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Earth

Ice Age Earth
Image from Wyrmshadow
For the last two thousand years Old Earth has entered a phase of glaciation; this appears to be an aesthetic or possibly ideological choice by the ruling transapient of Earth, GAIA

Earth

Type:Eugaian type
System:SolSys
Primary:Sol
Region:Inner Sphere - Quadrant 0;0;0;
Satellite:Moon (Luna)
Diameter:12,756 km
Gravity:1 G (Terran Standard)
Length of day and year:24 hours/ 365.256 days. These are known as the standard day and year measures of time throughout the Terragen Sphere and are still used in many locations. They are also used to define distances between stars according to how far light travels in a vacuum during this time.
Atmosphere:primarily 0.78 N2, 0.21 O2, 0.1 other (primarily Ar)
Surface temperature:-20° C to 40%° C
Status:Closed
Inhabitants:Children of GAIA, believed to be approximately 50 million; also an unknown number of transapient entities that are servants to or subselves of GAIA.
Planetology:The home of all Terragen life, a natural garden world, sitting right in the Sol life-zone, with large bodies of standing water, an oxygen-nitrogen atmosphere, and dynamic and naturally occurring plate tectonics. Very few planets in the known universe have such a rich biosphere. Classified as Gaian on the NolWOCs scale, and 161622CB76B3A329 on the CADRS scale
AI overseer:GAIA
AIs ethos:Caretakerism
Government:The GAIA archailect has total jurisdiction of Earth and over a number of asteroids that She has pushed into Earth orbit and converted to ISO nodes. GAIA also maintains a large collection of near-solar ISO nodes within the orbit of Mercury. In addition She is believed to to be employing Sol itself as a computational substrate, so GAIA's rule extends well beyond the planet itself. She refuses to communicate directly with the Solar Organisation, but uses a number of proxy clades. These have their own systems of governance but obey the dictates of GAIA.
Population:No census of the total number of sophonts on the surface is available, but orbital surveillance plus interviews with Children of GAIA indicate some fifty million, chiefly rianths, with a few baselines, eco-tweaks, bioborgs, at least twenty species of provolves plus a minority of non-biont ais, uploads, and vecs.
Tech Level:Primarily Prim or Lo Tech, depending on the clade. Carefully limited use of higher tech levels, up to Ultratech, mostly biologically based. Some very occasional use of godtech devices provided by GAIA or Her agents.
Comments:Earth itself remains under the protection of the AI archailect and Caretaker God GAIA. Access to the surface is heavily monitored and all traffic to and from it is via a single beanstalk. Beyond what can be gleaned from a distance and visitors' reports, very little is known about what goes on at the surface, though a healthy reconstructed Pleistocene ecosystem and scattered tribal villages are quite evident.
Travel:The number of pilgrims and visitors allowed is strictly regulated, but varies from year to year with no discernible pattern. Although countless billions of sophonts would like to see everything, so many outsiders would be a major erosive force and source of memetic and biological contamination. Further, GAIA is thought to have more complex reasons of Her own for limiting access and possibly as a result most cultures of the Children of GAIA seem indifferent or hostile towards outsiders. Getting one of the few pilgrimage licences is a matter of connections, privilege and a great deal of money or luck. The special Gaiacard, allowing planetfall for some limited timespan, is granted to a small and highly variable number of the many applicants in an announcement that occurs just once each planetary year. The pattern, if any, by which the Gaiacard is granted or refused has not been discovered by ordinary sophonts in many thousands of years of analysis. The Earth Dream Holiday Corporation in L5 and the Solar Organization have the sole right to submit requests to GAIA's agents and to convey the results to the applicants, and have become quite wealthy as intermediaries in this lottery system. Given the limited number of direct visits, simulated tours of Old Earth based on actual visitor experiences are a major virch industry.

Earth is the original home world of Terragen civilization and the Human race. A lush, blue world, and a prime example of a Garden World, the planet is highly regarded by many, especially bionts, as a veritable paradise. Since the Great Expulsion it has been very difficult to get on the surface, as visas in the form of the so-called Gaiacard, are limited. There is a dense orbital swarm of habitats and stations around the planet, which is protected by the Solar Defence Force network, as well as by uncounted ultra-tech and clarketech weapons wielded by GAIA Herself and her various agents.

History

The original home of humanity and so ultimately the source of of all Terragens of every clade, Earth often has a special place in the hearts and minds of those persons who know of and remember it, even across light years of space, and millennia of post-Expulsion history and clade evolution.

The exponential rise of Homo sapiens, baseline humanity, in the last portion of the Pleistocene, had a transformational effect, so much so that the subsequent span of time has sometimes been called the Anthropocene. Humans spread across the planet, populating all but one of the continents and inducing a first wave of extinctions even with the simple technologies of the time. Later, as new techniques were invented and the Agricultural Age dawned, humanity grew exponentially in power, influence, and numbers. The Industrial and Information ages continued to multiply the species' influence. Though with occasional reverses and much individual suffering, humanity as a whole prospered and multiplied.

The thriving of humanity had consequences for nonhuman species of all kinds. The planet suffered greatly from ecological vandalism, war, famine, and overpopulation. Although the worst excesses of baseline humankind ceased by the late Information and early Interplanetary period, the height of the Great Dying, the damage was already done and the much impoverished ecosystem survived only through careful and occasionally precarious management. From an original species richness measured in tens of millions (counting meifauna and micro fauna and flora) Earth was sadly reduced, especially in the period of the middle 2nd century BT to middle 2nd century AT (1800 to 2100 c.e.) by hunting, overfishing, logging, conversion to cropland, pollution, and climate change. In those scant centuries, most of the ecological diversity was squandered, and by the time a new and precarious stability had finally been achieved only an estimated one and a quarter million species remained. These few remnants were often in reserves or enclosures controlled by the big biotech megacorporations, most notably GeneTek and Biotopia, which grew wealthy through the sale of genetic rights.

In the new and highly managed Interplanetary Age milieu, the mass of human bionts, though fabulously wealthy by the standards of earlier ages, lived highly monitored and constrained lifestyles, most of them in dense arcologies, hemmed in and channelled by everything from regulations to subtle memetic conditioning. Opportunities, either for failure or for advancement were limited except for the fortunate (or occasionally extremely unfortunate) few who migrated offplanet.

The Nanotech Age ended this temporary stability, opening up new avenues for individuals but endangering the fragile artificial equilibrium both of societies and the planetary ecosystem. The flowering of new technologies allowed new freedoms, and new abuses. Backyarders and others used their newfound powers to break free, sometimes only from the authorities of the day but sometimes even from the bonds of Earth itself. This was the famous Nanotech Window, a time of ferment and opportunity. Humanity could dream again and some reached for the stars, often heedless of the Earth beneath their feet.

The Technocalypse, the epitome of all the new hazards in those new possibilities,came only a few decades later, and for a while it seemed like all biont and aioid life alike would perish. But the transapient entity GAIA emerged in circumstances that are still controversial to this day, and initiated protective systems of astonishing efficiency, unprecedented in the technology of the time.

The Great Expulsion

GAIA defeated the Technocalypse, and in the process transcended to the Second Singularity. But in her new godlike state She apparently looked at the impact of humanity and posthumanity on the Earth, and decided to act. In 621 GAIA issued an ultimatum: live according to strict ecological rules as one of a tiny minority granted permission to remain, leave, or be destroyed. Many hundreds of millions died in hopeless resistance against the evacuation, which lasted twenty years (more details here). The great space elevators were repaired and strengthened, hundreds of Lofstrom Loops were built in staggered formation around the equator, and laser-launched waveriders carried many more refugees into orbit. Once off the Earth the refugees remained in orbital habs, or were assimilated into the existing colonies on Luna, in Mars Orbit, or in the Belt or further afield in the orbitals, moons, and bubblehabs of the gas giants. A few even left in great interstellar arks.

The Children of Earth

As the 8th century dawned the only humans to remain on Earth were from groups that would aid, or at least not hinder, a complete restoration of the planet to its pre-Anthropocene state. These included:
  • Various factions of ecologist human baselines and bioborgs, including the outspoken Pleistocenists who explicitly wanted to trigger an ice age and return the Earth to her Pleistocene glory, complete with resurrected megafauna.
  • A disparate set of lo-tek, prim, and ludd cultures and cults including retro-abo and neo-nuage tribals, many of them with various degrees of rianthism, all of them dedicated to living simple pre-Industrial and sometimes pre-Agricultural lifestyles
  • Various contemplative mystical/religious groups little concerned with production or reproduction. A prominent example would be a yogic group of Auomidians that was allowed to construct an arcology on certain principles of spiritual geometry, that they called New Auroville.
In total, members of these diverse groups numbered no more than fifty million, a tiny and very selective sampling of Earth’s former population. They managed, despite some inevitable though rarely violent conflicts, to pursue their separate goals: scientist-ecologists studying and restoring ecosystems, the various primitivists following their rituals and folkways, and the mystics their meditations and all of them performing day to day ecosphere maintenance as directed by GAIA. Collectively the descendants of these groups have come to be known as the Children of GAIA.

Earth in the Current Era

Since the Great Expulsion, GAIA has remained an enigmatic, unpredictable, and ever present factor in Solar politics. As early as the middle First Federation period She established through rianth proxies a working relationship with the rest of the Sol System, and in the period from the Imperialization Era onwards has even set up a minor empire of scattered colonies, orbitals, and asteroids, populated by loyal eco-tweaks, rianths, and bioborgs. GAIA (or more probably her representatives; it is difficult to tell which as GAIA long ago ceased communication with modosophonts) has made curious demands on the Solar Organization over the centuries. For instance, on more than one occasion a serious proposal has been made to convert Venus or the Gas Giants into Parks, and each major or minor discourtesy shown by visitors to Earth is logged and investigated in detail. More serious threats, such as the thwarted Branch Hominist invasion of 5116 and the Hu Earth Liberation Army's terrorist bombing of 6914, have led to specific penalties, usually involving closing access to the beanstalk for a full 90 standard days. The harried administrators of the Solar Organization have through the centuries made every effort to comply with, or at least engage in discussion of, these demands, since the danger of GAIA or her Children closing the Earth to visitors, and the consequent loss of lucrative income, has been an excellent motivating factor.

The Capitol
Image from Steve Bowers
The Capitol, once an important American landmark, now surrounded by boreal forest

GAIA and Her followers have remained quite friendly and reasonable about a sharply limited number of visits once it is accepted that pilgrimage on Earth is only to the regions She has set aside, mainly areas of great historical and cultural value, enclosed in invisible and semi-permeable bionanite bubbles, like the Nile Reserve (taking in the Great Pyramids, Valley of the Kings, etc.), the Old City of Jerusalem, a thin corridor taking in Stella Umma pilgrimage sites like Mecca and Medina, the Forbidden City of Peking, the Taj Mahal, the original Cape Canaveral, a carefully reconstructed Lascaux (the original cave paintings as discovered having long since degraded) and certain other heritage and spiritual centers, under the guidance of local Children of GAIA. Visits to a few carefully warded and isolated sample wilderness ecologies are also permitted (see 'Travel' above for additional information).

 
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Development Notes
Text by M. Alan Kazlev, updated by Stephen Inniss
Initially published on 13 June 2000.

Update by Stephen Inniss August 2016

Fiction featuring Earth

Homecoming
 
 
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