Astrobiologist Thinks Mars Colonies Should Declare Their Independence from Earth

Wednesday, 26 August 2015 - 3:22PM
Astrobiology
Mars
Earth
Wednesday, 26 August 2015 - 3:22PM
Astrobiologist Thinks Mars Colonies Should Declare Their Independence from Earth
The world is fascinated by the idea of establishing bonafide colonies on Mars, and there is a chance it could happen one day (although we have a very, very long way to go). But once we achieve that historic feat, there will be many hurdles to overcome if we attempt to actually create another human society from scratch. It will be a question, for example, whether Mars colonies should fall under Earth's jurisdiction, and will adopt the same legal system and bow to the authority of the same government. According to astrobiologist Haqq Misra, Mars colonies should be independent from Earth from the very beginning, free to create their own civilization as they please.

In an essay in New Space, Misra makes the following five-pronged proposal, which essentially amounts to the Prime Directive:

1) Mars colony residents immediately relinquish their citizenship as Earthlings and become permanent citizens of Mars.
2) Earth's governments and corporations are forbidden from interfering with affairs on Mars that could affect its political, cultural, economic, or social development. 
3) Earth may continue scientific research on Mars, so long as it doesn't interfere with Mars civilization.
4) No Earthling may own or lay claim to any land on Mars.
5) Any technology or resources brought to Mars will stay on Mars permanently, and Earthlings may not take resources from Mars without express permission.


Essentially, Misra is advocating complete independence from Earth for Mars society, in order to avoid an oppressive colonialist dynamic. Especially if the Mars colonists are Americans, they will all remember the American revolution as part of their personal mythology, and will not take kindly to a faraway government that claims ownership of a new civilization. It would be very difficult for Mars colonists to effect any kind of change on Earth, even if they had voting rights, and it would be a little too reminiscent of "taxation without representation."

Frans von der Dunk, a space law professor at the University of Nebraska, predicts that Mars colonists would follow their home country's laws at first, but then would rebel over time:

Opening quote
"At some point in time, they will not like that anymore," he told Popular Science. "They won't feel like they are American or Russian or wherever they come from, they'll feel like they are Martian. They will say, 'Listen, we don't want to pay taxes anymore, and we want to develop our own legal system.'"
Closing quote


Luckily, there is some legal support for Mars colonies' independence. The 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which was signed by 103 nations, including the U.S. and Russia, states that Earth nations cannot claim space territories as their own. This "makes very clear that a colony on Mars could never become a colony in the classical legal sense of the word, like the U.S. was originally a colony of the U.K.," according to von der Dunk.

It would be impossible to govern Mars outposts exactly the same way as an Earth country, because the environment is so different and there would be so many fewer people. They would likely develop their own culture, at first a mixture of the citizens' home countries, but eventually traditions, jokes, and sensibilities would arise that are completely unique. 

Opening quote
"It's hard to think outside the box there, but one could think that because Mars is so different from Earth, that when they tear themselves away from traditional legal structures, they could develop something very new," said von der Dunk. "This is all very hypothetical."
Closing quote


Misra agrees with this sentiment, as he sees a Mars civilization as a potential opportunity to start fresh. Rather than ravaging Mars for resources, he believes we should take advantage of what is essentially a "second chance" for humanity:

Opening quote
"Maybe Mars is more valuable in trying to seed the second incidence of civilization," said Misra.
Closing quote
Science
Space
Astrobiology
Mars
Earth

Load Comments