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Terra Deforming

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"That's the problem with nature. Something's always stinging you or oozing mucus on you. Let's go watch TV."
Calvin, Calvin and Hobbes

People who try Terra Deforming see any area that is not housing humans, catering to humans, or creating resources for humans as wasted and views any effort to convert it into a human-usable space as a good cause. These changes often take place, or are predicted to take place, 20 Minutes into the Future. Because Science Marches On, these ideas have devolved into Zeerust and lead to the almost inevitable unfortunate implication that Humans Are the Real Monsters.

This is rarely shown as positive, even in cases where having humans leave Earth's environment behind gives it a chance to recover.

If taken to its extreme, can lead to a "City Planet", one of the categories under Single-Biome Planet.

In modern science fiction, evil cultures are sometimes shown adopting this view (providing an opportunity for a Strawman Political), or else human society adopted it long ago and later suffered the consequences; either way, it's an opportunity for a Green Aesop.

Compare Horde of Alien Locusts, in which the troublemakers are not Homo sapiens.


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    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 

  • This is basically the policy of the government in Silent Running, in which the last remaining forests are housed in satellites orbiting Earth. This of course annoys the Conservationist hero no end, resulting in the film's Green Aesop.
  • The Genesis Device from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Star Trek III: The Search for Spock is an awesome weapon made of doomed phlebotinum (and you often get a large side order of Nemesis with your terraforming)... but also, the environments that it makes tend to collapse. In the Federation's defence, the Genesis Device wasn't intended as a weapon. They planned to use it on lifeless worlds, limiting the moral problems. In the novelization, it's explained that Reliant was searching not just for lifeless worlds but worlds which were projected to never be able to develop life on their own — even the faintest traces of amino acids would rule a world unsuitable for being remade this way.
  • Star Wars: The capital City Planet of the Empire is Coruscant.

  • Would it surprise you to find that this trope is a heroic virtue in Atlas Shrugged?
    • From Dagny Taggert:
      "But think how often we've heard people complain that billboards ruin the appearance of the countryside. Well, there's the unruined countryside for them to admire." She added, "They're the people I hate."
    • Later, she looks at a waterfall near her wilderness cabin retreat and thinks that it should be turned into a hydroelectric plant.
  • Foundation Series:
  • At the start of The Fountainhead, the architect hero Roarke looks out over a landscape and fantasizes about turning the trees and rocks into construction materials.
  • The Hainish novella "The Word for World is Forest" has Terrans logging the planet Athshe (wood is now rare on Earth) and converting it into farmland. At the start of the book, the antagonist Davidson overdoes the logging causing an island to be made useless for farming because all the soil has eroded away. After the Athsheans revolt, they maroon him on the now barren island as Laser-Guided Karma.
  • The Eighth Men in Last and First Men are a technologically adept but spiritually arid Human Subspecies. They live on a terraformed Venus which they turned into "an engineer's paradise [...] Every inch of land served some industrial or agricultural end".
  • Phule's Company: Phule's Errand introduces the planet Ron'n'art which is totally roofed over, up to a mile from the surface. Making it an extreme example of a City Planet. Ron'n'art is noted as having a richly deserved reputation for decadence, corruption, and paralysis of every agency. If it weren't for the robots and automated systems, nothing would get done and everyone would starve.
  • Red Mars Trilogy: This is a large part of the conflict between the Greens and the Reds, the latter of whom believe Mars should stay pristine and lightly settled. One of the original reasons for this was in order to determine whether or not there was any life on Mars before the colonization.
  • The Tripods: The Masters, alien overlords of earth, have "laid waste" to lands too far away from their three cities, located in Asia, Europe and one of the Americas. They also plan to replace Earth's atmosphere with their poisonous alien one.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the last episode of Dinosaurs, Earl ends up destroying all plant life on the planet to get rid of these vines that were growing everywhere as a result of the bugs that would normally eat them having gone extinct (Wesayso built a wax fruit factory on their breeding grounds, thus killing all the bugs).
  • In Northern Exposure, Maurice Minnifield sees Alaska as just a huge opportunity for business.
  • In one episode of Space: 1999, the Alphans make contact with Earth, where it's a couple of centuries later due to Relativity or something, and the entire population lives in domed cities because the outside environment is toxic. That exact phrase "Who needs nature" has become something of a catchphrase, and you get the sense that nobody on Earth is too bothered about the loss of the ecosystem. For that matter, the writers don't seem too bothered either, making it something of an evaded aesop.
  • In Star Trek: The Next Generation, it's mentioned that plans are underway on Earth to raise a new continent from the Atlantic seabed, presumably to provide more living space for people. No mention is made of how this might affect global hydrodynamics and climate, or what marine life might be wiped out in the process. This was never, ever mentioned again afterwards, however; perhaps someone, in-universe or otherwise, realized the potential for unintended consequences and vetoed it?


    Tabletop Games 
  • In Space 1889, progress-minded Europeans see areas not used for some sort of direct benefit for humans as wasted. In 1889, wilderness conservation is barely in its infancy.

    Video Games 
  • Civilization: Beyond Earth: The Purity affinity, in which the colony seeks to emulate Earth and its culture to impose their will on the new planet, embraces terraforming technology. One unique land improvement they can build is the "terrascape", which changes the tile into an oasis of Earth-like flora and fauna that generates exactly two basic resources of each type. Then there's Vadim Kozlov, the utilitarian leader of the Slavic Federation, who champions this mindset among the playable leaders:
    Yes, the world is beautiful and unspoiled. But it is wrong. Correct it at once.
  • Sly 2: Band of Thieves villain Jean Bison lived this trope. Having become a Human Popsicle during the Canadian Gold Rush and later thawed out due to Global Warming, his mindset is that of a nineteenth century golddigger, consequently wanting to dam every river and cut down every tree for... humanity to use.

    Real Life 
  • When Europeans began exploring tropical Africa, they found that the Africans only cultivated small portions of the land. The Europeans seized all the "unused" land for farmland. Turns out that, because rainforest soil is so poor, it is necessary to leave it fallow most of the time. When the Europeans tried to farm all of it, it quickly depleted and could grow nothing.
  • The draining and development of the Florida Everglades. The “land reclamation project” sought to divert South Florida’s wetlands (which were actually part of a giant slow-moving river that took up the southern third of the Florida peninsula during the rainy season), with the intention of turning it into useable farmland. Removing the native forests and vegetation resulted in all kinds of bad things, like the salinization of the water table (not enough pressure from surface water to keep seawater out), severe damage from hurricanes (nothing holding the soil in place), and the discovery that the soil itself was too poor to grow much of anything.
  • The Ford Motor Company wanted to control every aspect of their car manufacturing, so they bought some property in Brazil in the late 1920s and set up a rubber plantation and city known as Fordlândia. The Brazilian government was actually on board with this for a while — rubber trees used to be an exclusive product to South American jungles, but once Britain got a hold of rubber tree seeds and began producing their own rubber plantations in their colonies, Brazil was in need of economic rejuvenation, and they believed Ford's infrastructure could create it. However, this ended up being a total disaster due to everyone involved (mostly the foreign Americans) severely underestimating just how brutal the Amazon would be, from the heat, to the wildlife, to the various blights that would make actually growing rubber trees near-impossible, to say nothing about the severe culture clash between the American and Brazilian workers. By the time World War II began and synthetic rubbers became more commonplace, the town was effectively deserted. Today, Fordlândia is actually still populated by a few thousand people, and ironically, there's a sporadic tourism scene that puts on display the standing, but long-abandoned buildings and machines as they become reclaimed by nature.
  • Exagerrated in the Soviet Union, where "Man bending Nature to his will" was kind of a running topic, and some engineers went as far as wanting to melt the ice caps to make tundra more livable and turn Siberian rivers around to feed agriculture in Central Asia. Needless to say, such bold moves rarely turned out well.
  • Australia—most of the coastal land was covered in forest before European colonists decided it clashed with the wallpaper. This has backfired somewhat, since ecodamage is now causing desertification and thus reducing the amount of usable land available. And if you listen carefully, you can hear the sound of a million farmers cursing the fool who thought introducing rabbits was a good idea.
  • Angkor, an ancient city that was at least the size of modern-day Los Angeles County.
  • The Dust Bowl of the 1930s was caused by excessive agricultural development on the North American prairies. Post-World War I wheat prices were very high so many farmers added more land to their farms and plowed it. In some areas land cultivation almost tripled between 1925 and 1930. This removed the grasses that kept the soil in place and preserved moisture in the soil. Additionally, a long-term wet period in the late 19th and early 20th centuries lead farmers to believe that the area normally was much wetter than it really was under normal circumstances; indeed, it was believed by some farmers at the time that human habitation in an area increased rainfall. When a drought period started in the 1930s all the dried-up unprotected soil was picked up by the winds and blown away causing massive dust storms. In many regions, over 75% of the topsoil was blown away by the end of the 1930s. Combined with the Great Depression this caused enormous poverty in the region and by 1940 2.5 million people had moved out of the Plains states to escape it.
  • So you need room for more buildings, and you have a river meandering through its wide valley. What do you do? You straighten the river until it resembles a canal, and then you build on its new, artificial banks. This has been deemed a good idea and actually carried out countless times. And then came the first floods which, to everyone's surprise, turned out worse than ever before. For one, there were no bends to slow the flood down anymore. Besides, before they were turned into new town quarters, the river banks were naturally flooded and took away a lot of pressure from the floods.