“Once every few generations we must make a moral and ethical choice that will be so heart-wrenching and difficult, it has the potential to divide peoples and nations against one another. Upon this decision, worlds will shudder and the universe will hold its breath awaiting its outcome.” Author unknown
Bern, Switzerland, 2087
“There are rumors that you have a bold and revolutionary plan to save the world’s endangered species, Dr. Bernstein,” says Jack Murphy, a reporter from Global Times.
“Indeed,” says Dr. Bernstein, sucking thoughtfully on his pipe and blowing a smoke ring over the reporter’s head. “I suppose you have heard of Ark Orbit1?”
“I have seen the blueprints of the ship, but I must admit that I am extremely skeptical about it,” says Jack.
Dr. Bernstein takes another puff of his pipe and then grins slightly. “The concept is considered quite feasible by several prominent entrepreneurs and environmental groups who are willing to support it. I also have several NASA engineers involved in the project.”
The reporter nods. “The ship is completely automated?”
“Correct,” says Bernstein. “The entire complex will be run by robots and machines.”
“That’s pretty amazing,” says Jack. “And the ship will remain in orbit around the Earth indefinitely?”
“In theory, yes,” agrees Bernstein. “Ark Orbit1 will be a totally self contained satellite that will turn on its axis, thus creating an artificial gravity almost identical to Earth’s. Inside the ship will be an artificial atmosphere and natural forest and jungle and vegetation which will contain, as you have already stated, some of the world’s most endangered species. Naturally, computers will constantly monitor the interior of the ship’s atmosphere and keep it at an optimum temperature, chemical balances, to sustain life. The animals, of course, will be separated for their own safety and fed and cared for by the robots and automatons. The entire complex shall be a self-contained natural ecosystem, perfectly balanced and unspoiled by human hands."
“Why are there no human beings planned to be on the ark?” enquires Jack.
Dr. Bernstein puts down his pipe and frowns. “Well, isn’t it kind of obvious? Human beings are the animal’s greatest enemy. We have destroyed their natural habitat, hunted them relentlessly and almost wiped them out. Inside their ark, they will be safe from humanity at last, and they can survive, multiply and flourish.”
“I understand that the animals in question will be artificially cloned on board the ship, is this true?”
“This is correct,” says Bernstein. “The latest animal cloning technology will be employed to assure that these endangered species reproduce at a rate that will assure their survival for centuries to come. I can also assure you that the robots and machines running the ark will assure that there is a perfect balance in numbers of all the species of animals continued within at all times."
“Some people have questioned the morality of cloning animals, saying that it is like human beings playing God. What do you say to this?”
“Cloned animals are practically identical to the real thing. What difference does it make? As long as it helps preserve endangered species and keep them from going extinct, I have no problem with cloning animals. We have been cloning human beings for decades and nobody seems to object to that.”
"I see. Which animals are you planning to place in Ark Orbit 1?"
The Doctor smiles, then says "We have a priority list made up already. Most of them are critically endangered species such as elephants, tigers, Giant pandas, rhinos, orangutans, gorillas and so on. We already have over a dozen countries that are willing to contribute these animals to our project."
"I noticed that you don't have any sea or marine life included in your list," says the reporter.
The reporter finds himself laughing too.
"You of course are correct," says Bernstein. "Future Ark Orbit ships are planned which will contain marine life, both fresh water and salt water."
“This is all very interesting, Dr. Bernstein. When will Ark Orbit 1 be ready to be put into orbit?”
“The launch date has not been set, but it should be within the next two years.”
“And then you will build other Ark Orbit ships ."
“That is what we are hoping for,” says Bernstein, relighting his pipe. “Each Ark Orbit ship will be a self contained ecosystem which will mimic exactly a certain climatic zone of the earth’s surface.”
"Can you summarize the purpose of the Ark orbit ships in one sentence?"
“It is our sacred duty to God and all future generations of humanity to save as many of the Earth's magnificent animal species as possible."
World Government Council, Brussels, Belgium 3047
“The motion to pass Planetary Emergency Protocol 17 is accepted by a majority of delegates,” says World Government President Yuko Okamoto. Her words are translated into twelve languages simultaneously for the assembly members present.
A man stands up gruffly and clears his throat. It is Juan Hernandez, representing the Greater Americas. “Our scientists have an update on the radiation cloud heading our direction from the super nova event on Alpha Centauri C,” says Hernandez. “At its current velocity, it will reach the Earth’s vicinity in slightly less than 14 months.”
There is a stir amongst the chamber.
Okamoto looks sternly around the chamber, and the uproar slowly dissipates.
“It is therefore imperative,” continues Mr. Hernandez, “that we prepare our emergency evacuation plan and implement it as soon as humanly possible.”
Many voices in the chamber try to answer him.
“Let me speak!” says Karl Weber, one of the European delegates. “Must we evacuate everyone? Are we certain that this radiation cloud will make earth completely uninhabitable?”
“There is absolutely no doubt that we are facing an extinction event,” asserts Eric Larson, a European delegate. “When the gamma rays from the radiation cloud reach Earth’s atmosphere, they will form nitrogen oxides which will completely destroy the ozone layer. When this happens, the Earth’s surface will be bombarded by the Sun’s ultraviolet rays. Most of our computer simulations conclude that all human civilization will be completely destroyed within a few years as the planet heats up to the point that it is turned into an uninhabitable waterless wasteland.”
“In that case, exactly how many starships and spaceships do we currently have in the evacuation fleet?” enquires Larato Nkosi, an African delegate.
“I can answer this question,” utters Li Chen Wu, representing South East Asia. “There are currently twenty nine starships and seventy five auxiliary ships that are capable of transporting human populations safely into interstellar space and safely out of the path of the imminent radiation cloud.”
“There is one thing that we are all forgetting,” asserts Vladimir Belinsky, a European delegate. “There are 16 Ark Orbit satellites. Our computers calculate that they could each carry 10 000 humans inside them, for a total of 160 000 persons.”
“The Ark Orbit ships are not to be tampered with!” asserts Sahana Bhakta, an Asian delegate. “The endangered species in them are too precious to be sacrificed!”
“Those ships could potentially save tens of thousands of human beings as Mr. Belinsky has pointed out,” growls Fahd Amin, a delegate from the Middle East. “Human beings are infinitely more important than animals and vegetation."
“The animals in these arks are only clones, artificially spawned freaks!” blurts another delegate.
Yuko Okamoto slams down her gavel and there is a deadly silence. “May I make a suggestion? perhaps the fate of the ark ships could be voted upon by all the peoples of Earth. Democracy and the will of the people will decide the fate of these precious ships.”
There is a general murmur of agreement to this idea, with some voicing their objections.
The global debate concerning the fate of the 16 Ark Orbit satellites was destined to occur for the most part on the internet and social media platforms.
On one side, the ‘hands off’ movement, is professor Muller, the current leader of project Ark Orbit, and his supporters made up mostly of environmentalists, biologists, and zoologists . Opposed to them, the 'saviors of humanity' movement, are a mixed group including anthropologists, radio talk show hosts, politicians and global human rights organizations. A tiny but dedicated third group, the 'Noah’s ark' movement, forward a compromise solution in which the animals, fauna and humans would share the space on the great ark ships.
For months, the mostly online debate raged, arguments were presented, scientific papers and findings were published, manuscripts and counter manuscripts were published online.
Bolin Lim, an electronics distributor in Singapore, is watching a video on his smart watch. The video features Professor Muller, who is being interviewed by the BBC.
“Professor Muller,” says the BBC anchor woman. “Please explain to us your plans for the Ark Ships assuming that the world’s masses vote to support your position and prevent any human intervention in their destinies.”
“Well,” says the professor, “as you say, I am adamantly against any human tampering with these precious Ark ships, which have successfully saved over 5000 endangered animal species from extinction and preserved vital forest and fauna ecosystems that have long ago vanished from the Earth’s surface due to the destructive and egotistical actions of humanity. I can tell you that I and all the members of the Ark Orbit project now consider any human contact with these precious ships as contamination and totally unacceptable.”
“Yet is it not true that these same ships could easily be fitted with star drives and be used to transport tens of thousands of humans that would otherwise be killed by the deadly radioactive cloud currently heading for our planet?”
“It is true, yes,” says professor Muller, “but I have another proposition, one in which human beings, animals and Earth’s precious ecosystems can be saved and transferred to humanity’s new home once a suitable planet is found.”
“Please share it with us, professor,” says the anchor woman.
“The fleet of human ships and Ark Orbit ships can travel together out of this solar system and once a suitable planet is found for human colonization, the new colony can be stocked with the animals and fauna. In this way, earth’s peoples, animals and natural ecosystems will be transplanted to the new planet. Indeed, Earth’s natural environment, animals, fauna and human beings are so intertwined that this plan seems the most rational and intelligent one.”
“So you would say that the lives of these animals and plants are more important than the lives of thousands of your fellow human beings, professor?”
“I never said that!” roars the professor.
Bolin stops the interview and switches to an American talk show host, Jack Thompson.
“This is really a no brainer,” says Thompson. “I mean, we have 16 precious spaceships all ready to transport thousands of people out of this solar system out of the reach of this coming apocalypse and we’ve got bleeding heart left wink pinkos who think that cute little pandas and rare jungle fauna native to Madagascar is more important than saving human lives.”
Bolin grunts and tunes in to another channel.
“What this really comes down to is whether we value human life over that of exotic and endangered species and fauna? We are in a desperate situation and the decisions we make now could have a decisive influence on whether the human race survives this great crisis or whether this could be the end of the human story.”
Bolin sighs deeply and then switches off his smart watch.
World Government Council, Brussels Belgium, 3049
“This is a milestone moment in the history of humanity,” says President Yuko Okamoto gravely. “The Day of Leaving, when we must enter our spaceships and lift off from our beloved Earth approaches us. We must abandon the very planet which spawned us, our home, and the birthplace of all human civilizations. We must be strong, we must remain united and steadfast, and we must survive. We will survive!”
Many council members applaud.
“Those of us gathered here,” continues Okamoto, “are among the lucky chosen few who will escape the coming catastrophe that has befallen our planet. Do not rejoice too heartily! We must leave behind countless millions of our fellow human beings, who will be the last generation on Earth. We are the lucky few. The Chosen Ones, who are destined to spread the seed of humanity to the stars! “
“Have any suitable planets been found yet?” enquires Karl Weber.
“Earth’s computers have found several strong possibilities that are currently being investigated by probes,” says Fahd Amin.
“What will happen to the Mars colonies? “enquires Li Chen Wu.
“So desu ne,” says Okamoto. “Unfortunately, they will have to be abandoned. There simply aren’t enough ships to evacuate them. Spaceships and starships, as you know, are at a premium.”
“I assume,” says Vladimir Belinsky, “that we have arranged for the, er, removal of the animals from the Ark Orbit ships in preparation for their use by humans as planned.”
There is a hush within the chamber.
“The people have spoken on this issue,” asserts Okamoto. “The ships will be procured for use by human beings. In fact,” she pauses, gesturing with her hands, “the gathered members here today shall be among the passengers and crew of these ark ships on our journey out of the solar system.”
The chamber explodes into a conversation of many languages.
Once the tumult had calmed somewhat, Okamoto adds “the main body of Earth ships, Genesis1, will depart first, followed by the Ark ships soon afterwards. In this way, we will be able to save as much of the world’s heritage in the form of arts, literature, philosophy, history, science, and all the knowledge and wisdom of the human race. A great burden has befallen us! For we must preserve thousands of years of human civilization so it is not forgotten!”
The chamber loses its equilibrium as everyone is standing and clapping furiously.
The Day of Leaving had gone off without a hitch. The hundreds of starships, spaceships and auxiliaries making up Genesis1 had gathered outside Earth’s atmosphere and had moved away from the Mother planet, before accelerating away and activating their star drives. Earth, once teeming with satellites and space vehicles, now has only 16 orbiting ships, the Ark Orbit ships. And they spin on their central axes, while inside them is wildlife, marine animals, flourishing and safe among their natural ecosystems consisting of forests, jungles, savannas, deserts, waterways, and salt and freshwater reservoirs.
The human race now holds its collective breath as the Earth and its satellite, Selene, prepare for a great stroke from the heavens. The radiation cloud from the super nova is now approaching the outer edges of our solar system. The last remaining Earth ships are being fitted and prepared for liftoff, their mission being to rendezvous with the Ark Orbit ships and transfer all the knowledge of humanity, and over 160 000 lucky humans to the ships. To make room for these people and their cargo, all the animals and vegetation will have to be eliminated. Many of the people chosen for this transfer still oppose this action, but the World Government is unyielding. The animals must be sacrificed to save the last remnants of human civilization, and the crème of Earth’s elites must be saved as well. They will be needed to be the new leaders of the next human civilization destined to be spawned somewhere among the stars.
Professor Muller is awoken by a buzzing sound. He rubs his eyes and then picks up the receiver of his Speak Phone. “Yes?”
“What have you done with the Ark ships?!?” roars a voice.
“Who is this?”
“You know darn well who this is!” screeches the voice. “This is Yuko Okamoto, the President of the World Government.”
“Oh,” says the professor. “And how are you today?”
“The Ark ships have vanished! Where have you sent them? I demand that you return them to Earth orbit immediately! I will have you executed if you don’t…”
“They are really gone?” asks the professor.
“Don't talk to me! They are gone and our mass detectors cannot find them and… “ Okamoto stops. trying to catch her breath. “You-you will pay for this outrage!"
“Unfortunately,” says the professor, “I had nothing to do with the Ark ships leaving."
“Liar!” screams Okamoto. "This is some scheme of yours! Well it's over for you, Professor Muller!"
A stream of expletives emanates from the speaker and the professor blanches and doesn’t respond.
“I am sending a security team to arrest you, you filthy traitor! You will then arrange for the immediate return of the Ark ships or I will personally order that you be submerged into the Marianas Trench!”
Then the professor speaks in a different tone of voice. “I swear to you, Mrs. President, that I had absolutely nothing to do with the Ark ships' disappearance. In fact, I am as shocked at their absence as you no doubt are right now.”
Okamoto, for the first time, is silent. Then she says carefully “Explain to me then what may have happened to the ark ships, professor. And please be brief.”
“Well, the Ark Orbit ships are totally automated and run by advanced computers and robots , as you know.”
“I don’t find this very pertinent to our current dilemma,” growls Okamoto.
“Well, the robots were likely just following their programming to protect the ships from human interference. Once they learned of Earth’s decision to exterminate the wildlife and marine life inside them, they must have decided to get as far away from Earth and human beings as possible."
"Who authorized that star drives be put on the Ark Ships?" demands Okamoto.
"I authorized it, because I had assumed that the peoples of Earth would do the rational thing and allow the Ark Orbit ships to accompany the Genesis1 fleet to humanities' new home."
"You thought wrong," growls Okamoto. "Do you have any idea where your freak robots may have taken the Ark Ships?"
“None,” says the professor. "I'd say they are intentionally hiding somewhere where we can't detect them, like in a dust cloud or nebula."
Okamoto gasps. “Th-then…”
“It would seem Mrs. President," says the professor, "that we are destined, along with the remaining human survivors on Earth, to become an endangered species.”