Es ist fünf vor zwölf für eine Spezies, doch während das Unheil seinen Lauf nimmt, diskutiert eine Gruppe Experten noch darüber, wo die Misere eigentlich begann. Von TALITHA LINEHAN
“The conservation of the species”
The doctor of philosophy looked at his colleagues on the committee. Everyone seemed relatively calm, which was remarkable, considering that they would all be dead in a few days. The one exception was the doctor of politics, who was gesturing wildly.
“We should have invested our resources in colonizing some other place, not this godforsaken planet,” he shouted. “Now it’s too late. We have nowhere to go, and we’re damned — the lot of us!”
“My dear sir,” said the doctor of philosophy, “it was this way of thinking that defined the Age of Arrogance, when we thought our species was at the centre of the universe, when we prioritized technological progress over all other things.”
The other committee members nodded in agreement. The doctor of history, who was the oldest among them, moved into the circle to speak: “Our ancestors used resources with no respect for the ecosystem, causing a catastrophic climatic event that almost annihilated our species. Through this, we learned our place in the grand scheme of things, that this planet is our home and that our role is not to dominate it, but to live in harmony with it, to be its custodian.”
“And look where that got us!” said the doctor of politics, his face now a lot redder than usual. “I don’t need one of your history lectures to know that we ourselves are history. Look at us: the Committee for the Conservation of Our Species. What a joke! We couldn’t even conserve a remnant of our civilization, all because of a way of thinking that we popularized. ‘Oooh, let’s live in harmony with nature!’” he said in a mocking voice. “‘Let’s minimize our impact on our planet!’ We great thinkers have annihilated ourselves — to a greater extent than our ancestors did.”
He was right in a way. After the catastrophe that marked the end of the Age of Arrogance, the old cities and technologies were lost and forgotten. The few survivors were reformed, their primary motivation changed from “progress at any price” to “leave no trace behind”. Engaging their greatest thinkers, they found ways to reverse the chemical imbalance their species had caused the planet, to heal the ecosystem, to restore resources. They built homes and cities that were in harmony with nature, and lived much as their earliest ancestors had done before the First Age of Civilization: using only resources that were local and plentiful, living off the land, becoming one with the planet. While this guaranteed the conservation of their species, it also eliminated any trace of their existence for future civilizations to find. Once they were gone, it would be as if they’d never existed.
The doctor of philosophy wasn’t sure what to think about this, but he felt compelled to give a philosophical opinion. “All life begins and ends, and every species has its time,” he said. “This is nature’s way.”
“More wishy-washy nonsense!” said the doctor of politics, and gave a roar of frustration. He’d always been very critical of the committee’s ideology, and now he felt vindicated. “If we’d followed in our ancestors’ footsteps, we would have the technology to save our species.”
“If we’d followed in our ancestors’ footsteps, we would have died out millennia ago,” shouted the doctor of history, now also turning bright red. “Our obsession with progress would have brought about our end.”
“Good sirs,” said the doctor of philosophy, moving between them, “we are going around in circles. Let’s not use the time we have to argue. What’s done is done, and here we are. My only regret is that all we have learned will be lost to future generations.”
“But there will be no future generations,” said the doctor of politics, in a more resigned voice. “Isn’t that the point?”
They all looked now to the doctor of science, who had yet to speak. “Not of our species,” he said, moving into the circle. “This is true. In approximately 72 hours, a meteorite, travelling at 30 kilometres per second, will strike our planet. The impact will create a massive crater. A rock storm will follow, causing a rise in temperature. The planet will burn, and the light of the sun will be blocked out for a year. About 75 per cent of all forms of life, including our species, will be annihilated. But eventually, new life forms will emerge, and in tens of millions of years, a new race of intelligent beings will quite likely take our place.”
“But they will know nothing of our existence,” said the doctor of history. “This is true, too, is it not?”
The doctor of science nodded. “Every material thing will be destroyed, every building, every monument, every tool, every work of art...”
“But there will be fossils at least,” said the doctor of politics, looking more white than red now.
“Perhaps. Perhaps not. The fraction of life that will be fossilized is extremely small. And there is no knowing how this future race will interpret any fossilized remains of our species. With no evidence of our civilization, they would quite likely theorize that we were simple beings with minimal intelligence.”
After his colleagues left, the doctor of philosophy stood for a while in thought. Perhaps the doctor of politics was right. Perhaps they should have balanced harmony with progress, colonized another planet, guaranteed their survival. Perhaps the next intelligent race would find the right balance and never face annihilation, whether of their own doing or that of nature. Then again, perhaps not.
He bent over and ate the top of a tree, then pulled it out of the ground to bring home to his family — 65 million years before members of his clade were given the name “Dinosauria”, by a species that would one day face the same fate.