The nature of the processes of evolution is still hidden from us. The reality of genetics - that genes are hyper-responsive to the environment, and that even subtle changes effect instantaneous genetic responses - is still not understood. We have yet to recognize the simple fact that we are functions of a wider system, rather than somehow unique from the whole. Our time of ascendancy can either be productive or not. Either we will endure, or we will not.
Other species are already evolving around us, in response to us and our significant impact on this planet's biosphere. We have influenced every level of the planetary balance, and not all of the mistakes are of necessity as bad as some might make them out to be. We swim in a veritable effluvium of our own filth and by-product, surrounded always by toxins, hydrocarbons and waste products. We have learned how to manufacture pollutants of astonishing voracity and venom. But even through our errors we are learning other arts. Terraforming may depend in large measure upon our negative results as much as it does upon positive research. Carbon dioxide emissions may one day be essential in making Mars a habitable planet. And if there is one thing humanity will very soon need, it is another habitable planet.
Our pollutants impact this world heavily, and we have no way of knowing for certain what is already growing beneath our feet. A bipedal race of highly intelligent rats may have evolved deep in our city sewers without our knowledge. We welcome pollutants far more than we admit, and always have, and it is in the nature of such things that genetic mutation will inevitably result. Humans long ago invented consumable alcohol (or discovered it, really) and this is of course a poison. Humans learned the smoking of opium and tobacco and marijuana. They learned to consume hallucinogenic plants and in time we learned further alchemical things, like the synthesis of complex compounds with which to spray our lawns and sheathe our homes and "freshen" our air. We create emissions and by-products and viscous fluids with reckless glee. Humans are more easily controlled by vices than they are guided by virtues.
|Yes, they really do this.|
Let us look at the alternative to the breaking of new frontiers. Our species will fall again to vast war and internecine conflict and continual revolution. Population alone insures this, as does the gradual degradation of the environment and the critical pollution of ground and drinking water sources, chemical infusion of the soil and vaporous invasion of the atmosphere. Less food and less water will be available. We must break ground or we will be broken down into it. If we do not discover or learn how to inhabit new worlds, our path will be toward self-destruction and extinction, rather than exploration, growth and change. If we fail in this great trial, other animal species are already waiting in the wings to take our place as the dominant lifeforms of the planet earth, and it will fall to them to fulfill the great mission of off-world colonization. For what it's worth, here are the Vicar's top picks for global dominance in the absence of humanity, in no particular reverse alphabetical order:
This is not a joke. The Raccoon is on point to take control of our planet in the absence of our species. They may even one day war against the bastardized remnants of humanity as we shuffle off into the darkness eternal. Even if Raccoon warriors of that far-flung future war regard fearfully our descendants as twisted Gods, they will still prevail because of their ingenuity and courage.
|This animal is not effing around.|
Consider the Raccoon with some seriousness, however, and we can already see the signs of genuine evolution toward an animal form capable of building tools, gathering and refining resources, and developing stabilized food supplies. Also, the Vicar and one of his acolytes once did battle with an entire army of Raccoon who had their base beneath a Midwestern farmhouse, and we barely escaped with our lives - and that only with the help of all mighty God and a brace of steel-toed boots.
|Yes, they really do this.|
|This is so close to being a proper hand, maybe we should exterminate them all right now and head them off at the pass...|
The Octopus is a dangerous animal. In large size, it can kill a human diver, and in giant form, it can give rise to a whole corpus of myth. Let none of us forget this:
Also, we are creeped-out by creatures with multiple appendages, and particularly so when the appendages in question are wibbly-wobbly and rubbery. This creature may make for exciting sushi, but it can also open a jar in order to get at the food inside, implying a level of cognitive development that should give us pause. The Octopus is hardly cute (other than to real freaks) but it also hardly needs to be. They have been reported to leave the water in the darkness in laboratory conditions and cross to tanks containing their food source.
|Working on invading your territory.|
These are cunning strategists who live in a clear social organization and utilize tactics to insure successful hunting and the security of their collective. They build complicated burrows and they can stand on two legs. Their paws are nothing to sneeze at, either.
They lack a developing thumb and do not have as much interaction with humans as the somewhat more refined Raccoon, but these very factors may give them a wild edge in coming conflicts with other up-and-coming evolutionary contenders. The Meerkat people will be a proud species, indeed.
|Their intelligence may overcome the copious lack of opposable thumb material.|
Or we could also focus on getting out and about in the cosmos at large, where precisely these kinds of animals - and others undreamed of - have risen to prominence on other worlds. And we cannot stop to consider that the geneticists already exist who are researching and have made secret advancements in the weaponization of animals and the blending of animal and human traits. Early work with dolphins trained to find lost torpedoes and sea mines was only the beginning. The only evidence of these extremely secret projects is right before our eyes, as escapees from the programs are sometimes spotted and dismissed as hoax, cryptozoological myth and local legend.
Such ideas are not so far-fetched, and we would do well to remember that no one has the slightest idea what a Chupacabra is because we can't even catch one.
--- The Vicar