A short-story about the future of Civilization. Fiction that could very soon be fact!
With only ten minutes until noon on this bright 20th July morning, Nathan Marcus was out of time.
He tried to block out the eight and a half billion lives his presentation would affect as he closed his hololap and made his way from the Senate Library to the Council Chamber with the last minute changes done and dusted.
The Chamber seemed immense and intimidating, without any of the one hundred council members or nine elders in their seats yet. He made his way to the media room where the technician, Scar, was ever present, ready to turn his simple hololap presentation into a fully immersive, interactive experience for him to use to full dramatic effect on the Chamber floor.
As Council members started to arrive, Nathan began to make his way to what he always thought of on TV as the Interrogation tables in front of the nine Seat of Elders.
The tables were in fact referred to as the Witness Area and were the only place a non-council member was allowed to address the council, or more often than not, just answer the Elders questions.
Not for the first time, Nathan wondered how he had gotten himself here.
After what seemed like an aeon, the Secretary-General made his traditional late and grandiose entrance into the Chamber. An immediate silence fell in the Senate Room as all stood in respect of the leader of this hallowed Chamber.
Albert St. Jude was a seasoned and conservative politician with over thirty years of experience in power and influence.
He knew that no matter what, four of the other eight Elders would vote the way he wanted them too after years of gathering dirt and allowing them favours to help them to hold their seats as long as they had.
The other four were liberals, which he despised, but also knew were necessary for a semblance of balance in the Council of Elders, for the meantime at the least.
That said, he was well aware that every vote had gone his way for years and he expected that the events of the day would lead to no different an outcome.
Albert grew up in a wealthy, influential family that dated back to the very first settlers. As such the views in their home had always been conservative and this bent naturally extended to the elite "old-boys" school that Albert had attended. As a result, he had very little tolerance for left wing liberal views.
With a casual bang of his gavel, Albert brought the session to order as all took their seats.
"Right", he said, "so they need help again!"
"How can it be that with all those natural resources, freely available, they just cannot seem to find economic stability and implement programs of rehabilitation? Why, once again, should we be called on for aid? I find even the suggestion that we are still beholden to them in any way an affront to my senses!"
Kumar Hassan, the most recently appointed and also the most junior of all the Elders, was eager to make a name for himself and quickly activated his panel light thereby giving him the first opportunity to make an opening statement of 15 minutes or less.
A novice mistake as often the later you speak the more material you have to use against your political opponents.
Having travelled extensively to the worst of the affected areas in the recent past, he considered himself somewhat of an expert.
After all, he had seen the poverty, pollution and lack of opportunity left by prior poor governance, to a generation of victims living in squalor and hopelessness, first hand.
Almost reluctantly, but secretly pleased, Secretary General St. Jude ceded the floor to his liberal colleague for the first of the nine opening statements.
Nathan sat patiently in his seat, well understanding that this process was unavoidable and that he had no choice but to allow this to pass while these pompous bastards got in their TV time.
He knew the outcome of any vote would be inevitable, four liberal Elders voting for aid and five conservative Elders against and as a great believer that time is a crucial factor in all endeavours, this just irritated him even more.
It made no difference anyway - even if there were an abstention and the vote had to go to the full council of 100 Senators, and 9 Elders, the type of aid asked for would not solve anything and doing nothing would be far worse for the entire population of the Earth and the Earth itself.
Nathan felt the weight heavily on his shoulders, but he knew he had to remain calm and resist the temptation to scream out "Stop the bullshit, already" and allowed the process to follow its natural course.
After all, many of these politicians would be crucial to the success of the plan getting adequate funding, and he wouldn't dare risk the ire of even one at this stage.
Finally, the light returned to Secretary General St. Jude who began a well-rehearsed oration on the uselessness of aid and the reasons any new scheme would, in his opinion, simply be a waste of time. In reality, re-assuring the rich that their tax levels were still safe, for now!
It was time to open the floor to any comments or alternatives to the aid plan that had been sitting before the Senate Elders for the mandatory maximum twenty-eight days now, before which a vote is required.
All eyes turned to the Witness Area.
Now was Nathan's big moment.
Although accompanied by his team of scientists and engineers, Nathan had never felt more alone, nor more nervous.
He decided the best thing to do was try and make a dramatic entrance of his own.
He took a deliberately slow sip of his water, slowly rose to his feet and, breaking with custom, turned to face the Senate itself.
Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a plan!
Just one year ago, Professor Nathan Marcus was living a rather comfortable life as Dean of Mechanical Engineering at the Neil A. Armstrong University. Holding PhDs in both Engineering and Astrophysics, tenure was still difficult to obtain at such a prestigious Institute, yet he had managed to do so.
With no wife or kids, life was rather comfortable, routine and predictable, just the way he liked it.
He spent his days supervising his academic underlings and the other duties of his job and most of his evenings dabbling as an amateur inventor or, when the urge hit him, finding a beautiful young thing from the trashy neighbourhood campus bars for a bit of casual sex.
At the age of just 45, Nathan was what many would describe as a handsome man. A shade under 6 feet tall with jet black hair greying nicely at the side, a square jaw and a flat stomach from always going over the necessary time limits on the treadmills, he was considered one of the most eligible bachelors on campus, despite the techno-nerd label he had inherited.
Nathan had dabbled with a few relationships but none of them ever really panned out for him. He had quite a while ago decided he was too rigid and focused an individual to ever make a long-term relationship with even a cat work, never mind another human being and thus happily accepted his fate as a permanent man-about-town.
His passion was looking for new and inventive gadgets with real-world applications for genuine societal needs.
While very immersed in society and its progress as a whole, personally Nathan had no interest in Social Media or any other form of mass connection - for all intents and purposes he was a digital hermit, which made him even more of a mystery to his admirers, both male and female!
This peaceful existence was rather rudely interrupted by an email that arrived around 2 pm on the 12 July. Although he didn't know it at the time, this would change his life forever.
The email was from the office of the Secretary General of the Senate, the most senior Elder of the 9 and a rare email for anyone to receive.
Dear Prof. Marcus,
Your presence is requested for dinner at Tranquillity at 6 pm this evening.
Please be punctual.
Albert St. Jude
Secretary General of the Senate
pp Ms Chow
It read more like a summons than an invitation but what the hell, how often do you get an invite to dinner from an Elder, never mind the Secretary General himself!
Tranquillity was by far the poshest and most expensive restaurant in town and the only one with an imported organic menu. Far beyond the budget of a lowly Professor, Nathan had never eaten there before and was tantalised by the prospect of a fine dining evening with the most powerful man in the land.
"Welcome," said Albert St. Jude who had obviously arrived early. "Care for a cocktail before dinner? I already have a 2017 Burgundy in the decanter for us getting some breath before dinner."
"I'd love one," said Albert. "Looks like a Martini with a twist for you? Make mine a Vodka Martini, two olives please." Hoping to impress Albert as though he ordered imported cocktails and wine every day.
"Very good sir," said the Maitre'd as he handed Nathan the single page Menu of the day.
Albert was already deeply engrossed in his menu, so Nathan decided to do the same.
He tried not to react to either the plethora of fresh imported ingredients that he hadn't tasted in years or the prices attached to these, which combined were enough to buy a small house, well apartment anyway.
Albert ordered the beef tartare followed by the foie gras duck and a bourbon creme brulee for dessert.
Nathan had half a dozen oysters on the half shell, the wagyu beef with pomme frites and the Rum Baba that took him straight back to his only visit to Paris over 20 years ago.
After dinner, Albert got down to business.
"Listen, my boy," he said in his usual gruff voice that always reminded Nathan of Winston Churchill when he heard him on TV. "I didn't just invite you here for a free meal. It's time to pay the piper."
"Here is the cost. The Earth is doomed on its current trajectory. Although our time here on the moon has seen tremendous advancements in technology and we have learnt an enormous amount about living in an artificial environment and how to construct and maintain bio-habitats there simply is not enough space for a mass colonisation. That said, it would be impossible to pass a resolution through the Senate despite my five to four majority control of the Council of Elders anyway."
"We need a solution. We need a way to get at least a third of the population of Earth off the planet just to give her a chance to rejuvenate and the economies and governments an opportunity to recover."
"You, my friend, are the man for the job," Albert stated matter of factly. "Despite that liberal bent of yours!"
"I want you to put a team together. Money is no issue. You will have access to anyone or anything you need, but a year from now I want a solution, understood?"
Albert stood, swiped his watch past the scanner to deduct the LunaCoin for the meal, with the standard tip included, and made his way out the restaurant, without even as much as a handshake or a goodbye.
Nathan left dinner feeling rather queasy. Was it just the rich meal that his stomach was not used to or was it the fact that the most powerful man in the solar system may have just asked him to commit mass genocide on three billion people?
No, that couldn't have been what he meant, Nathan quickly decided. He surely knew that Nathan would never do that anyway.
Nathan decided to forego the usual free public transport and walk the 2km to his apartment. After all, exercise was crucial in maintaining muscle mass in a reduced gravitational environment.
Despite the artificial gravity systems that had managed to reduce the gravity from one sixth of the Earth's to just a half, it was still essential for all citizens to work out every day, resulting in a much healthier society than had existed amongst a single human group in a very long time. An interesting fact that Nathan dismissed almost as he thought of it.
Nathan passed through the tourism sector of the Capital dome on his way home. As usual these days, it was full of super rich Earthers and their children, many of whom hoped for a permanent stay visa.
The children reminded him how hard it was for a Moon born child to travel to Earth on holiday, due to the additional gravity, but these days not very many would want to.
The Capital Dome was the most populated of the ten habitat domes on the moon. It included the Senate which included the Council of Elders who acted as a type of Supreme Court as well, the University and the majority of the wealthiest settlers by far.
There were ten identical domes spread across the moon. Five facing Earthward and five facing out to Space. Each was ten kilometres by ten kilometres or one hundred kilometres squared and one hundred and fifty meters high.
A day on the moon was equivalent to twenty-nine and a half Earth days, so artificial lighting was essential to help keep peoples sleep rhythms in tune, especially new settlers.
If it weren't for the free university accommodation, Nathan would have likely chosen a dome on the far side of the moon preferring a space view to the highly prized Earth view offered by the Capital and other four "Elite" domes.
After all transportation between domes was lightning fast with the use of the Hyperloop and fresh fruits and vegetables were far easier to obtain in the agricultural domes on the far side of the moon.
Water was no issue either, with a brilliantly designed melting and purification plant at the Southern pole of the moon providing fresh water to all the Domes as needed. Brilliant, of course, because Nathan had designed it.
The first settlers arrived in 2021. Almost all were scientists, engineers and researchers.
They quickly shed themselves of any Earth nationality and declared themselves Lunar Citizens.
A constitution was written as a priority which entitled any settlement to ten Senators, regardless of size or population who were responsible for promulgating new laws. It also made provision for nine Elders, Lead by a General Secretary, who would hold their seats for life and act as the Supreme Court of the Moon.
There was no fiat money used on the Moon, one of the first things implemented was a Blockchain & LunaCoin the official currency of the moon.
The blockchain was used for far more than just money though,
It recorded land transfers; thus eliminating the need for a deeds office.
Acted as a form of identification; allowing people to vote from the comfort of their own homes (voter fraud was zero in the history of the Moon) and,
replaced many other trusted third parties that were endemic to the decline of Earths economy.
There was no central bank nor a single retail bank required or present on the Moon.
There was almost no serious crime on the Moon. Committing a serious crime led to the immediate repatriation of the offender and their family to Earth, and that was more than enough of a deterrent.
The tiny police force spent most of their time dealing with drunks and the occasional domestic usually a result of the Moon-juice manufactured in almost every home in every Dome.
The one thing that grew extremely well in the Moon-Earth soil was the humble potato which made the vodka like alcohol enough to knock the average Earther flat after just one or two!
There were currently almost 100,000 citizens spread across all the Domes, arriving 100 at a time now. Citizenship was by invitation only and as the original settlers valued science and discovery far more than wealth the Constitution overwhelming favoured individuals that would contribute to man's knowledge and utilization of the Moon.
Of course, the idea of refugees never occurred to the first settlers when things were still reasonably OK on Earth, and there were very few wealthy Earthers back then had any interest in leaving their comfortable homes for the hardships of Lunar life.
This had become a core debate in the Senate and most new laws these days tended to revolve around either aid or immigration, not exactly what the founding fathers had in mind!
Corruption had started to rear its ugly head into the senate, even subtlely, as there were more and more calls for law changes to factor in wealth when considering immigration. The same could not be said for the Earths millions of refugees.
Immigration applications had trebled in the each of the last three years putting immense pressure on what the constitution contemplated would be a small administration team for such tasks.
After an hour's walk through the Capital, Nathan finally made it back to his apartment, sure of only two things.
1. Under no circumstances would Nathan Marcus put forward a plan to eliminate 3 billion lives.
2. Mass immigration to the Moon was not a feasible solution.
An ardent student of History, Nathan spent the next few weeks contemplating the situation back on Earth and how exactly things managed to get as bad as they did.
Soon he was able to focus on a never before documented pattern of migration of intellect that seemed to date back to the origins of Humankind.
He was able to build a timeline from the very first homo sapien ancestors in South Africa through to the Twenty Second Century.
He was able to somewhat map the migration of what must have been the bravest and strongest of each tribe as they made their way North to the Mediterranean, Europe, Asia and the Americas.
Soon these regions would begin their own processes of evolution at their own rates. Some rapid, some slow - sometimes even intellectually regressing but eventually, one undeniable truth emerged above all others.
The smartest, the bravest and the strongest always followed to the land or path of opportunity.
Inevitably these opportunities resulted in innovation and adaptation which in turn further promoted science and research. Very soon those nations that chose to pursue opportunity became the greatest nations on Earth and those that did not would soon become vulnerable and dependant on what came to be known as Empires or Super Powers!
This was evident even today, as with very few exceptions, the 100,000 greatest minds in the universe now resided on the Moon amassing fortunes, not for the sake of money but for the innovation that their science and industry had led too.
"Where did it all go so wrong?" he said to himself on Sunday afternoon strolling in Chang'e Park.
Yes, politicians made the decisions at the end of the day but how did the denialists manage to get such a powerful grip on the world?
There was a rapid dismantling of programs back in 2017 when Donald Trump was elected as President of the then Super Power, United States of America.
In 2018 Alexander Putin was able to annexe almost half of Europe creating the largest Russian Empire since the Soviet era.
China bought the world through currency manipulation and clever use of government bonds.
Then, of course, the five-year war ended with the tragic nuclear bombing of the Levenant on the 11 November 2022, barely a year after the first Lunar Settlers had arrived.
While this successfully brought an end to extremism on both sides, it seemed to break all faith between government and their citizens with anarchist outbreaks across the globe!
Then, of course, there were the natural disasters. As predicted, the Earth continued to get warmer, The Polar Caps melted, Oceans rose, major cities disappeared, and mass relocation led to massive refugee cities all over the new, watery, Earth.
Following this new chain of logic, it was evident that the Moon Governments tremendous wealth by 2030 was little surprise.
Asteroid mining for platinum and other rare minerals needed for technologies, old and new, had proved to be incredibly lucrative.
The massive requirement for innovation to make the harsh lunar conditions hospitable had resulted in 1000's of patents that were now generating billions of LunaCoin for Moon based companies, inventors and the university and the tax coffers were full.
This is why the Earthers were always turning to the Moon for help.
The real insight, however, was that in reality there just was not enough pioneers and opportunities left on Earth. They had all moved to the Moon!
Nathan had the complete attention of the Senate.
He looked at his team who, without exception, returned his looks with looks of encouragement of their own.
He looked up to the presentation booth, where Scar gave him a thumbs up indicating that he was ready to activate the holo-presentation and so, Nathan began.
"Mars is the answer!"
No sooner had he began to speak a holographic projection appeared all around him. It was the Solar System.
Nathan immediately made his way to the sun and made an X sign with his finger, and the largest and brightest object in the presentation was gone! Instantly the rest of the projection rescaled both in size and luminosity.
He then made his way to the giant Jupiter. This time he made an "away" swish with his hands. Jupiter and everything beyond were suddenly gone and once again the scales adjusted.
All that was left now was the Earth, the Moon, Mars (with Phobos and Deimos in orbit), the Asteroid belt and a few solar-orbit objects that pass within this zone.
"We need to move three billion Earthers to Mars," he said, "and this is how we'll do it!"
Nathan moved to the holoprojection of the Moon and then held it in place, causing the whole projection to stand still. Using just two fingers, he spread his thumb and index finger, in what could be described as a pinch in reverse, to zoom out on the projection and then turned the Moon to show the far-side.
"We'll start with an 11th Dome here," pointing to the Mare Moscovienese "for Earther refugees, volunteers that want to make the move to Mars. We can take 10,000 at a time vetted by our team of Psychologists and Sociologists led by my colleague Professor Jawal Kirtev." Professor Kirtev stood by way of introduction to the audience and then quickly returned to her seat.
"Next, we will create the largest in orbit construction facility ever built, a new space port. Where we will build ships large enough to take 500 passengers and their possessions to Mars at a time."
Thanks to his small controller, Nathan made this construction outpost appear on the holoprojection, following the elliptical orbit around the Moon that would be required to ensure stability. The Moon was notorious for wonky gravity that had been the early demise of many a probe back in the 20th century.
This will be supervised by myself and Dr Ivan Kobolev" who quickly stood in greeting. "Of course, we will also rely heavily on the able skills of the contractors appointed to the various projects." Nathan was now pandering to the few senators that had been reached by the promises of riches from the Lunar companies that had sought the support. "Pretty shrewd move," he thought to himself, not for the first time.
"These two new facilities will create even further jobs, and tender opportunities, for Moon organisations and the taxes alone should cover the added costs, never mind the dozens of new patents that are bound to result from our work."
Nathan pressed another button, and the schematics of one of these Mars ships appeared showing ample room for passengers cargo and common areas that would entertain the passengers for the 8-month journey. Most important, of course, was the reusable engine and tanks so that the ships were capable of returning to the Moon Space Port after a refuel on Mars, ready to carry another round of precious cargo.
"We will build 20 of these to start," he said matter of factly, and as the next opposition approached, 18 months from now - Mars closest point to the Moon occurs every 2 years - we would send the first 10,000 people to Mars."
"Professor Angus Buchner, Dr Gunther Shrem (MBBCHB), and Mr Hiro Takura" the rest of the team sitting at the tables, all of whom would be very familiar to the audience having gained fame and notoriety for their work, "have all volunteered to be Mars' first elders."
This was immediately greeted with a standing ovation out of respect for the act of selflessness alone.
After the audience had quieted down, Nathan continued, "similar to the colonization of the Moon we will prefer scientists, engineers, agriculturists and teachers for the initial colonization of Mars. The Mars Elders have also compiled a team of Lunar volunteers with Methane fuel production, Dome construction, habitat control and agricultural experience. Each of whom would serve a two-year term until the first return missions are possible."
"During the first fleet journey we would continue with construction of more Domes and creating new and bigger ships, and within five years we believe we can move one-third of the Earth's current population to Mars, 3 billion people."
"This should alleviate the current pressures on the Earth and allow her to recover, economically and environmentally, with very little aid, new job opportunities and at the same time give humankind another foothold in the solar system, thereby safeguarding civilisations survival and making us a truly multi-planetary society."
"Now, Any Questions?"