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SolSeed < Change


Change is eternal.
Change drives the advancement of Life,
but overly rapid Change can lead to unnecessary Chaos.
SelfLove can drive people to fear and try to prevent Change, since it can always be harmful.
But Wisdom and Empathy teach that we must instead seek to guide Change toward the best path for all,
while adapting ourselves to those Changes we cannot influence.

When apparent stability disintegrates,
As it must--
God is Change--
People tend to give in
To fear and depression,
To need and greed.
When no influence is strong enough
To unify people
They divide.
They struggle,
One against one,
Group against group,
For survival, position, power.
They remember old hates and generate new ones,
They create chaos and nurture it.
They kill and kill and kill,
Until they are exhausted and destroyed,
Until they are conquered by outside forces,
Or until one of them becomes
A leader
Most will follow,
Or a tyrant
Most fear.

-Octavia Butler, Parable of the Sower

The lesson in the above quote is that "stability" is not, ultimately, a good goal. Ironically, some of the greatest and most chaotic changes of our time result from attempts to set up a changeless order, or to fail to adapt a changeable order to match the pace of change in the world at large. As Al Gore observes, the combination of old habits with new technology produces dramatically unpredictable consequences. For example:

  • Using traditional methods of irrigation but with vastly more powerful tools, the USSR (which George Orwell decried as the ultimate attempt at creating a changeless order) almost completely drained the Aral Sea.
  • Despite the advent of nuclear weapons and the shift toward terrorists rather than nation-states as the major threats to American security, Bush Administration strategists apparently believed that a traditional military invasion would work well in Iraq.

Old habits can also become dangerous when other new conditions arise, such as economic and population growth. Hence, many decades ago Americans established a habit of driving cars around the city and across the country. Nowadays, the vast numbers of cars and car owners contribute hugely to air pollution and global warming, while in some areas the original goal of moving people quickly is no longer met because of frequent traffic jams.

Gaia and Change

Curiously, Gaia herself is principally defined by her tendency to keep our planet's climate, acidity levels, and other important factors stable--nearly changeless--within the very narrow range necessary to support complex life. But Gaia's strength lies in her great adaptability. When times change--the Sun heats up a little more, a killer asteroid strikes, or a shift in the Earth's orbit takes us gradually into an Ice Age--Gaia changes too, all of her interrelated species evolving to find a new equilibrium. For example:

  • Around two billion years ago, the level of oxygen in the atmosphere (produced as waste by early photosynthetic bacteria) rose high enough to be toxic to most species that existed at the time, resulting in a mass extinction. Most of those who survived had adapted to use oxygen as an energy source, turning it into a source of Life rather than an agent of death.
  • The rise of mammals to dominance after the destruction of the dinosaurs was a natural change, especially since mammals' fur coats served an excellent adaptation to the cooler world of the Tertiary Period.
  • The movie NausicaƤ of the Valley of the Wind fancifully depicts the course of evolution after the fall of industrial civilization. While such major changes could never happen in only a thousand years, the movie's idea of an ecology based on cleaning up global pollution is still quite intriguing.

Change and TheDestiny

All living worlds require continuous maintenance. A terraforming project on a new world will never truly be "finished," with the planet in a final and static condition hospitable to life. On a planet like Mars, which is small enough that it has a tendency to lose its atmosphere over time, this lesson is particularly clear: the terraformers, humans as well as other life, must constantly push back against the cosmic forces that constantly threaten the habitability of any planet.

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