The Early Days of a Better Nation

Thursday, September 02, 2010



Queen Victoria's Terraformers

In effect, what Darwin, Hooker and the Royal Navy achieved was the world's first experiment in "terra-forming". They created a self-sustaining and self-reproducing ecosystem in order to make Ascension Island more habitable.

Wilkinson thinks that the principles that emerge from that experiment could be used to transform future colonies on Mars. In other words, rather than trying to improve an environment by force, the best approach might be to work with life to help it "find its own way".
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3 Comments:

I loved this story, but the idea that it tells us much about how to terraform Mars seems a bit far fetched. Certain contrasts spring to mind: Mars - no permanent surface water, Ascension Island - the middle of the Atlantic Ocean; Mars - cold as the tenth circle of Dante's hell, Ascension Island - nice and cosy; Mars - Atmospheric pressure ≈30 kPa, Ascension Island - Atmospheric pressure ≈100 kPa

Ascension Island already had an ecosystem. Sufficient plant life to support "great herds" of introduced goats before the British colonial plant introductions. "Prodigious quantities" of purslane. A "rich carpet" of ferns. Those goats might have been responsible for a great reduction in shrubbery.

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