. They then seed the landscape with genetically modified bacteria and plants to render the newly created atmosphere breathable. By the end of this process, their descendants are able to walk and live on the surface of Mars without space suits.

Today many scientists believe that terraforming Mars is theoretically possible with continuing

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