“We strive for balance in a universe whose final balance means our death. We believe in balance as if it is the way of things, but this is not true. If we want things a certain way, there must be affirmative action, a positive force to move to our destination. Because the natural order would not have things our way.”Rally speech given during a Custodian movement convention, Summer, 2177
As humans reached out further into space, the environmentalists of old Earth were alarmed.
Through centuries of industrial development, pollution, extinctions, and environmental degradation the humans of Earth had finally reached a balanced system. In the early 2100s, the inhabitants of earth seemed to have figured out how to maintain their own existence sustainably. Populations were maintained by a steady source of food that did not require masses of land and energy. Productive technologies ensured that the average inhabitant of earth were clothed and housed for a fraction of the cost of their predecessors. Energy flowed freely from a multitude of renewable sources, unlocked by superior material sciences. As citizens continued to cluster in dense cities, rising education levels and increased virtual living brought down the reproduction rate. The advent of physical immortality released people from linear lives underpinned by mere survival. A spiritual flowering of humanity exploded upon the barren fields of the old “human condition”, with souls freed from finite lives and the struggle for subsistence.
Wild habitats were restored, chemical balances of the air and ocean and land once again resembled those that existed before the industrial revolution. While more than 50% of the species of Earth were lost in the preceding centuries and would never return, the survivors now faced a bright future. Human culture now revolved around personal fulfilment and responsibility that prized the wilderness as a source of pride and recreation. Eden, had it ever existed, was now restored.
But as faster-than-light travel and new sources of energy expanded the horizon of the Earth Domains outside the solar system, some old behaviors seemed to return. The human settlers of the new frontier seemed once more unbridled from Earth’s sense of responsibility; swiftly expanding and recklessly harvesting resources while damaging life, this time, many light years away from Earth. Dissidents who had always chafed under the fine-tuned equilibrium of Earth Central now found many new worlds to dominate and exploit. It appeared that those most happy to leave Earth were those who cared the least for the hard-learned lessons of their parent civilization.
The ascendant political ideology of Earth, the one responsible for the current world order was known as Environmental Minimalism. Through a cultural shift that began in the mid 21st century, humans enacted Environmental Minimalism by pulling back into their cities and focusing on maintaining their civilization’s needs in perpetuity. The vast majority of the planet was to be left to re-wild. Ultimate value was placed on the ability of the species to prosper while artfully making the smallest possible mark on other species.
But now the Minimalists now found themselves toothless in their attempts to protect new found worlds in the same way they now protected Earth. Earth Central was loath to push heavy regulation upon the newly chartered Domains for fear that they would break with the Earth Domains altogether; that would turn a purely environmental problem into a political, and possibly military problem. Furthermore, the economic success of the new colonies, with their unrestricted exploitation of new habitats, was causing the political pendulum on Earth itself to swing backwards. Some on Earth now agitated for renewed exploitation of Earth’s resources so that they might match the exponential prosperity of the new colonies. Minimalists began arguing amongst themselves: something had to be done…