If you’ve always wanted to live on another planet, there is still hope—for your great, great grandchildren. According to a BBC report, Ascension Island, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, might hold the key to colonizing the red planet. The information has been around for a while—it just took us more than 150 years to realize it.
Guess who led the breakthrough? It was none other than Charles Darwin. Darwin gets a bad rap in this country, but the man was brilliant. Evolution? That’s kind of a big deal.
In 1836, Darwin toured the world, searching for the rarest and most interesting examples of life he could find. As he searched through the Atlantic Ridge, he came across a tiny island they called Ascension—1,000 miles off the coast of Africa.
Locals knew it as a terrible place to live. The landscape was arid, filled with dried-up, rock-solid volcanic remnants. Darwin, as people of such intelligence routinely do, saw something that no one else did. He envisioned the possibility of great life. Volcanic regions produce new life, but the island lacked the water it needed. Any rainfall evaporated too quickly.
Darwin realized that if he planted some trees, they would catch more moisture, spread it throughout the island, and create more growth. So, with the help of the British Royal Navy and Kew Gardens, for a few years Darwin planted a diverse collection of plants and trees on the island.
The island’s vegetation grew and kept on growing. Just by planting some trees, Darwin created a thriving community of vegetation. It’s amazing, really. There’s no other place like it, yet no one seemed to care.
British scientist Dave Wilkinson didn’t hear about the island until 2003, but he’s written extensively about it since. He connected the processes at Ascension with the possibility of colonizing Mars. We don’t need to change the environment. Instead, we can give it a little push and let it develop to suitable conditions.
It’s startling that Darwin just set this island in motion and created an entire ecosystem, leaving it to flourish on its own. It’s an experiment you’d think would be monitored, but it doesn’t seem like it has been.
For all we know, there’s another island out there where bears sit down for a cup of tea every day and fish play basketball. The Earth is massive, and sometimes we forget that. It’s nice to be reminded.