In which we experiment with thought in the genre of science fiction…
“The essence of art, no less than of science, is synecdoche. A carefully chosen part serves for the whole.”
-Edward O. Wilson, Biophilia
Imagine a world, a best possible world in all possible worlds, which is quite unlike Leibniz’s (or Voltaire’s “Dr. Pangloss”). It looks and behaves similarly to what it is like now except that humans are slightly different. They are all biophiles at their core. This loving ethic for biological inter-relatedness has evolved over thousands of years, and is now as instinctual as the aversion to falling and the desire to reproduce.
In this globalized society, each of its members, from very early on, is obligated to care for and protect a particular species: plant, animal, bacteria, or whatever needs extra attention and study. No one person begrudges this obligation because it is an encoded outcome of being human. In other words, it’s just the way we live.
Because this is just the way we are, and because we also have excellent organizational capacity, each member begins with a species to protect and goes through a series of graduations or rites-of-passage so that they might be involved in the protection of more particular species over time. Maybe a father has his species for a given time, and once it is well-situated, he can give it to his son while facilitating an apprenticeship.
This father might then take on a more challenging species while he aids the continued study and protection of the one bequeathed to his apprentice who has begun with a less threatened species as an elementary lesson in care and protection. We are thinking of Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development: a child is seen to need some learning just a bit past his development level to strive toward. So does, we’ll suppose, the adult. By the time a person reaches, say, sixty, they might have had five or six species they were “in charge of” and have helped thrive in harmony with other organisms.
Now, obviously, there are at least two ways to care for a species: in a lab such as a zoo, or in its natural habitat. Obviously, in this best possible world, we disparage the former, except in extreme circumstances of species decline, and do everything we can to ensure the latter, knowing a species must live in its best possible world also.
This is why we have organizational bodies called “governments.” They run the logistics of necessaries like providing transportation to other comparable habitats where a species lives. They facilitate the best possible education of our novices and experts so they may know as much as they can in order to help each particular organism being protected. These governmental people are made up of the privileged and powerful class.
This elite class of people is determined by results. A leader of this sort has protected seriously endangered species in Nobel prize worthy ways, utilizing both ingenuity and superior knowledge, and has been rewarded with a high office, thus more responsibility. These people fully expect to be surpassed in rank, and do what they must to make sure this happens. They understand that they will need to be replaced, eventually. That is just the way we live.
And, naturally, saving a species or six in a lifetime, involves greater things. One important feature we have already mentioned: the habitats where a species lives. The people assigned to this habitat will eventually be teaming up with others assigned other species which coexist with theirs. Understanding the ecosystem also involves non-living elements, like the elements. People working together on a particular habitat begin to see the necessity of really working hard together. They assist where they can and are unable to take full, individualized credit for their results. They depend both on their species, other peoples’ species, and the help of other protectors to get the job done.
Meanwhile, back at home, the child and the father enjoy their time away from this work. They, and their neighbors, have plenty to eat, are in good health, use free time to create and develop other interests, and they aren’t even worried about the rest of humanity. They know each is doing his or her small part to socially protect the biospherical whole that keeps us alive.
By Carrie Anne Ebner