A Sense of Place

How Will Our Choice of Future Homes Change Us?

Humans evolved to live on this planet — heck, we have been evolving along WITH this planet ever since our species showed up. (And, as some point out, we’re changing our planet, and not always for the good.) Now we’re looking out to other worlds, mostly just trying to find other “places” in the galaxy, and wondering if any of those places might have life.  It’s pretty clear that there’s nothing quite like us in the solar system — although the jury’s still out on whether or  not places like Mars, or Titan, or Europa (for example) have (or had) some kinds of microbial life.

Searching out planets is a tall order. Finding one that has life is a taller one. And, finding one that could support our kind of life — well, that’s probably an even taller one. We have to have certain needs met — water, a nitrogen-oxygen atmosphere, food (or places to make/grow/synthesize it) and a relative radiation-safe environment — in order to survive. If all those fall into place, then we can populate and grow.

The way terraforming might change Mars. (From Wikimedia Commons)
The way terraforming might change Mars. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

I often wonder what future humans will be like. If our species becomes more space-faring than it is now — I think that we’ll be divided into interesting groups. There will be the lunar inhabitants — adapting to and raising their children in the lunar gravity and environment.  As many science fiction writers have pointed out in prosaic detail, the Lunarians will probably be unable to spend more than a small amount of time in Earth’s gravity and atmosphere once they’ve adapted to the Moon.  What will their politics be?  Will they look down on Earthers as “dirt huggers”?

And, what about the future Martians?  Separated from Earth by a multi-month journey, they will essentially be on their own to forge their own future and culture.  The next generations of lunarians and Martians will not ever be able to set foot on their home world surfaces without massive life-support units. That’s gotta change a person’s psychology quite a bit!

Say that the future Martians manage to terraform Mars, and maybe turn it more Earthlike — I have to wonder: will they WANT to?  It’s a multi-multi-generational task — and the first generations of Martians could grow to love their planet just the way it is.  Terraforming might come to be viewed as nasty as our current attempts to Veneriform Earth (via human-caused global warming).

Even farther out, humans might find ways to live and work on Ganymede or Europa. (Sure there are lots of obstacles and dangers, but if they can find a way, they will.)  What kind of humans will those Ganymedeans and Europans become?  Will Earthers recognize them after some generations of change?

And, what will be the social, cultural, and psychological evolutions that star-faring humans under go as they undertake multi-generational trips to other stars in search of new worlds far beyond the Sun’s influence?  Once they find those worlds, will the be “people of Earth” reaching out? Or, will their lives on the surfaces of those distant places, under the light of different suns be so totally different from ours that the place where they plant their feet, their food and their families define who and what they are?  What they think, believe, and do?  Is our sense of humanity tied to one place? Or many?


  1. Blaise

    Or, perhaps we will find a means to travel faster than the speed of light, or make distances smaller.

    I will be researching this topic when I return to Carnegie Mellon University this fall.

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