This may be a bit of a wild leap right now, and maybe this idea is completely crazy, but here me out if you will.
Are there any permaculturists out there who can envision the scope of permaculture extending beyond the bounds of Earth? If so, is it too early to start talking about it now? I see these awesome project by Geoff Lawton and Sepp Holzer on massive scales and people like Allan Savory talking about systems that could quite change the face of the Earth and it gets me thinking about far off in the future and how these ideas might evolve.
Permaculture systems are all about abundance, right? So I suppose what my question really boils down too is, if we do re-green the deserts and we do get ourselves as a planet aligned with nature and creating abundance across the whole planet, is it possible that we could create so much abundance as to begin to support another planet. Forget re-greening the desert the desert, what I am asking is can we "re-green" Mars?
I would like to get the ball rolling now and start thinking about what it might take to pull it off. We have an abundance of carbon, zero surface water, and no organic matter to speak of. How do we build an ecosystem here entirely from scratch?
New Frontier Permaculture
I think an equally productive, and nearer-in-timeframe fantasy would be the envisioning of self-contained ecosystems for long-term voyages in space.....sort of like aquaponics writ large to provide food, clean water, oxygen, and waste processing. The key for both this, and any larger fantasy, is the energy source or sources.....something to replace the sun once one gets too far away from it for solar collectors of any sort to be useful. Small, next-generation nukes? Indeed, most thoughtful futuristic science fiction almost always posits a relatively clean, cheap, abundant energy source or sources coming on line in the near future, before energy and pollution issues send high-tech civilization into serious backslide....
First, Gaiome. The author is a permaculture designer and astrophysicist, he started from the same question and elaborated it into the Gaiome book. I have unfortunately not read this book, but thanks to you reminding me, it goes back to the top of my list (once I'm done with the Geoff Lawton course which doesn't cover outer space). I originally heard about it on Ran Prieur's site.
Kim Stanley Robinson has explored interplanetary permaculture in his books, especially the Mars Trilogy and 2312. The Mars series specifically deals with bootstrapping the Martian ecosystem, starting with thickening the atmosphere, adding greenhouse gases, distributing lichens, then tundra plants, then continuing the process of succession. In the book's timeframe, I think it took at least 150 years from colonization until people could walk on the Martian surface without assistance. I'll elaborate on Robinson when I have a bit more time. I am not sure but I suspect KSR has taken a PDC at some point, nearly all his books have recognizable permaculture aspects, though it's not always called out by name.
My sister sent me a short story once about permacultural settlers on mars. I'll try and track that down.
posted 7 years ago
Rockwell International made this Integrated Space Plan in the 80's. This is my favorite flowchart I have ever seen. It's firmly within the industrial viewpoint, but it gives some idea both of the project complexity, and some of the milestones that we'd have to hit.
Terraforming equipment would be tough due to size/weight, but possible. Seeds are easy. Sunlight and water and atmosphere, not so much.
This planet has a unique combination of temperature and available water. My goal has been to fix this planet well enough we don't need to leave.
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posted 7 years ago
Even if we didn't have to I would still want to try, I think exploration is at the heart of the human experience. Exploring ideas is a good start.
As far as terraforming equipment, there should be ways to mine resources on a longer time scale I would think and build equipment there on site, but I wonder if there may be a possible low tech approach. Obviously not so much in getting there because you need some pretty high-tech gadgetry to get there. Maybe like a small scale approach of tiny ecosystem in jar not much more advanced than what Toby Hemingway talks about in Gaia's Garden I think is where I heard it. You take a gallon jar, scoop up some pond scum, some soil out of the woods, and I can't remember what else, but you close it up and set it in the Sun and a tiny ecosystem will form. Scale this idea up a bit and I think it might be possible to have something to build on.
A planet like mars has some atmosphere it's just really toxic and if you look at really thick rainforests they almost create their own atmosphere at least to some degree. If you could scale up the ecosystem in a jar idea and build on it and build on it over time maybe it could eventually become stable enough to poke a tiny hole through to the outside environment. Then maybe you could gradually make this hole bigger over time and the shake and bake ecosystem could start to nibble away at the toxicity and release some of it's developing atmosphere out into the planet.
Obviously this would be a very very long time scale. So I suppose the idea would be to set up an expandable greenhouse that is tight to the outside air but not so much to the native ground. Take organic material there to start the processes and build on top of what's there. Bring in bacterias and funguses and just a really mixed bag of weeds.
There would plenty of light available but water would definitely be a problem unless there is source on the planet yet unfound. Taking Earth's water there might not be that practical or at all wise but maybe an icy comet happens to be in the neighborhood or a way to generate it locally.
I suppose the ecosystem in a jar idea would actually be more practical for long term deep space travel than it would for terraforming. Might work for both, but the travel idea is at least easier to chew on for now.
New Frontier Permaculture
Actually , you need to have a lot of water around you in space.
Putting up metallic shielding creates "spalling" of energetic particles, and hyper-velocity projectiles of the shielding interior ricocheting around the inside of your hab.
Punctures self close by freezing to exterior pretty quickly, then you have to go out and sonic weld on more poly to seal em....
You use mostly polyethelene (mylar) and water, the two highest density materials of hydrogen.
Lots of NASA studies up now on filling these with algea, which can use heat, as easily as light for growth.
Getting rid of heat in a ship is one of the hardest things, so having happy plants that can absorb it is all to the good.
People and eqpt put out a LOT of heat and humidity.
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Super happy to see this topic. If Mars does get terraformed it'd be crazy not to do it with useful plants, so it'd be a default permaculture job!!! The thing that seems like the most trouble to me is the very weak magnetic field Mars has. Seems like that would make it a difficult world to live on. Wouldn't cosmic rays be breaking the DNA of any creatures not living underground, underwater or in a seriously shielded building? It also seems likely that Mars has microbes living underground. They might make it interesting regarding how they would interact with an Earth sourced terraformed surface.
Fun topic...thanks. Hope we get better at living on Earth too.