MARSIFY (verb)

1) Using techno-utopian* fantasy to transcend dire physical and ecological realities on Earth. 

2)  To attempt to solve a problem in the most statistically unlikely and unselfconsciously grandiose way possible. 

 *An ideology that fetishizes technological advancement as the key driver of all human “progress” and promotes  technological fixes as universally beneficial solutions while ignoring any non-technological (social, political, economic, spiritual) aspects of a complex problem.


1) The expansion of colonial fantasy beyond the atmosphere of the Earth. “Manifest Destiny to the stars*”. It is an extension of the phenomena of colonizing ‘new lands’ often accompanied by narratives of starting life anew, a civilizational reset, an apparent freedom from the social and political problems colonizers believe they are ‘leaving behind.” 

2) The various cultural, political and economic processes through which techno-utopian fantasies divert our attention from the dominant global economic system’s erosion of the life-support systems of Earth. 

3) The drive to turn relatively lifeless Mars into a new Earth while effectively turning biodiverse Earth into Mars. The process of making Mars habitable while Earth is being rendered increasingly inhabitable.

4) The delusion that the blank slate of the red planet will be an escape from inescapable problems on our home planet. For example, the idea that humans could escape to Mars if we destroy our own climate. 

* Manifest Destiny is a 19th century American ideology that was used by U.S. elites to justify westward expansion of settler colonialism as inevitable and divinely ordained. 


Marsify: For example, an actual quote by SpaceX CEO Elon Musk: “Most likely the form of government on Mars would be a direct democracy, not representative…So it would be people voting directly on issues. And I think that’s probably better, because the potential for corruption is substantially diminished in a direct versus a representative democracy.*” is an example of Marsifying our failing democracy, projecting that it will be easier to reboot on an alien planet.

“Yeah I’ll just Marsify my daily commute by designing a personal jetpack that allows me to beat the traffic.”

Marsification: “This is truly  the Marsification era – on the same day I got news about the potential future scenario of clouds disappearing from the Earth and a new strain of bacteria that may help colonize the surface of Mars.”

“A union-busting billionaire is proposing that we’ll have direct democracy in space? Sounds like classic Marsification.”

“Corporate America is betting on the Marsification of mass eco-anxiety. Bring on the Mission to Mars reality TV shows.”

*This quote is from an interview Musk did at the 2016 ReCode Conference as reported by The Verge. Musk has expressed similar sentiments numerous times.

Origin: Patrick Reinsborough and Zara Zimbardo in collaboration with The Bureau.



The obsession and unconstrained hubris by certain Earthling elites to direct collective attention, existential hope, and significant economic and scientific resources to a planet 250 million miles away that does not support complex life as we know it, which diverts our attention from numerous current threats to Earth’s biosphere.  

Expansionist colonial projects have long had their economic logic accompanied by fantasies of distant new lands that would allow for greater freedom, prosperity and possibility. Marsification is the expansion of colonial fantasy beyond the atmosphere of the Earth. Unselfconscious ideologies of Manifest Destiny haunt the intersection of the business and religion of space colonization. Wild West language of vast and dazzling frontiers – looking forward without looking back – encodes an aura of inevitability and civilizational imperative for the human species.* 

Marsification is the dream to turn Mars into a new Earth while actually enacting the nightmare of effectively turning biodiverse Earth into relatively lifeless Mars. It is the process of trying to make Mars habitable at a time when the  Earth is being systematically rendered less habitable due to excessive extraction of finite natural resources, unprecedented habitat destruction, species extinction and ever accelerating climate change. (see: Terrorforming). The term Marsification helps name multiple dimensions of this tragic link:

  • Underneath the allure of bringing Mars to life, lies denial of our fundamental human interdependence with our astounding home planet.
  • Beyond the cultural infatuation and funding channeled towards near-future settlement on the red planet, an indigestible existential grief exists at the ecocide that has brought us to this moment, when the attempt to inhabit a hostile planetary environment sounds both desirable and viable. 
  • The attempt to bypass physical and ecological limits on Earth relies on the belief that humans can forsake all our diverse, fellow Earthling life forms and travel (for some even perhaps ascend) as a solitary species into the vacuum of space and somehow not be lonely as all hell. 

* “Human species” in this case meaning in fact mostly white male tech elite. “Whitey Out On Mars” 🎵 (with respect and apologies to Gil Scott-Heron)

Related to:

Terrorforming by Paul Hassing. Terrorforming is “the inexorable realization that not only are we incapable of ‘fixing’ and fleeing to other planets, we can’t even slow the death of our own.” 


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