Environmental Philosophy and the Ethics of Terraforming Mars: Adding the Voices of Environmental Justice and Ecofeminism to the Ongoing Debate

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Questions concerning the ethics of terraforming Mars have received some attention from both philosophers and scientists during recent decades. A variety of theoretical approaches have been supplied by a number of authors, however research pursuant to this thesis has indicated at least two major blindspots in the published literature on the topic. First, a broad category of human considerations involving risks, dangers, and social, political, and economic inequalities that would likely be associated with efforts to terraform Mars have been woefully overlooked in the published literature to date. I attempt to rectify that oversight by employing the interpretive lens of ... continued below

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French, Robert Heath August 2013.

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  • French, Robert Heath

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Questions concerning the ethics of terraforming Mars have received some attention from both philosophers and scientists during recent decades. A variety of theoretical approaches have been supplied by a number of authors, however research pursuant to this thesis has indicated at least two major blindspots in the published literature on the topic. First, a broad category of human considerations involving risks, dangers, and social, political, and economic inequalities that would likely be associated with efforts to terraform Mars have been woefully overlooked in the published literature to date. I attempt to rectify that oversight by employing the interpretive lens of environmental justice to address questions of environmental colonialism, equality in terms of political participation and inclusion in decision making structures, risks associated with technological progressivism, and responses to anthropogenic climate change. Only by including the historically marginalized and politically disenfranchised "voices," of both humans and nonhumans, can any future plan to terraform Mars be deemed ethical, moral or just according to the framework provided by environmental justice. Furthermore, broader political inclusion of this sort conforms to what ecofeminist author Val Plumwood calls the "intentional recognition stance" and provides an avenue through which globally societies can include nonanthropocentric considerations in decision making frameworks both for questions of terraforming Mars and also for a more local, contemporary set of environmental issues. The second blindspot I seek to correct concerns motivations for attempting terraforming on Mars previously inadequately philosophically elaborated in the published discourse. Specifically, the nonanthropocentric considerations postulated in the second chapter by various authors writing about terraforming, and elaborated in third with regard to environmental justice, reach their culmination in an ecofeminist ethic of care, sustainability, reproduction, and healthy growth which I uniquely elaborate based on a metaphorical similarity to the relationship between a gardener and a garden. Although at first glance, this metaphor may appear overly domineering, or uncritically paternalistic, I argue a deep understanding of its implications will be eminently beneficial for discussions of what is moral, good, right, and just to do regarding not only whether or not to terraform Mars, but for contemporary environmental concerns as well. Ultimately, extreme caution and a robust precautionary principle are the moral prescriptions arrived at in this thesis for the near term future. Until a sustainable civilization and just society can be established and effectively maintained, efforts to terraform and colonize another planet are practically certain to produce as much that is undesirable as that which might be good.

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  • August 2013

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  • April 23, 2014, 8:20 p.m.

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French, Robert Heath. Environmental Philosophy and the Ethics of Terraforming Mars: Adding the Voices of Environmental Justice and Ecofeminism to the Ongoing Debate, thesis, August 2013; Denton, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc283810/: accessed July 20, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .