Amber Zone - Ecological Accident

Last Updated 4 November 2003.

1999 #2172

Date: Thu, 23 Mar 2000 18:15:56 PST
From: Leonard Erickson
Subject: Re: Alien thoughts

In mail you write:

> "The sea is endless"
> "There are always more fish in the sea"
> No, there aren't, not when you have agricultural and sewage runoff
> turning large sections of coastal waters into anaerobic dead zones (like
> the once hugely productive Long Island Sound), we're draining the
> coastal lowlands as fast as we can for suburbs and Wal-Marts without
> knowing that they were really, REALLY important for maintaining livable
> ecosystems for large numbers of species, and you have factory trawlers
> that catch everything living above a few inches in size in areas that
> amount to many cubic miles of ocean, wrecking the seabottoms (another
> place that turns out to be a lot more important than we thought) as they
> go.
> Feed a man a fish, you feed him for a day.
> Teach him to fish, you feed him for life.
> Teach him to use factory ships, his descendents ask 'Where are all the
> fish?'
> obTrav
> By the time we reach the stars, I _hope_ we've learned a few lessons
> about this sort of stuff.
> Is the Mercantilist Imperium sufficiently versed in the Long View that
> they realize that ecologies are not endlessly adaptable, abusable and
> harvestable, and that limits have to be placed to ensure continued
> productivity?
> Or are all those desert, industrial, or poor worlds out there the result
> of the collision of TL-15 harvesting methods with TL-0 planning?
I fully expect that there *are* world that have undergone eco-catastophes in the early days, But by the time we are playing, they are hard-won lessons (rather like the Dustbowl in the US, only, I hope with more staying power since they didn't recover).

If I ever start detailing some worlds, I need to do a couple of those. They'll be scare stories far beyond things like Chernobyl or Love Canal. And they'll be the result of more subtle errors.

IMTU no world other than possibly the real "garden worlds" treats ecological effects lightly. And the more "marginal" the ecology is, the more they protect it. This will be a hard won lesson. Continually re-inforced by the once every few years news stories about an outpost or base somewhere that required a completely artificial environment, (complete with air and water recycling on-site) that made a tiny goof that managed to kill many if not all of them between visits by supply ships.

That sort of failure will be about as common as the sort of major accidents that we here about on nationwide news. Rather than a pipeline or train exploding, it'll be something killing the plants that regen the air...

Companies doing unapproved dumping or processing that affects the eco-system sometime never have the responsible parties on-site make it to trial. They tend to get *lynched* (think of the way most desert peoples would deal with someone doing something that ruined a well).

An interesting way of getting this across to players might be having them hear a news story about a near disaster on a planet they visted a few worlds back. Then they hear that they are wanted for questioning....

1. It's just a routine check confirming that they didn't dump anything except via the approved waste rececyling systems, and didn't offload any cargo other than what's on the manifest.

2. Like number 1, except they suspect something in the cargo. They questiion the PCs until they've gotten everything the PCs can recall about the shipper. Later, they may hear about a trial. It's unlikely that they'd be called as witnesses, their sworn depositions will do.

3. Like number 1, except there are questions regarding the waste fed into the recycling systems at the port. The PCs can explain the odd readings (the cook dumped some kimchee that'd gone bad... :-)

4. Like #3, but the players get a small fine for getting the wrong kind of waste into a disposal system. "Yes, oil is organic. But lubricating oil doesn't go into the "organics" sump, it goes into the chemicals sump, because of the additives and metal particles!"

5. Like #4, but the players get a big fine. "You dumped cleaning solvents into the sewage system! That killed the algae in number 5 processing tank! We lost 10% of air recycling capacity..."

6. Like #2, except that the PCs answers about the cargo don't satisfy the questioners. The cargo is definitely the source of whatever caused the disaster, and the info the players have doesn't check out (they were set up).

Leonard Erickson (aka Shadow) <--preferred <--last resort

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