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Terraforming

The E-mail message field is required. Please enter the message. Please verify that you are not a robot. The final few days of travel became long and hot, but as we neared the city of Kugluktuk my sense of anticipation became fever pitch. Kugluktuk is the Inuit name for the old town of Coppermine. Situated on the northern Canadian coast, it had become a much sought-out tourist destination. The region boasted of long, hot summers and endless beaches, rolling seas, and gentle ocean breeze. The prosperity of Nunavut, and Kugluktuk in particular, had come about because of global warming and the opening up, all year round, of the Northwest Passage to shipping.

The Arctic ice had long ago vanished from the northern seas, and one can even take a boat trip to the North Pole these days. The whole area was undergoing an economic boom; vast oil and natural gas reserves had been discovered under the seafloor, and extraction platforms of one kind or another dotted the entire panorama. The climate there had become so hot and fresh water so scarce that what used to be the breadbasket of the world was now mostly desert and useless scrubland.

This was apparently a reference to a book written two and half centuries ago by an obscure French writer called Jules Verne. I made it my intention to find a copy of the book when I returned home. One of the introductory displays at the center explained that the idea of firing sulfur pellets into the stratosphere was to mimic the cooling effects caused by volcano plumes.

This phenomenon was first noticed and investigated in the late twentieth century—the good old days. Nobel Prize-winning chemist Paul Crutzen made some of the first detailed model predictions in and found that a thin layer of stratospheric sulfur dioxide could counterbalance the warming trend due to the everincreasing abundance of greenhouse gases.

Well, of course, the rest is history.

Governments around the world bickered about greenhouse gas reduction quotas, and nothing useful was actually done to stop global warming. It was also at about this time that the science of geoengineering came into its own, and, of course, it is now one of the most profitable industries on the Earth. But enough history! The guns were due to start firing at hours, and I wanted a grandstand seat. Ever since I can remember, the Kugluktuk guns had been fired every 4 years, and this time I was going to see the show. A total of , tons of sulfur was going to be placed into the stratosphere.

The mighty guns of the Kugluktuk range were going to fire, one after the other, again and again, a withering barrage of 50,, two-metric ton sulfur-laden shells straight upward. Each cannon would fire shells over a hour period— about one shell per cannon every 12 min. It was going to be an incredible show. We were seated in the grandstand arena some 25 km away from the nearest vertical barrel. Each gun was spaced 2 km apart, and we were located opposite gun , half way down 4 Terraforming: The Creating of Habitable Worlds the chain.

I could see the muzzle flashes long before the ground and grandstand began to shake to the thunderous timpani of the discharges. The sound was tumultuous; it blasted us mercilessly, and we loved it!

The guns fired and fired. The flash from each barrel shot like a billowing flame, all yellow and gold into the sky. In clockwork fashion, one after the other, each cannon would discharge its massive shell that would sedately climb into the azure heavens. After each discharge, the muzzle plumes would darken into a mustard-brown cloud that twisted and gamboled like some demented draco volans as it drifted downrange.

Again and again the great guns fired. I sat there for hour after hour, the power of the percussion overwhelming my senses. My body shook, my ears felt as if they would burst, and my eyes began to hurt as they took in the shock of each new muzzle flash. The sensations were better than any carnival ride, and I had the time of my life: the scene was both terrifying and awe inspiring. The big guns of Kugluktuk were rocking the skies and cooling the planet Earth.

Terraforming: The Creating of Habitable Worlds | NHBS Academic & Professional Books

Notes and References 1. Global climate change has resulted in a drastic reduction in the Arctic ice cover, and in the ice sheet was reduced to the lowest level ever recorded. It has been suggested that a complete summer melt of the Arctic ice sheet could take place as early as With the potential opening up of the Arctic seafloor to oil and natural gas extraction, competing sovereignty land claims for the region have been launched by Canada, the United States, Russia, and Denmark.

Since the deposition height is about km altitude, large ordnance shells rather than rockets are assumed to be more cost effective. More recently, it has been suggested that the sulfur dioxide might be pumped directly from the ground into the stratosphere through km-long hoses attached to high-altitude blimps. Crutzen: Albedo enhancement by stratospheric sulfur injections: A contribution to resolve a policy dilemma? Climate Change, 77, — The ultimate aim of terraforming is to alter a hostile planetary environment into one that is Earth-like, and eventually upon the surface of the new and vibrant world that you or I could walk freely about and explore.

It is not entirely clear that this high goal of terraforming can ever be achieved, however, and consequently throughout much of this book the terraforming ideas that are discussed will apply to the goal of making just some fraction of a world habitable.

Terraforming 101: How to Make Mars a Habitable Planet

In other cases, the terraforming described might be aimed at making a world habitable not for humans but for some potential food source that, of course, could be consumed by humans. The many icy moons that reside within the Solar System, for example, may never be ideal locations for human habitation, but they present the great potential for conversion into enormous hydroponic food-producing centers. The idea of transforming alien worlds has long been a literary backdrop for science fiction writers, and many a make-believe planet has succumbed to the actions of direct manipulation and the indomitable grinding of colossal machines.

Indeed, there is something both liberating and humbling about the notion of transforming another world; it is the quintessential eucatastrophy espoused by J.


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Tolkien, the catastrophe that ultimately brings about a better world. When oxygen was first copiously produced by cyanobacterial activity on the Earth some three billion years ago, it was an act of extreme chemical pollution and a eucatastrophy. The original life-nurturing atmosphere was eventually changed forever, but an atmosphere that could support advanced life forms came about.

Terraforming attempts to foster the growth of humanity and promises a better, less crowded, more fulfilled, more productive, M.

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It provides humanity with the possibility of almost limitless expansion, and it ties us to our extended home, the Solar System. Indeed, the future for humanity holds immense promise and potential although this is often difficult to see in the news events that we see on any given day , and perhaps just as importantly the resources and skills required to realize this wider one might say utopian existence are no longer the stock-in-trade of the science fiction writer. They are the known, and they are the real in the here and now.

That humanity possess the rudiments of such technology and power is incredible, and it behooves us to use such skills wisely. The desire to explore and the craving to understand have underpinned much of human history. Indeed, the thirst to appreciate what resides over the distant horizon, or to appreciate the workings of an atom, the properties of a distant star, or the minutia of, say, the life cycle of the Richardson ground squirrel have brought humanity to its present expansive viewpoint, and our collective horizon is now very, very broad.

Not only do humans thirst for intellectual knowledge and understanding, but they also have an innate wanderlust for physical exploration. To climb, to crawl, to fly, to swim, to dive the oceans, all these adventures have preoccupied our ancestors. The distant horizon is not just the muse for our intellectual struggle; it is also the physical barrier beyond which we strive to move.