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From: "Dan'l Danehy-Oakes" 
Subject: RE: (urth) Thoughts on pollution  esp.
Date: Wed, 13 Mar 2002 09:26:49 -0800

G. Willikers done wrote (in part):

>   I was not concerned as much with continued
> pollution greater than human carelessness and lack of
> concern, more with what happened, or what went wrong.

I'm going to take a slightly different tactic from my esteemed 
fellow-insect here, and speak to what (in my reading) the BotNS 
(and indeed the whole Lupiverse ueberwerke) is _about_.

"What went wrong" is, very simply, the Fall of Man. In Catholic
(indeed, generally in Christian) belief, because of the Fall,
nearly all our efforts and achievements in this life are 
foredoomed to failure and futility. Oddly, this does not mean 
that they are not worth doing; through Grace, our works can be
hallowed and made successful - if not at what we intended, then
at what God intended. ("What you meant for evil, God intended for
good, for the saving of many.")

The Hierodules at one point describe Urth as quarantined. (This
is my term, and I am describing the situation from memory; it has
been a while since I last reread tBotNS.) I don't recall the exact
details, but it was because of the behavior (i.e. the evil, the 
Fallen nature) of humans - this is analogous to the "Silent Planet" 
concept of C.S. Lewis's "Space Trilogy."

> We have witnesses the 'downfall' of our own space
> program for the sole reason that it's not necessary,
> and there haven't been any significant developements.

Hmm? I regard both the shuttle and the ISS as pretty significant 
developments. I regard some of the unmanned probes we've sent 
out in recent years as pretty significant developments. Heck, I 
regard Hubble and COBE as _very_ significant developments.

Are we moving as fast as I (or most SF fans) would like?

Hell, no! But movement has continued.

>    Considering this, my inquiry perhaps should have
> been the following: "what would possibly motivate us
> to take the initiative towards leaving Earth". 

Basically, if it becomes possible, some humans will do it. The 
desire is clearly there, even if it is not universal. (Make it 
possible for _me_ to leave Earth, and, baby, I'm outahere.) 

It's equally reasonable to ask "what could possibly motivate 
those who stay behind?"

> I think that the fact that humanity has attained
> interstellar technologies, and that Earth is for
> all purposes medieval, 

Actually - I don't think we can say that "Earth" is, for all 
purposes, medieval; we really only know this about the 
Commonwealth. It seems likely that this is true of the rest of 
Urth, to be sure. But even the word "medieval" is misleading - 
people at the "medieval level" of technology have at least 
limited access to things that neither true medievals nor we 
today can produce, and while the Urth level may not be 
universal, it's common enough to equip entire armies with Urth-
level weaponry. Severian encounters things well beyond modern
tech wherever he goes.

> suggests that is has been abbandoned for some reason or another, 

Again, not abandoned but quarantined (see above).

And even the quarantine is not complete. Some humans come and go 
(if only on The Ship), and hierodules/cacogens are constantly 
coming and going, and working for the redemption of Urth (which
is, apparently, at least _one_ reason for Father Inire's long
residence in the House Absolute).

> I doubt that a black hole which has done little
> in a long time could cause a mass techno-exodus, or
> that they couldn't handle some new goliaths in the
> sea (esp. if they started out like Baldanders). 

Two different issues in this sentence.

First, the black hole has done one major thing, and that is 
"wound" the Old Sun. Barring direct conversion of mass to
energy (something of which I don't think we see any real
evidence in the books), or something essentially magical 
(like ZPF energy), the Sun is the major source of energy in
the Solar system. But the Sun's energy output has been
severely reduced, and so the ability to _run_ technology is

Second: the "giants in the sea" (and, apparently, one at the
South Pole) did not "start out like Baldanders," at least not 
the main ones: they are aliens.

> I think that there is a strong binding between ecosystem and
> society in BotNS, 

I think it would be truer, because less limited and less motivated
by a political agenda, to say that there is a strong relationship
between environment and culture.



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