Omega Participant Hopes to Go to Mars | Omega

From an Omega classroom to Mars. That may be the case for Karen Cumming of Hamilton, Ontario. A student in the Omega Center for Sustainable Living's 2014 Ecological Literacy Immersion Program, Cumming has made it to the second round of competition for the Mars One mission, which hopes to establish a permanent human settlement on Mars. We talked with Karen about her motivation for joining the mission and how her training in permaculture, as well as yoga and meditation, might help space exploration. 

Omega: You have training in yoga and meditation and you studied permaculture through the Omega Center for Sustainable Living's Ecological Literacy Immersion Program (ELIP). How do you think these skills will be useful in space?

Cumming: As far as I’m concerned, meditation skills are going to be a requirement. You’re going to have to be able to rely on your own ability to find calm, to find peace, to find contentment in trying circumstances, both during the long journey and once we get there.

Mars is a clean slate. We get to do it in whatever way we choose. It’s going to be absolutely necessary to take meditation, mindfulness, and the principles of yogic philosophy up there with us, to be able to not only love ourselves, love each other, love the family that we will be to one another once we’re up there, but also to love the environment we find there.

One of the things that was emphasized during ELIP was that we are all designers. Truer words were never spoken about the Mars One mission.

We will be designers, as astronauts. We will evaluate our results. Did the design achieve its goals? If not, it’s time to start the design process all over again. Will that ensure we won’t take our earthly flaws and mistakes to the planet? I don’t think you can ever be 100 percent sure, but I think that if we approach this like a permaculture design, we will do a better job than perhaps many of us have done and continue to do here on Earth.

I think it’s possible to tie permaculture principles into the motive behind the mission, too. Here on Earth, people are all connected, all elements of nature are connected. I like to think we’re all connected to other planets, other potential life forms on other planets. If we look at it in that way, if we strive to reach out to these planets and potential life forms that are out there, that’s the only way to move forward, into an extension of the life we’re living here on Earth.

Omega: Do you think that to survive as a species we need to go into space?

Cumming: There are a lot of naysayers out there who are saying, "You may think this is necessary for the evolution of mankind, but it’s not possible. It’s a suicide mission. You’re all going to die." But we all are going to die, that’s the way I look at it. If I have to die I would prefer dying in the pursuit of something that will serve the rest of humanity.

One day during a lesson in our permaculture class, Ethan Roland was talking about Zen and the Art of Archery, the notion that if you want to hit the target you have to aim at a spot 300 feet beyond and through the target. To me, that kind of encapsulates what this whole mission is about.

If we don’t at least pick up the bow and attempt to aim at something, it won’t happen. I have plenty of experience with naysayers and haters on the Internet who comment on articles that are floating around about the mission. There’s always someone who says you’re crazy; why would you even try? I come at it from completely the opposite angle. I think we’re doomed if we don’t try.

Not everybody is interested in getting into a space ship and flying to another planet. I understand that. But for me the opportunity to be able to reach out to all these things we are connected to—mind you, they are a long way away, but we are still connected to them, aren’t we?— is something we have to do.

© 2015 Omega Institute for Holistic Studies

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