How to Live on Mars by Robert Zubrin

How to Live on Mars by Robert Zubrin

Author:Robert Zubrin [Zubrin, Robert]
Language: eng
Format: epub
ISBN: 978-0-307-45011-1
Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
Published: 2008-06-09T16:00:00+00:00


Putting the lunar base to good use. (List of Illustrations 9.1)

Beyond Fruits and Vegetables

Because you were brought up on Earth, you’ve no doubt had to endure years of lectures from goody-goody vegetarian schoolpreachers urging you to give up eating meat, because a hectare of corn can feed far more hungry people than a hectare of cattle forage. These arguments are nonsense on Earth, because the starvation of the poor on that planet is not caused by a global food shortage but by the corrupt governments which pay the veggie schoolpreachers to go around making everyone else feel guilty. On our planet, however, in an environment where we can’t simply take tillable land already lying around in continent-sized tracts, but must make it with domes and our own hard work, the vegetarian thesis appears to have some merit. Our agriculture has to be efficient, and including large warm-blooded herbivores in the food chain is, in fact, very inefficient. Most of the energy of the plants these creatures eat goes into maintaining their body temperature, and very little ever reaches you. On the other hand, you can’t eat the larger part of most crop plants anyway. For example, in the case of corn, rice, or wheat, you don’t eat the roots, stems, or leaves. Instead, you are stuck plowing most of your crop back into the soil with the self-consoling thought that you are keeping the ground fertile. But if that were your true objective, you’d plow the whole plant back—you’re really just wasting energy. So if you want to be efficient, you need to find a way to use the not-directly-edible parts of the plants, and the obvious way is to bring in some livestock.

Now, nearly a century ago, some scientists at NASA did a study of this problem, and decided that goats would be the key to future animal husbandry in space. There was some logic behind this conclusion. Goats, after all, are of convenient size, omnivorous, fast breeding, and milkable. Be that as it may, it’s rather obvious that the scientists in question had never lived on a farm, because they clearly didn’t have a clue as to what goats can do. Nevertheless, the study became Mars Authority gospel, and we are stuck with the consequences today. So here’s an important tip: Don’t let any goat near the plastic wall of your greenhouse dome. He’ll eat it.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not antigoat. On the contrary, I love a good goat steak as much as any other Martian, and greatly enjoy watching how much fun the children get out of playing with the critters. Furthermore, goats have repeatedly proven to be of great value when released in New Plymouth to keep the Mars Authority security patrols busy while important business is being transacted by serious people. It is indeed a truly wonderful sight to watch a squad of MA cops trying to catch a clever goat as it leaps gracefully over 3-meter fences in the light Martian gravity.



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