'As we reflect upon our environmental challenges, two poles therefore define our actions. On the one hand is the ascetic modesty of sustainability, on the other the hubristic desire to colonize the galaxy. In some ways Mars colonization may seem the more immediately attractive solution as it come with all the thrill of a technical challenge and the allure of subsequent conquest.'I explored this in the first two Quiet War books and (not to spoil the ending) it seems to me that it's a false dichotomy; it isn't a question of either creating a sustainable civilisation or going to Mars and elsewhere in the Solar System. And while one can imagine, as I did, that in certain extreme circumstances some kind of Gaian religion might come to dominate politics, at the moment the balance is tipped far in the opposite direction. Right now on lifeboat Earth we're burning the furniture and decking for fuel, and looking the other way as water laps over the gunwhales.
The human species hasn't yet learned how to use technology responsibly, and we're still discovering that the biomes we're despoiling are packed with intricate interconnections that can't be easily reproduced. As the failed attempt in Biosphere 2 showed, we aren't yet up to the task of creating a fully self-contained ecosystem here on Earth, let alone in a space city on Mars. Both sides have a lot to teach each other: the kind of knowledge acquired from stewardship of increasingly fragile environments on Earth will be essential for creating the gardens of Mars; the kinds of technology needed to survive in extreme environments and recycle everything with as close to 100% efficiency as possible will have all kinds of uses here on Earth.
Or are Martians supposed to live off imported rations inside charmless cans while strip-mining the Hellas Basin (and if Earth is wrecked, who will they be selling their Martian ores to)? I admire Zubrin's passion, but I'm dismayed by the way he's directing it at straw men.