“ter·ra·form·ing (literally, “Earth-shaping”) is the process of modifying a planet moon or other body to a more habitable atmosphere, temperature or ecology.[…]The principal reason given to pursue terraforming is the creation of worlds suitable for habitation by human beings[…]” It is a type of planetary engineering. The term is sometimes used very broadly as a synonym for planetary engineering in general;
The people of the dominant culture(s) on Earth are terraforming the planet as you read this. The goal of this terraforming is indeed mainly to make the planet more habitable – for humans! However contrary to the high goal of terraforming in Science Fiction, this process did not start with a barren rock, but with a living planet, whose ecology is replaced by the overall diminished biodiversity of an artificial landscape aimed at primarily serving humans. Currently, up to 40% of the terrestrial photosynthetic capacity is used by the human population (that is 6 times as much as the large ice age mammals). The oceanic impact is not well studied but the evidence points towards human impact being even greater there. 90% of the predatory fish are gone, a look at ocean floors reveals that larger areas of ocean floor have been turned from living habitats to mud by industrial fishing than all deforestation combined within just 100 years, and the phytoplankton has decreased by up to 40% since the 1960ies taking with it roughly a quarter of the worlds oxygen producing lifeforms (talk about destroying the life support system). So, human activity not only consumes, but also destroys the possibility of life forms to take up sunlight. By immensely promoting the growth of species useful for humans while willingly or unwillingly eradicating species that are unwanted or perceived as useless, the result would be a planetary ecosystem with limited biodiversity but high abundance of the existing species. A prime example of this are the monocultural landscapes produced by industrial agriculture in which less than 20 plant species contribute about 75% of the global intake of plant-derived calories. This kind of ecology is usually found in habitats with harsh conditions or specific ecological niches.
Essentially the ongoing ecological change fostered by the current civilization heads towards conditions that are found in nature in extreme habitats or niche ecosystems like wadden sea areas, hypersaline lakes, ice shelves or dry/cold climates.
Who profits from such challenging conditions and what are the implications? In these habitats, the few remaining species that are well adapted to these conditions profit in terms of number of individuals. A large population but strongly diminished diversity is correlated to such a habitat. Such habitats however face one danger – slight changes in the conditions have devastating effects on the highly adapted species in them. A sea level drop can devastate a wadden sea community, a slight temperature increase can eliminate ice shelf species. An Earth that has in its whole been transformed that way would face the same consequences.
All species change or influence their habitat to fit their own survival needs. For example sheep graze and by that keep the meadows free from trees, allowing gras to regrow again. Civilized humans however create a global extreme habitat for that only civilized humans are adapted to by means of use of technology – and in the short term this looks profitable. The number of individuals and their consumption is growing and this is seen as a sign of prosperity but already it becomes evident that this newly terraformed extreme habitat is highly susceptible to disturbances. Examples of this are failing crops during droughts or wetness (due to the adaptation to a few staple crops that depend on a certain climate), homes destroyed by floods (due to citybuilding in an artificially controlled coastal/riverine environment) or traffic failing due to slight and perfectly normal variations in snowfall or volcanic ash load. Future challenges are even greater in the face of global climate catastrophe, fossil fuels and limited resources in minerals peaking.
Humans claim for themselves to be extremely inventive and adaptable and besides their superior ability to a lush social life, these are indeed main characteristics. Facing the multitude of ill effects of civilization on humans – like physical decay due to lack of physical activity, malnutrition, increase of mental problems like depression and violence – people believing in a technological utopia claim that humans will soon adapt to this new environment and evolve into homo technologicus – if not naturally then by the help of genetics or cybernetics.
Lets return back to the statement, that adaptability is a main characteristic of human beings. With an adaptation to a technological environment, that ability is actually diminished, as such a person cannot survive outside of that special environment anymore. And as that environment is indeed a niche, a habitat that is very susceptible to collapse by changing the parameters of its working only slightly, civilized human population, the terraformers themselves are threatened with collapse.
And this is not merely a dire doomsday future. Indeed the process has already begun – people not only start to become allergic to things outside a sterile city environment, they also developed culturally into beeings that are not able to survive outside an artificially created world. Many people already depend culturally and physically on civilization for their very survival. Many of the troubles that are in the present treated with means of technology and medical science are predominantly present in members of the urbanized civilized society and are rather different in the few remaining societies outside that system (cancer, diet, depression, depression as adaptation to lifestyle, human psyche, diseases characteristic to civilization, impact of global change on health). It follows that man of these ills are part of civilization, that the circle of cause, effect and treatment closes itself here for them.
Are we willing to let this happen? Are we willing to let humanity adapt to a niche ecology they created themselves? A niche that is under heavy threat of elimination? Are we willing to let this culture change the planet, kill its natural ecologies, replace them with artificially maintained fragile ecosystems that are aimed only at the benefit of one species? Are we willing to let this culture turn the planet into an overall extreme habitat? I say no! There is still time to refuse going there and instead learn about other ways to live. I deeply love this planet and the natural world that is threatened by the machines that are trying to change it forever and I don’t want it to be terraformed into a machine to only serve humans for their needs. I say STOP TERRAFORMING EARTH!