Flying high with the merry men of Mars

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 28 March, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 28 March, 1993, 12:00am

There ain't no answer, There ain't going to be any answer, There never has been an answer, That's the answer.

Gertrude Stein EVERY year a couple of thousand nerds invade Antarctica to see how cold it can get. They play with balloons that go up 25 kilometres to measure the hole in the ozone layer, and bet on how many times bigger than the entire United States it is this year.

They also experiment with the latest effects of global warming and announce there is hope for the future. Like Taiwan will completely disappear underwater by the year 2035, and Hongkong's Legislative Council will be waist deep in raw sewage before 1997.

These annual doomsday proclamations are probably accurate predictions. They are also a cover up. Last month's edition of Life magazine ran a feature on how our men of science are tuning up for an expedition to Mars. Seriously. Things are not yet bad enough on Earth. They want to experience what it is like hanging out on a planet where the landscape is like Death Valley and the summer temperature has been known to soar as high as 30 below zero.

One future freak was getting all wound up about his plans to climb the highest mountain on Mars - around 30,000 metres - or three times Mount Everest.

This tells me science knows a lot more about impending environmental disasters than they are prepared to admit. If they are - and they are - planning to go to Mars where a mild 100 degrees below is a playful summer, then you won't need a PhD in environmental studies to work out what it's going to look like down here in a few decades.

Normally in such stressful circumstances I'd say I'm leaving. But to where? To Mars, with some nutter who dreams of being Sir Edmund Hillary of the Heavens? Hey, scientists might be all mad, but they are also smart. They know we are headed for self-destruction. The rest of us dumb, green revolutionaries can only guess, as we recycle our old BMWs, use both sides of the toilet roll and hold demonstrations outside supermarkets because they are not using edible plastic bags.

When it all finally falls apart and giant seven-legged crocodiles in Saudi Arabia are catching Antarctic krill the size of hedgehogs and everything else from the platypus to the Pope is belly up, guess who's booked on the only spaceships out? The scientists, that's who. The ratbag geniuses who designed every chemical, nuclear and synthetic nightmare that was supposed to enhance our joyless little lives. Meanwhile, they pollute the pristine environment of the Ross Ice Shelf as they work on how to get the bejesus out of here.

Why Mars? Simple. It's either that or Venus in the opposite direction. On Venus you'll need more than your Ray-Bans and number 45 sunblock. On Venus things melt in a big way. The average temperature is 462 Celsius - in the shade if there were any.

Science is presently taking our minds off the real world with the introduction of Virtual Reality. They know we know that Real Reality is not exactly round-the-clock Disneyworld, so what could be a better diversion than for all we sensation freaks to shove our heads into a bunch of Virtual Reality units and run free in our very own designer rain forest.

Not that Mars is going to be party time, but scientists get turned on by stuff like that. They take the lead in screwing up Mother Earth, then jet out to make a mess somewhere else. Like on Jupiter, a cool 150 below on the outside and a temperate 24,000 degrees at the core.

A thousand times bigger than Earth, Jupiter offers vast scope as a radioactive and miscellaneous garbage dump, as scientific man goes ''where no man has gone before''. As if going nowhere when we had a fabulous somewhere, is an unquestioned thing of beauty and joy forever. Like diamonds used to be before delinquents in Detroit started churning them out in the thousands with a stolen blowtorch and lumps of coal.

Instead of devoting years to guessing that by 2091 the West Coast of America will begin near Oklahoma City and the East Coast will hardly begin at all, our scientists might think about staying home in their laboratories to work on a tasteless, harmless mixture to blow the mind. One we can add to the world's drinking water.

It will be a concoction which stops us operating on automatic. It will cause us to stir, and then wake up to the fact that we are running on empty; spiritually barren and unready to accept the overwhelming evidence that ever more materialism is not the answer but a symptom of the problem, as five billion souls demand more ''things'' and, consequently, more environmental destruction. Just like our scientists as they reach out into the immediate desert of space for something more, something better.

Hey, Einsteins, this is as good as it gets. Right here. Right now.

Let's get one or two things right on Earth before we go star trekking. If not, then ''beam me up, Scotty''. I'm outta here too.

Peter Sherwood is managing director of Edelman Public Relations, Hongkong.