TRY THIS on for size. The Aliens arrive. Their vast Mother Ship suddenly materialises several hundred-thousand kilometres distant from Earth. Soon after, a smaller craft enters the Earth’s atmosphere and activates a device which produces an effect indistinguishable from the Electro-Magnetic Pulse of a nuclear explosion. All electronic communication systems are instantly rendered inoperative. At the same time the Alien intruder releases a swarm of objects which home-in on and sever the undersea fibre-optic cables that carry 90 percent of our Internet traffic across the planet. Shortly afterwards, a second swarm locates and destroys every last one of the world’s communication satellites. In the space of a single day, human communications technology is wound back to the capabilities of the eighteenth century.
Global chaos ensues. The impossibly complex structures of global finance, utterly dependent on near-instantaneous communications, are rendered useless. The banking system collapses. Ordinary people cannot access their accounts. No one knows what is happening because their governments cannot communicate with them except by means of the printed word – and sorting out how to do that effectively is taking a while! The global population is teetering on the brink of blind panic.
It’s at this point that the Aliens release millions of communications droids. These nifty little machines are able to hover above human settlements and broadcast messages to people in their own languages. Using these droids, the Aliens tell the human species why they have come, and what they now expect it to do. Failure to comply will result in the instant sterilisation of the offending individuals and/or communities. Violent resistance will be quelled by the deployment of military technology well beyond the capability of human weapons to neutralise – all those involved will die.
The Aliens explain their orders by referencing the rapidly deteriorating condition of the planet’s biosphere. Since this deterioration is the consequence of human activity, rather than the condition of the star around which the planet orbits; or catastrophic weaknesses in the planet’s crust; intervention has been ordered by the Galactic Federation. The latter has decided that human-beings are to be saved from themselves.
The objective of this thought experiment is for you, the reader, to consider what saving humanity from itself might entail. The invention of the Alien Intervention Force establishes the necessary mechanism for compelling global co-operation. Bluntly, it is the absence of such a force that is rendering the urgently needed action against climate change so difficult. With the arrival of the Aliens, however, that is no longer a problem. With its capacity for resistance eliminated, humanity can now be forced to undertake the remedial action which, so far, it has refused to undertake voluntarily.
As you consider the necessary steps towards planetary recovery, it is important to bear in mind that the Galactic Federation’s priority is the salvation of the human species. With technology equal to the challenge of moving swiftly about the Milky Way Galaxy, it is obviously within the Alien Mother Ship’s power to destroy the organism responsible for putting Earth’s biosphere under such pressure. This is not, however, regarded as an acceptable option. Aware of how rare it is for one of the many life forms existing in the galaxy to evolve to the point where its own activity is putting at risk the environment which sustains it, the Galactic Federation has ruled out simply wiping humanity from the planet’s scarred and sweltering face.
Nor is the Alien Intervention Force at all keen on sanctioning a geo-engineering solution to the planet’s climate crisis. Even at their level of technological sophistication, the Aliens are unable to calculate all the variables involved. Experience on other planets has taught them that what looks like a straightforward and simple geo-engineering solution to a species’ problem can unleash so many unforeseen and catastrophic ecological consequences that the “cure” turns out to be worse than the complaint.
What, then, should the Alien Intervention Force instruct humanity to do? Should we abandon the cities? Master permaculture? Become vegans? Steer clear, like Tolkien’s hobbits, of machines “more complicated than a forge-bellows, a water-mill, or a hand-loom”? Given the process’s insatiable demand for carbon, should we even smelt metal at all? Was civilisation a bad idea? Should we return to a hunting and gathering mode of existence? Except, would that be the outcome the Galactic Federation was seeking? After all, their civilisation obviously managed to avoid or overcome the problems currently afflicting Planet Earth.
I simply don’t know – so, let’s hear your ideas. Use the comments function to send in your solutions. And, while you’re at it, try to come up with a suggestion or two as to how we might muster sufficient strength to impose a human solution to the problem of Climate Change. Because, the chances of that Mother Ship materialising somewhere out there, beyond the Moon’s orbit, to save the day, are as vanishingly small as the likelihood of an alien civilisation finding a way to travel faster than the speed of light.