One of the most common themes present in science fiction is colonization. Even if the process of colonization is not present in a story, you often see humans living on alien worlds, or living on ships and exploring the cosmos. This exploration/colonization is an undeniable part of our history. Explorers have always pushed the boundaries of the known world, seeking out the unknown. Though the exploration of space comes with expenses and challenges different from what has come before, there seems little reason to assume that we will not one day set forth and colonize other worlds.
Movies like Wall-E show humans leaving Earth due to severe pollution making the environment inhospitable to life. Other scenarios show us spreading out due to overpopulation concerns. The environment can, after all, sustain a certain number of human beings before we lose the ability to produce enough food to feed us all. Some scientists estimate that maximum capacity to be about 10 billion people.
How do we go about the colonization process? Terraforming is the process by which humans make uninhabitable worlds suitable for human needs, and is frequently used in sci-fi, though some scientists question whether such a project would be practical. Sometimes humans simply look for worlds that are already suited to our biology, though those worlds may have their own life forms that would protest our plans. We also see artificial environments such as biodomes set up on planets like Mars, or humans living on space stations.
|Image courtesy of Shadow-Trance/|
Each method of colonization comes with its own concerns. Regardless of whether it is practical to alter the environment of another planet, would it be ethical to do so? If we colonize another world with other living creatures, how will our presence impact them? What kind of responsibility would we have for those other life forms? Do you think we really are destined to move between the stars, or will we allow concerns about money or a lack of ambition to keep us on the ground?