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  • Annya Uslontseva

    the question is why? why do we need this? something like 50% of food in US goes to the trash. We do not need more food, we need better and more affordable food. Growing food on mars is not a solution, taking care of the planet we have is.

  • Alfredo Balmaseda

    I think this is a great project, I would like to see something like this but on Earth, where it is needed the most. Why farm on Mars when we need to feed a couple of billions of people?

  • dthornburg

    What a wonderful project for kids to explore. Here in the US we have just adopted the Next Generation Science Standards that include earth/space sciences and engineering, and practically require an inquiry-based approach to the subject. I will be speaking about your work next week at ISDC in San Diego. If, by chance, you are there, please say hello!


    • John Beaton

      I live in San Diego! What is ISDC and is it open to the public?

  • Lindsay Curren

    What a horribly ridiculous and misguided contribution to the world of gardening and the need for food growth for humans.

    As it is, space exploration is a toy industry for the most part in a world still governed by actual physics, and realities such as peak oil. Wasting precious research time and dollars on a pursuit like this is not just damaging for being so wholly untethered to myriad aspects of reality; it's also destructive for making folks starry-eyed and dreamy over technotopia, or what prescient writer james Howard Kunstler calls, "Too Much Magic."

    It's not that I am unappreciative of the insights that come from imagination, or applications from space study that find their way to earth. But there are serious predicaments facing humankind right here, right now which we ignore daily as we stay focused on a teleological vision that humanity and history are always in an ever-upward trajectory toward something bigger, better, faster, more whiz-bang. It's a Buck Rogers delusion that isn't serving us well at this juncture, when global warming, peak oil, and economic crisis are colliding in the here and now, far faster than a space train can take us to our space colony for our space veggies.

    Use that immense brain power in the service of something that can actually help us work through today's predicaments on today's time scale for today's people and save the fantasy futures for I dunno, dreaming about your next vacay.


    • Kyle Louise

      Couldn't agree more with these thoughts, Lindsay. I also had the gut reaction of, "no!" why are we putting our resources towards an idea like this rather than solve the problems of this earth? We are easily star-struck by techonological advances, when those advances have so many implications we have yet to understand. To me it has the potential to be the same as introducing the mongoose to Hawaii, or using DMT as a pesticide.

    • John Beaton

      Why are you using so much brain power to put down those who dare to dream? Sure, the immediate applications of this technology may not be useful right away, but space exploration has resulted in many advances in technology that improve our every day lives.

      People should be encouraged to imagine wild ideas that may or may not work and may or may result in immediate satisfaction. That is what makes the human race great: the potential we have to be creative and innovate.

      We have many people working on many other more immediately threatening issues, but why shouldn't the author dream and explore new possibilities? Heck, who knows how this technology could be applied to advance gardening here on Earth?

      • Lindsay Curren

        Because I think there's a pervasive problem with technotopian thinking. The "topian" part referring to "utopian," of course. And what happens is that folks get very starry-eyed over that which imparts a kind of permission to not take real predicaments very seriously — we'll just wait for technology to save us. The savior technology however, is always "out there, beyond the horizon, and billions of dollars away, wrapped in a sparkling vision of what if."

        Dreaming isn't at issue. Folks are dreaming who are concocting and rolling out local time banks. They're dreaming when they start letterpresses. They're dreaming when they make a community garden. And we think they're dreaming "bigger" when they've got our dinner salad growing on Mars because, why that seems so neat-o.

        Human beings dream and that's awesome. Human beings are often torn down for their dreams and that's not so awesome, with plenty of beleaguered folks getting the last laugh — take Copernicus as an example somewhat germane to this discussion. Yet much of the critique waged against him was on terms outside of his case — using religion and God to deny science.

        My interest is in the groundedness of this idea based on truth in energy. Also in truth in real-world problem solving and contributions. Because the allure and prevalence of technotpian dreams eclipses far-less sexy ideas we gravitate to them, the stars very much in our eyes, too. It may be a human tendency to prefer fantasy and grandiosity over humble realities and technology that looks more like clothes pins and pulleys. And this danger gets in the way of everything from practical living on the personal scale to community-based approaches and designs to national level tacks — such as visioning a rail system over say, imagining we'll all be flying around like George Jetson — to global partnerships aimed at solving overfishing, acidification, desertification, and a GMO-free approach to addressing hunger. We prefer to have diseases of modernity (diabetes, obesity, heart disease, cancers) treated with whiz-bang Big Pharma than to address our modes of production, manner of consumption, and management of waste.

        So whenever these "Mars will save us," stories come along to titillate and lure the danger grows that the preciousness of these big dreams is more profound and a surer path than things far simpler and more real. In some ways, dreaming of a Martian savior is less hopeful than dreaming of a new relationship to Earth. The former has already given up and is looking elsewhere for an escape hatch while the latter is committed deeply to one of the profound truisms found in almost every great religion, philosophical system, and moral and ethical admonition, which is to begin by being here now.

        Encouraging wild ideas is wonderful in isolation. But it has to come out into the big wide world to test its merits. Then the purpose shouldn't only be in saying, "Yes, you're idea is so amazing." Instead, in a fully flourishing human world it should be given the merit that is its due and no more.

    • Alessandra Rizzotti

      I think it's important to potentially prepare for a future where we might have to live in space, especially if global warming makes Earth unlivable. If we start by exploring the potential of growing food on Mars, we could see if we could live on the planet. If we don't try, we'll never know.

      • Lindsay Curren

        I don't. I think it's a wild fantasy at best, a tragically misguided and destructive avenue at worst. There are 7 billion people on earth and climbing daily. We're not vacating to Planet X. We're living on Planet Earth, global warming and all. Just the fuel, chemicals, and supplies alone to evacuate even one tiny sliver of humanity to a fantasy planet as a Noah's Ark response to our man-made predicaments is itself preposterous in the extreme. If you want to solve (vigorously respond to) global warming, let's all look in the mirror. If we can't get consensus about that, we're sure not going to get consensus on building a fantasy trip to a fantasy destination where we're all "saved" from global warming. By beginning to live in the here and now, creatively, poetically, with imagination and insight and determination and humanity and science and spirit and the whole gamut we might just might make a difference. But every second spent daydreaming about the space solution is a second wasted on what makes sense now. Simple solutions are the best solutions. And you don't even have to wear an oxygen tank, withstand g-forces, or eat freeze dried ice cream to employ them.

    • david6

      Couldn't have said it better myself, bravo!

    • shyams

      Lindsay, supporting your thoughts on huge waste of time and resources on such wild ideas, but definitely got to give credit to Louisa for bringing up such a thought, I mean, its not just about the next vacay, but about possibilities of growing a plant up there. Even I dont agree on "next vacay" part, well we all have lot more years to go on this beautiful Earth. No harm in putting up an idea in the public. @Louisa : if you are listening, you are brave enough to bring up such an idea and I appreaciate you for such a great thought, I believe you might take out some positive inspiration from Lindsay's comments and work ahead on your project with more vigour and intent. All the very best!!

      P.S : Its not an epic fail, what might look as an epic fail today, might turn out as epic win tomorrow.

      • Alessandra Rizzotti

        Your constructive comment is appreciated. Thank you for bringing some positivity into Louisa's project idea.

        • Lindsay Curren

          To me, if positivity is reduced to cheerleading for misguided ideas, then I'm not interested in it.

          The best kind of dialogue isn't a new-age mentality where, no matter what spews forth from someone, it gets positive reinforcement, like we are in kindergarten.

          I appreciate that these two women have titanic intelligences and fantastic imaginations. I just believe they are radically misapplying them in the service of something untethered to the realities of our times. (At best I can see some merit in trials on growing food in harsh conditions. But this is hardly new.)

          The issue is experiments divorced from energy, and hence free from entropy and the like.

          In contemporary life most folks regard energy like they regard the air they breathe — they don't think about it, almost ever. With breath, perhaps you think about it in a yoga class. But then, quite naturally you go back to auto-pilot, with breath the background infrastructure to life, indifferent to it unless you're being strangled, choking on food, drowning, or careening in a rapidly descending airplane. Then you care about both breath as a process and air as a chemical on which life depends.

          Energy is the same. We think it's limitless, or even if not, that we can withstand the consequences of its burning if just we escape to Mars, or when some fantasy techno solution is peddled that we believe we can roll out over global infrastructure to replace the entire scale what we're currently living with in mere months or years.

          The problem isn't the appearance of someone being "less than positive," or not "encouraging" about a project. The problem is not contextualizing a project in the realities in which they must ultimately operate.

          Our whole society does it, not just dreamy-eyed scientist-artists who wish to export seven billion folks to another planet (or even an elite cadre of the seven billion, itself a gambit fraught with moral and ethical conundrums).

          Sometimes the most positive thing you can say — or hear — is that it's time to go back to the drawing board. In this case, it just might yield a contribution to gardening and food worthy of the likes of permaculture or biodynamic gardening. Cause carrots shipped from 225 million km are gonna cost a lot of clams. Good news for Exxon perhaps. For human grocery budgets, not so much.