I love a friendly alien. Some of us – possibly the less military minded – have long preferred stories of good contact experiences, from ET and Close Encounters of the Third Kind to Arrivals. Indeed, the grandmammy of them all, The Day the Earth Stood Still, which is about the shortcomings of militarism.
There’s a new generation of sci-fi with what can only be described as positively cuddly species from other planets. The close encounter in A Half-Built Garden, by Ruthanna Emrys, echoes The Day the Earth Stood Still in that the aliens have come to save humanity from itself. But the ‘dandelion networks’ are already saving the planet through direct democracy based around watersheds, to them the natural way to organise.
And it could not be more cuddly: the first human to meet the aliens is woken by water pollution alarms in the Chesapeake in the middle of the night, and hurries out to check what is happening taking her baby with her. Turns out the aliens don’t trust anyone who would not bring their babies to a key negotiation.
The principle the dandelion networks use in decision-making about infrastructure and other technology is: will what we are building be at least as benign as a cherry tree? With evident, multiple benefits and few costs, and a net positive impact on the environment?*
If not, don’t build it.
Is there anything we are building today that would pass the cherry tree challenge?
*Ruthanna borrowed the metaphor from Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things by William McDonagh and Michael Braungart, 2009.