Our Life on Mars, Our Life on Earth
A Reason to Join the CRAG
The Crag, the Creation of Reality Group at the University of Edinburgh, is moved by a collective desire to understand how ideals can become a social reality and shape our future. We want to provide inspiration and a toolkit to transform the world into a more harmonious experience.
In 1971, David Bowie wrote Life on Mars, a song that can be heard as a celebration of human imagination and hope. The lyrics were meant to be a critique of the narcissism displayed by Frank Sinatra’s My Way. The question ‘Is there life on Mars?’ was a symbol of curiosity and desire, as opposed to the realistic rat (pack) race.
In 1997, Bowie commented on the character depicted in the song, a young girl: ‘I think she finds herself disappointed with reality…she’s being told that there’s a far greater life somewhere, and she’s bitterly disappointed that she doesn’t have access to it.’ 1997 was also the year when Mars Pathfinder reached Mars. Since then, scientists are seriously talking about terraforming Mars, which means slowly transforming it into an earth-like environment, through a process called ‘ecopoiesis’.
Mars functions as an inverted image of the Earth. Take the familiar idea that through pollution we are transforming the Earth into a hostile planet, and that it might one day become as inhospitable to life as Mars is now. On the other hand, the planetary engineering of the Red Planet could hypothetically transform Mars into a green, watery and natural environment. Artificial global warming, which is bad for the Earth, would be good for cold Mars. The recommended techniques for the first steps of terraforming Mars are ironically based on the production of carbon dioxide, known as the cancer of the Earth.
Our life on Mars is an inversion of polarities. It’s an inversion of the nature/culture traditional discourse. Culture (in the wider sense of the activity of homo faber) became ‘bad for the hearth and we are killing nature’, but this technological culture ‘will be good for Mars because it will recreate nature’. On Mars nature will be artificially made and technoculture will be our origin, the point of departure. ‘In a terraformed Mars, said NASA’s Christopher McKay, the natural reserve would be red desertic spots of preserved old Mars.’
According to the scientific discourse, humans that would colonize Mars would have to be ‘hyper-skilled, trained and mentally strong’. Only the physically, mentally and mechanically strong, they say, would be able to reach the Promised Land. This is the ultimate Darwinian selection. Would the colonisation of Mars be an effective form of planetary eugenism?
New horizons create new perceptions. As the space engineers are already preparing us for a ‘Martian becoming’, we should go to Mars faster than the rockets, using our dreams, visions and ideals. It is important aesthetically, socially and politically: utopia has always been a way to consider our actual society with candid and firm eyes.
Let’s transform the Red Planet, or any other cosmic blank slate, into a 4D screen for the projection of our social imagination. As the science-fiction author Ray Bradbury suggested in the Wall Street Journal in 2004: ‘Mars still waits to have its canals filled with our dreams.’ The utopia of Interstellar World-making could be a collective creation game that would lead us to new ideas about… our life on earth. What could could we learn about social issues on earth by wildly imagining our galactic future?
The Crag, the Creation of Reality Group at the University of Edinburgh, is moved by a collective desire to understand how ideas, visions, fictions, aesthetics, beliefs, hungers, or admirations, can become a social reality and shape our future. We want to provide inspiration and a toolkit to transform the world into a more harmonious experience. The Martian Utopia is just a metaphor for our collective inspiration, a mind-game for the opportunity to start exploring what could be our new life if we had to reinvent a whole planet, call it Mars… or the New Earth. For some, perhaps, this could be about Life on Marx, for others Life on Darwin, for us it is Life on Co-Creation.
In 1924, artist Paul Klee offered his famous idea: ‘The people are missing’. The philosopher Deleuze later explained his statement in this way: creation addresses a ‘people to come’, and we should all become artists of the new, co-creators of possible worlds, parallel universes. We all have a more or less conscious idea of what a more harmonious world could be. But only by talking about it together can we transform our vague ideas into a clear project. Would you rather spend your life adapting to so-called realist rules that you feel are wrong or limited? One of the aspects of social creation was approached by the Thomas theorem, formulated in 1928: ‘If men define situations as real, they will become real in their consequences.’
Let’s be the Martians of the Earth.
Everything is intellectually possible on Mars as it is in the future.
Let’s be the ‘people to come’.