The Future Belongs to Venus

Today, we have a guest column from Mark Richard Francis. Actually, this is a piece that he wrote for me while he was making comments on one of my drafts of The Cloud Riders. We were discussing the details of the interplanetary trade between Venus and Mars in the post-Silence universe when the Earth has collapsed, leaving its inner solar system colonies to fend for themselves.

In The Cloud Riders, Venus has adopted a cooperative society amongst huge Zeppelins flying 50-55 kilometres above Venus's surface, where average temperatures are actually close to Earth normal. You can see some of the descriptions of this concept here, here, and here (the latter from NASA itself). Mars has been colonized by Tech Bros, which have put together a capitalist/mafia-like society with a nominal central government. And yet the two colonies work together and trade more than you'd think.

While Mars has some obvious advantages for colonization (you can build on the surface, for one), Venus has a number of advantages you wouldn't think about, and Mark detailed them for me in an e-mail, that I will excerpt below. Thank you, Mark!

Mark writes:

For now, accept that Venus wants electronics and building materials. It sends back pharmaceuticals, wood and food like jam preserves. "Savour the sensuality of Venusian Strawberry..."

Oh, and honey. Venus has honey.

Bear with me.

Why colonize Mars? 

A second Earth. To plunder. Or to colonize. Except, unlike Venus, it's a bad place to live. The low gravity messes with the body, as you know. The environment is cold, sunlight weak and the air no good for us.

But, there are accessible resources, as you know. There's got to be rare metals there. Hopefully copper. We're running out down here...

Mars is a hub to access the asteroid belt. It's small twin moons would help with that, as would its less dense gravity well.

So, as you know, there are reasons to live there.

Mars would, in time, value-add on its exports by manufacturing what it exports. They'd probably pollute the outside environment with abandon, giving them some competitive edge in manufacturing using whatever plentiful raw materials they have compared to Earth.

They make their own transport vehicles and ships, so they have a good command of metallurgy and electronics. 

They also make weapons, by the looks of things. The families need them. They may export them.

Anyway, basically, it's another Earth. We go to Mars to repeat.

Why colonize Venus?

Talk about not being an obvious choice! (Geoffrey) Landis makes the argument as to how, but not much as to why.

Mars, is where you go to make money. It's the gold rush!

Venus is where you'd want to live.

With energy being cheap and easy with all that sunlight, and gravity 90 percent of Earth's, the only challenge would be building the initial settlements in the clouds. After that, you maintain a self-sufficient closed cycle and expand only when you can afford to.

Venus would focus on preserving humanity and biodiversity. It would be a place of learning and knowledge. Of perpetuating humanity. You don't go there to acquire money or things. You go to preserve humanity. Your reward is the social status you gain, and the slight increase in resource share you get. It's proto-Star Trek Federation.

I picture not just farms, but Earth-like forests with animal life in them. At least, that would have been the ideal to work towards before Earth went silent.

But trees. They have trees.

And good schools. And universal health care. Peace and good government.

Sounds like a good place to live. 

A future Venus would mine the asteroid belt -- it's faster to go from Venus to the belt than it is to go from Mars (Landis).

A future Venus would mine its own surface using telepresence (Landis). 

The Silent Earth Interplanetary Economy

After Earth goes silent, the desperate colonies quickly learn to trade in order to get essentials from each other. And some luxuries.

As mentioned, Venus needs building materials and electronics. No problems. Mars can send those. But what does Venus have that Mars wants?

Venus, with its great health care, and plant and animal biodiversity, has a pharmaceutical industry which Mars largely lacks. Rich Mars was just importing drugs from Earth. Venus made its own.

Sure, Mars grows its own food, though it's an energy-intensive exercise given the need to heat the plants, melt and pipe the water possibly great distances through constant sub-zero temperatures, and to provide them with proper light on a world that gets half the light Earth does.

So, Venus would send food. Likely, as I said above, processed foods like preserves. The rich would love to show off their Venusian fare.

Grains last a long time and ship well.

And trees. Yes, some wood could be harvested and sent. Likely softwood sent in small quantities. The rich families would also use it to show off. "Don't you just love this coffee table made with real Venusian balsa?"

And Mars has meat? Well, in one-third gravity, it would be hard to get much meat on those animals. Perhaps Venus makes a drug that helps? (NOTE: I fixed this in the subsequent draft. Clearly, no, Mars shouldn't have home-grown meat. Protein loafs abound! Maybe jerky imported from Venus -jb)

And Venus, having crops, has pollinators. Venus has bees, which means they have honey.

This would keep both colonies going for a while.

In the future, Venus would use the asteroids and local surface mining to gain all the materials they need to become self-reliant. Living with 90 percent Earth-normal gravity means the race would be preserved mostly as-is and would be able to endure high-gravity acceleration better than Martians.

In a few generations, Venus will investigate Earth. Unlike the Martians, they will be able to stand up. They may bring civilization back to the surviving humans. A more enlightened one.

The future belongs to Venus, not Mars.

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