Ecological Approach to Terraforming, Mapping the Dream
Richard W. Miller
University of Waterloo, Canada. firstname.lastname@example.org
James Lovelock’s Gaia hypothesis, suggests that Earth’s biosphere is a self-regulating entity with the capacity to keep our planet healthy by controlling the physical and chemical environment. Central to Lovelock’s model are the ideas of interconnectivity and feedback between components of the biosphere, and that life, when viewed on a global scale, has emergent properties. In effect, the Earth, its atmosphere, oceans, rocks and life comprise one entire ecosystem. According to Eric D. Schneider, Hawkwood Institute and James J. Kay, University of Waterloo, ecosystems are systems of organisms, interacting with one another, within spatial and temporal boundaries, and consist of processes which bind organisms together and influence the development, structure and function of the ecosystem. They view ecosystems as “evolving complex systems that are held away from thermodynamic decay by imposed physical or chemical gradients.” The Earth, as far as we know, is the only existing planetary ecosystem. The physiognomy of planetary engineering is generally considered to have two aspects: ecopoiesis and terraforming. The goal of terraforming Mars would be to create an uncontained planetary biosphere emulating all the functions of the biosphere of Earth, one that would be fully habitable by humans.
So far, much of the speculation on planetary engineering has concentrated on the physical and chemical modifications required for terraforming Mars. This work has been based on traditional analytic and reductionist approaches to scientific inquiry. Silvio Funtowicz, Institute for Systems, Informatics and Safety, and Jerry Ravetz, Research Methods Consultancy, Ltd. claim that these methods are inadequate to cope with dynamic, complex systems, such as ecopoiesis and terraforming, which are characterized by unpredictability, incomplete control, and a plurality of legitimate perspectives. Terraforming, in which humans are an integral component, is an ‘emergent’ complex system which includes properties of reflection and contradiction. In this paper, I examine methods for describing complex systems, the tools which can be employed to manage them, and then suggest how these ideas can be applied to terraforming.