Short Story

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

Spotlight - - CONTENTS -

“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.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Austria

© PressReader. All rights reserved.