The Last Option

Had a bit of fun writing this story. Nothing serious, but I hope you enjoy it. 😉

“We were a trio of planets. Tronta, g-Nibekrsz and Urth. Tronta we know as the asteroid belt. G-Nibekrsz was Mars.” Jonza said, looking at his son Danyelt, his hands spread and gesturing. “Though we – I mean our original ancestors – inhabited only one – Tronta.”

They sat atop a grassy knoll of perhaps 500 feet. Green swayed about them in concert to the warm breezes that swirled. The morning was bright and lovely. Below and all around was wild forest that stretched off into the distance. They’d arrived at the foot of this knoll by way of a Glide, a personal intra-air convertible ride with the top down. It was quiet as a whisper, which allowed them to hear all of the sounds of the wood below. The many animal calls, yips and yowls, roars and bellows, cheeps and chirps. Most of all, they loved the birds. Song birds in a stunning variety. Though many had been wiped out before the change, or “Course Correction” as some called it, a percentage had managed to hang on in pockets and returned to re-inhabit the world along with other non-human fauna. With enough time it was hoped they’d evolve again, and species diversify.

They’d set down under high branches, the sun darting in and out, creating a moving latticework of shadows, then started up. This area bordered a large, unexplored lake, and they planned to walk it after breakfast.

“It was like this…” Jonza said. He grabbed a long, thin stick and proceeded to draw in a patch of bare dirt. “Here’s the sun. Here’s Mercury. Here’s Venus. Here’s Urth. Here’s g-Nibekrsz. And Here’s Tronta.”

“What about the other planets, Dad?”, Danyelt asked.

“Most of the rest are gas planets, Dany, or are too far away from the sun and as such we can’t live on them.”

“So there were three that we could live on then?” Danyelt pressed.

“No, we were adapted to the fifth planet, Tronta. But all three of them resided in a special region around the sun we call the ‘Goldilocks Zone’. It’s a kind of orbital belt, where the conditions are just right to foster life on those worlds within. Though, of course, because of their respective differences in distance from the sun, and other unique dissimilarities like gravity, atmosphere, magnetosphere, and really a lot of other things, we – they could only survive on Tronta.

“Remember, Dany, that this was a very, very long time ago.” Jonza continued. “Anyway, though they were limited to Tronta, their astronomers delighted them with photos of the other worlds. And they did talk about travel there, but new things consumed them and their resources and it never happened. Until they were forced to leave.”

“Why?”

“I mentioned it before, but you were young. What happened was their race began to turn against itself. A lot of them got greedy and were raping their planet, using up resources that should have belonged to all, and at an unsustainable rate. Some warned them that it couldn’t continue, that their biosphere wasn’t indestructible, but that only seemed to intensify their resolve. In an insatiable drive they took everything they could take. It went that way, progressively getting worse, until, wasting their own lands, they’d eye those of their neighbors. Wars were launched and many innocents lost their lives, thinking on all sides that their cause was the noble one. These wars spread and became ever more fierce. Meanwhile the civilized world had cracked, fragmented, and was shattering. Weapons grew more and more hideous. Huge dead zones where nothing lived spread, then melded into one another.

“The wise among them knew it was only a matter of time until the planet was unlivable, so secretly they planned on a move to Mars. Yet, once landing there, they confirmed suspicions that they were not evolved to survive it’s harsh conditions. Urth, they knew, being farther away, would be even less hospitable to their physiology. But Mars had water, vast seas, and life in abundance.”

“What did they do, Dad?”, queried Danyelt.

“They knew that these special habitable zones were rare in the galaxy, or at least, if others existed, they were too far away. Nevertheless, they didn’t want all those long ages of their evolution to come to nothing. They felt the race should continue somehow. They were clever, so their scientists, who had learned how to manipulate their genes, found a Martian life form that seemed most promising and in it they planted a seed. That seed contained the essence of everything they were. They understood that evolution favors those with better survival qualities, and this law, the universal law of natural selection, assured them that their modified beasts would be more likely to survive than the others. Thus nature would take over to ensure their success.

“That small group of scientists held on on Mars for awhile, even trying to change their physiology to adapt, but finally succumbed to the alien environment. Meanwhile back on Tronta the situation degenerated until it happened.” Here Johza paused. He lifted the basket lid and pulled out a couple of sandwiches, handing one to Danyelt. Then he poured himself a wine.

Danyelt lay back in the tallgrass and watched puffy white clouds drift by, imagining with them that he could make out what those beings must have looked like. Around them were the sounds of oaks and pines waving in the breeze. Every so often a grasshopper bounded over the tufts. One landed on his shirt and Danyelt watched it until it leapt off again. Music was coming from somewhere. A song. Lilting. Then singer landed on a thin sycamore branch and sang its happy tune once more. Just for them it seemed.

What happened?” asked Danyelt.

“Then they blew it up.” Jonza answered.

“Blew it up?” Danyelt repeated, aghast.

“In a fit of rage and resignation they set them all off. Every last one of them. Their nukes. Remember I told you about those?”

“I remember.” Danyelt acknowledged grimly.

“The energy released was so enormous, so colossal that they literally blew their planet apart. Blew it into million pieces. We used to think that the asteroid belt was the just a planet that never formed. But that’s not true. It was a planet like the others before it was destroyed.

From here

“Fortunately, the seed planted in those creatures on Mars, or g-Nibekrsz, survived and evolved. It took a long time, true, but they’d designed that germ optimally. Thus, after long eons, they were back, in a way, and once again dominated their world. And it was a lovely world, too, I’ve read. Having implanted the seed in an animal already evolved for Mars, it had no problem with its environment. Though there were fits and starts, especially when asteroids and meteors from their former planet slammed into them. But they survived; in time their sky mostly cleared, and, like us on Earth, they climbed in rank among their kin. After a long while they too learned agriculture, and how to manipulate their environment for their benefit.

“Yet their sentience, their essence, both the good and the bad parts, was still Trontan. A part of their genetics. Their Trontan ancestors had forgotten to breed it out of them. So over time, their fights became battles and their battles wars. Meanwhile, as they always do, an aristocratic class, like the fat in milk, rose to the top. They began subjugating those below them, those with less intellectual abilities, turning them into a worker class for the benefit of the rich. When they achieved technology, it wasn’t long before they, too, began to pillage their planet. No other animal could compete with them, thus their population swelled and mushroomed. And, like the Trontans, using their knowledge, they ravaged and violated, polluted and plundered Mars.”

Danyelt shook his head.

“One of them, a brilliant scientist, created a weapon of devastating magnitude. It was meant as a deterrence to the “savage races”, their brothers. But, as always seems to happen, these savages soon acquired the means to manufacture the weapons themselves.”

“What were they, dad, these weapons?” Danyelt asked.

“No one knows for sure. But they weren’t concussion bombs like the Trontans used. Instead they were designed to destroy the natural environment that their enemy lived in. But they lost containment and it began to spread uncontrollably. Anyway, to make a long story short, things fell apart very much like they did on Tronta. And like that other time, secret groups, their intelligentsia, looked longingly toward Urth, their last option. But like before, as Martians, they knew that they personally could never live here, at least not without great difficulty. So again teams were sent to implant a seed, their essence, which was really the essence of the original beings. They looked around, trying to decide where, which animal, to modify, at last settling on one with a relatively developed brain and hands that, in the future, would be able to manipulate tools. So they chose primates, an ape distantly related to chimpanzees, and, knowing that a lot of their subjects and/or their subject’s offspring would die from various causes, put their engineered seed into as many as of them possible.”

“What are chimpanzees?”

“Well there gone now, but here’s a picture.” Jonza pushed a button on his wrist and instantly a small screen resolved in front of him. “Chimp”, he said. The picture that formed showed a vaguely human-looking animal with a face and hands like ours. “We don’t have a picture of the original ape, but we think this is fairly close.”

“Wow!”, whispered Danyelt, “Grandpa!”. Jonza smirked. “Then what happened?”

“Well, just think of those first scenarios on Tronta and g-Nibekrsz. With our own personal twist, things here began to fall pretty much along the same path. And like those other times, not knowing what happened before, we probably would have gone down just like them – but for one thing.”

Danyelt waited.

“We found their ‘Record Of Accounts’.”

“Record of accounts?”

“Yes. Their history. It was buried deep in Cheops, the great pyramid in Giza, Egypt. Turns out it’s a lot older than we thought. So they buried it, knowing that we wouldn’t discover it, or be able to translate it, until our own technology made it possible. They put it there as a failsafe, buried below millions of tons of rock and hoped that we would find it in time, then use that knowledge to save ourselves from doing it again.

“And it’s a good thing we unearthed it when we did. The main problem, the one that connected everything else, was our sky-high numbers. It was like a cancer, we didn’t know how to stop growing, and being at the top of the food chain, we had no natural predators. But as a consequence we’d brought this world to its knees and there were no more planets for us to run to. So we made a conscious choice, finally deciding that it was time to do the right thing. After that, things began to resolve for us. Greed no longer dominated. Full, population-wise, we pushed away from the table, now desiring only to live in natural balance with earth’s carrying capacity. Where the subject had been avoided before, now everyone was talking about population, from heads of state on down.

“One of the first actions we took was reversing our policies by now rewarding families that had less children rather than more. We also included an amendment in our constitutions forcing politicians to consider natural local and global carrying capacity in all future decisions. And we halted new development in unspoiled areas, allowing only replacement building in already existing tracts. Soon, our numbers began to fall from attrition.”

“How many people are there now?”

“About a billion or so, I think.” Then seeing Danyelt’s face he added, “Sounds like a lot, I know, but it’s just a fraction of what we had. There’s much less pressure on the earth now than before. And slowly it’s healing.” Here Jonza smiled. “We were also able to use everything we’d learned up till then, all the knowledge we’d acquired ourselves, and discard that which was destructive.”

“Such as?” Danyelt urged.

“Hmm, ok, let me think.” Jonza held up a finger, remembering what he’d learned. “Well, first, we had been using a gigantic amount of earth’s resources for war. Not just materials, but money too. It was really a lot. So we diverted those assets toward peace. The funny thing was, doing that brought more harmony than our monstrous militaries ever did. We also decided to tackle global warming rather than to just keep hiding behind professional skeptics as an excuse to delay change. After all, everyone knew, they were being paid to lie to people and likely never would have admitted the truth, so we just shut them out and they faded away. Then we took the bulk of that annual war wealth, trillions of dollars, and redirected it to providing people with sustainable alternative energies. And we built machines that were able to suck excess carbon from the air and bury it. Soon the markets for fossil fuels dried up. Together these developments began to bring the temperatures down. To cap it off, we also made the taking of corporate money by politicians to buy their votes a crime.

“We severely curbed new resource extraction like logging, mining and mountaintop removal. A big boost toward this goal was a renewed drive to recycle everything. There was so much we were just throwing away. Even now, we’re still recycling their waste and getting useful materials from it. When the population began to reverse there was even more. So this ‘deconstruction’ created a whole new economy!”

“I’ve seen them dad, their cities! We flew over one today! It was hidden in the trees.” Danyelt cut in.

“Yeah. Some of them are being swallowed up by nature before we can harvest them. Anyway, in our recycling efforts we also cleared out and cleaned up our dumps, and gathered debris like the floating islands of plastics in the oceans. Thereafter we made all of our products 100% biodegradable.” Pausing to take a swallow, he continued, “Back then before the change, people would get paper mail. But it came with a lot of stuff that few wanted called ‘junk mail’, basically loads of annoying advertisements from ‘marketers’, piles of repetitious ‘phone books’, catelogs, etcetera, etcetera. When you multiplied all this paper waste by everyone who received it, it amounted to entire forests.”

“That’s a lot of paper!” Danyelt injected.

“It was. But animals lived in those forests, and when they were cut down the animals died.”

“I understand.”

“We also revamped our agriculture. First, we banned the use of hazardous chemicals on farm lands. ‘Herbicides’ and ‘pesticides’ they were called, designed solely to make it easier and quicker for farmers to grow food on giant swaths of land, and thus increase their profits. But they were dangerous to people and the environment, and we’d ruled anything that was ‘unconstitutional’. We went organic which used a system known as IPM that was able to deal with pests naturally. What’s interesting is that after the change, these farmers actually found their profits increasing since they were no longer degrading their soil, or having to buy ever increasing quantities of expensive poisons, and also because people were willing to pay a bit more for food grown with them, rather than just profits, in mind.

“When the ‘Fairness in Labor Act’ went through, people had more money to spend on food since it ended the unjust but, up to then, widespread practice of corporate executives hoarding of hugely disproportionate percentages of earnings in businesses, and redistributed it evenly to all workers. Knowing that they were no longer being cheated also increased the general morale. Anyway, removing these polluting shortcuts on ag land also helped the economy by getting people in the fields doing the work the chemicals used to. They were paid by a minor tax spread evenly among the people.”

“What about hunting, Dad. They did that back then too, right?”

“Right. There were two kinds of hunting: ‘trophy hunting’ and hunting for food. Trophy hunting of wild animals was immediately outlawed as unnecessary and cruel. This was not sustenance killing, but killing purely for the so-called ‘sport’, or fun of it. A hideous affair. Then, little by little, when it became clear that there was more than enough non-meat food to go around, killing wildlife for food, too, fell out of favor. We also ended the slaughter of animals, like harp seals, for their furs.

“Finally, we began a big international campaign to bring it all back, wild nature, or as much as we could with what was left, through reforestation and rewilding.

“Those were the big things, Dany. There were a lot of small things too.

“We still have industry and technology, still dream up many wonderful things to satisfy our need and desire to create, are still arranging to explore the stars, but now, rather than things-machines, dominating our lives, they’re only tools, the means to an end, that being a happy and fulfilled life.” Jonza smiled. Danyelt smiled in return.

“So that’s how we did it. How we broke the mold that destroyed two worlds.”

They sat in silence for awhile. A gentle breeze lifted their hair bringing with it a wonderful scent of sage mixed with pine and wildflowers. Danyelt suddenly noticed that the sun had moved across the sky. He’d been so absorbed in the lesson that he’d missed it. Off to their right, miles of hills, vales and wild woodland away, he reveled in the lovely, sparkling blue of the sea. The eternal sea he thought. Overhead an eagle glided, then called and dove soundlessly toward the south.

Jonza too reveled. Reveled that his son would grow up in this new world. He thought about how close the they had come to the edge. Was grateful they’d turned back in time.

They ate in silence, while slowly the sun reached its zenith. Then they headed back down for a swim.

Courtesy NASA

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