A lot of blogs have commented on Stephen Hawking’s statement that we need to move into space to better our chances for survival as a species. (Here’s one that also includes a famous – unused – and to me disappointing-sounding Star Trek treatment: Bryce Zabel: Spaced Out: Hawking Colonies & Re-Booting Star Trek).
How about let’s not? (At least let us consider not doing it for this reason.) I don’t see how a Mars colony would have any better chance of survival long term than any other scenario. To make a species viable, I suspect you’d have to have a few million inhabitants. These Utopian colonies are presumably always made up of the best and the brightest, and therefore insulated from the problems they are meant to move away from, namely war and environmental abuse, or runaway tech like an engineered virus. That seems to presume a very rosy view of the future of the race, as if transplanting a few humans to another planet will magically make them a better species. It may be easier to plant a few small groups of humans on Mars and the Moon in the next 40 years than it would be for us to collectively agree to solve the global economic crisis in the next 40 years but these colonies would likely fail.
We like to talk about how the Earth can become uninhabitable but that does not make Mars or the Moon more habitable by comparison. Nuclear winter or global warming could be sever enough to wipe out all major life forms on this planet, but not all life. Just as happened 65 Million years ago, when the dominant species were wiped out, life continued to evolve in other forms including primates. A few small colonies of humans could survive on the less-habit-able Earth in bunkers than they could on Mars in bunkers.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t colonize Mars. But we should do it for fun, or adventure, or hubris, or to make money, or for any of the other reasons human beings like to do things. Let’s just not kid ourselves that we have a better chance there than here. We will be bringing our sole predator with us. Wherever you go, there you are.