Life in a Polluted LandEdit
The main impediment to life on Earth is the toxic remnants of the Fall, and everything from architecture to fashion has been heavily influenced by this fact. The land itself has become an enemy, and in their typically belligerent way, the Earthen fight back, their lives dedicated to winning the struggle against their planet.
No structure on Earth, no matter how insignificant, is built without thought to its environmental impact. Any building intended for use for human habitation needs to be sealable, preferably with an air filtration system. Even primitive buildings are roughly sealed with pitch or mud and have rudimentary filtration systems, often just a few layers of water-soaked hessian sack over a pipe. Residences always have an emergency supply of food and water, enough to last months if need be. The common foods eaten by Earthers tend toward those that can be kept for long periods, be they freeze dried, smoked, canned or pickled. Unsurprisingly, Earth cuisine is considered little more than slop by most Solar nationals.
Although the algae and yeast dishes of the best French chefs are culinary masterpieces, only the wealthiest Earthers can afford to eat that well. Clothing is likewise designed for protection and defense, with few concessions to good looks. An air-permeable skinsuit, protected against chemicals and bacteria, is the underwear of choice for those who can afford it. Overalls made of armored fabrics, with slots for armored inserts, are very popular. Styles differ according to climate and wealth; the more expensive overalls usually double as a pressure suit to protect against germs and chemicals. The poor often wear nothing more than heavy denim or linen, though war-relic bulletproof vests and NBC suits are widely used as emergency backups. Even in wealthy arcologies, where clothing has regained some fashion sense, it is unusual for any set of clothes to not be treated against toxins in some way.
A lot of the survivors of the Fall developed a distaste for reliance on anyone but close family and an even powerful dislike of political change. Mistrust of technology and an almost paranoid suspicion of strangers hinder development in many places. The more rural and backward a region, the more work and responsibility a child is expected to take on. In urban setting, education is more likely, though few children will complete what the Solar Nations regard as high school. In many cases, what little schooling they receive is merely to ensure that they can work productively in a factory environment. While the hardened and unforgiving attitude horrifies more than one space visitor, on Earth such an attitude is called merely being realistic.
Most children on Earth, except those of the wealthy and powerful, never experience the joys of childhood, at least not as the Solar nations consider them. Outside urban centers, education is virtually unknown, and even where it is available, the cost places it out of the reach of many. This cost is not just in books and uniforms, but families must also factor in the loss of another set of hands on the farm or in the factory. No matter a child's age, they have to take responsibility for themselves and pull their weight; life is too hard for families to carry anybody. Thus, despite Solar outrage, child labor is both common and accepted on Earth. Indeed, childhood itself has been cut short, with some nations accepting a person as an adult at ages as low as twelve. The average Earther does not resent this situation, however; on the contrary, they believe that given the Earth's continuing state of turmoil, children are too important a resource to give up.
Fear of the Known and UnknownEdit
Beyond the paranoia and suspicion that became part of the Earther psyche during the struggle for survival in the Fall, another, much darker, fear lurks. with any new area potentially being a plague zone, communities became incredibly fearful of anything that was new and different. New farmlands would only be opened up after much discussion and testing, strangers coming into tarvn were almost alweys umnrelcome, and any rediscovered techno1ogy was carefully assessed to see if its impact would disturb the environment and stir up some legacy of the Fall that was best forgotten.
Given the level of toxicky and contamination still found on Earth, such fears have not diminished and all Earth societies have long lists of taboos and custnms developed to protect themselves from accidental infection or poisorting. Anyone breaking these customs and taboos faces not just scorn but also a real threat of violence. Breaching a community's clean zone areas or stirring up the soil in terrain known to be toxic can result in swtft and merciless justice against locals and visitors alike. In the more isolated and backward communbes this fear goes to extremes, and strangers are somettmes killed on sight, simply because they might be carrying some new plague.
Travelling in a Polluted LandEdit
The most primitive forms of land transport are the most widespread on Earth. Horses and donkeys are the most popular low-tech transport, closely followed by the bicycles so ubiquitous in Earth cities. Naturally, none of these systems work particularly well over long distances, or when freight needs to be transported. In cases where marine transport systems are not available, railways are heavily used. Railways dominate land transport on Earth because of the many benefits they offer; they can carry huge quantities of cargo, can be heavily armed and armored and are easily sealed against environmental conditions. Finally, train engines can use coal or recycled cellulose fuel, reducing fuel costs.
Within urban centers, subways, monorails and trams vie with the bicycle as the most used form of transport. In the cities that can afford modern railways the bicycle loses out, because of its lack of environmental protection. One form of transport rare in Earth cities is private motorized transport. In the modern metropolises of the Maritime League or China high-tech electric vehicles are widespread, but in more backward nations, electric vehicles are too expensive both to buy and to build. Given the high population density of most urban areas on Earth, walking is also a viable way to get around for many citizens.
Sailing in the Open SeasEdit
Given the expense of high-tech equipment and total destruction of important infrastructure during the Fall, ships are the most important transport system on the Earth. From the USN's hovercraft on the Amazon and Congo to the horse-drawn wooden barges used by New America on the shallow remnants of the Mississippi, no nation on Earth could survive economically without using the rivers, lakes and oceans to facilitate trade and travel. Marine systems need little expensive infrastructure development compared to rail or road, are much easier to protect, and for any given vessel carry much more cargo than other forms of transport. The shortfalls, such as the violent storms that constantly sweep the Earth and vulnerability to hostile interdiction, have not been enough to stop watercraft from being the Earth's main transport system.
Apart from equipping vessels against pirate attack, which also gives them a measure of protection in wartime, modern vessels are specifically equipped to survive toxic fogs, keep out foreign bacteria and survive the vicious post-Fall storms. Yet there are also many older vessels, including a fair number of sailing ships, which also take to the water. The crews of such vessels take the risks this entails because of the necessity of marine trade to their communities, as well as the riches that a successful voyage can bring. Passenger services run on all types of ships, from the most modern to the most primitive. Only the rich and influential can fly, so all levels of Earth society can be found traveling by sea. As a consequence, passenger lines have become a source of national pride and nations compete to build the biggest, fastest and most luxurious liners afloat.
Memories of HomeEdit
In the wider Solar System, despite all the documentaries and news shows, the popular imagination still holds an image of the Earth as it was before the Fall. This is not surprising; most people in the Solar nations are descended from the refugees who fled the Fall and who took with them in their hearts and libraries images and movies of the Earth as it was, rather than as it would become. There is also, despite all the years, an emotional attachment to the mother planet evoked by these images; the perception of Earth as a lost Eden is widespread throughout the Solar nations. Thus, the reality of post-Fall Earth is often a shock to Solar visitors. The resulting strong emotions are often negatively directed at the Earthers, who are seen by many Solar nationals as being responsible for the destruction of the planet. Many nasty fights have started due to accusations over the Fall, and it remains a serious impediment to better relations between Earthen and Solar nationals.
The New ArksEdit
The word "arcology" is an amalgam of "architecture" and "ecology;" it defines a space that is designed as a perfect human environment in every aspect. At the most basic level, an arcology provides for the necessary social interaction of humanity by mitigating the negative consequences of modern human civilization, that being the dislocation of traditional society by modernity.
The Italian-born architect and visionary Paolo Soleri developed the idea of the arcology in the 1950s. Arcologies were to be the solution to the varied problems of crowding, urban decay, urban sprawl, pollution and the decreasing communal and personal living standards found in modern metropolises. The initial thrust of Soleri's idea was that the human environment, the city, had not kept pace with the other developments driving humanity's progress. He believed that the key to evolutionary success in any organism was miniaturization. In other words, as something evolved and became more complex, it also became smaller. In this sense, human habitation was an aberration because as Humankind's urban activities had become more complex, cities had grown larger and more unwieldy.
To shrink the city, Soleri believed that the urban environment had to be made as complex as existing human society. He described this complexity as the creation of a truly human environment, where architecture became so complex, compact, flexible and durable that it mimicked natural ecology. By creating a natural human ecology, a place where positive social and economic interaction was encouraged by the architecture of the city, Soleri believed that the living experience could be improved and communal life returned to its place of prime importance. As Soleri's ideas progressed, he also added many "green" developments to the idea of the arcology, and it became not just a way to solve the negative effects of the urban sprawl on humanity, but also to minimize the effects of urbanization on the natural environment as well.
Structure of an ArcologyEdit
Arcologies obey quite different standards compared to the traditional suburban city. The most important idea is that an arcology is one building, a vast single structure. This means each and every part of the city works together, a situation that creates maximum efficiency, whether in regard to energy, water, transport or entertainment facilities. Because an arcology is one building, the vertical is as important as the horizontal; arcologies spread as high above and deep below the surface as they do across it. By moving to a truly threedimensional city, population density is increased enormously, thus providing further efficiency. An average Soleri-designed arcology has a density of around 70,000 people per square kilometer, as compared to twentieth-century Manhattan's density of only 34,000 people per square kilometer.
With all these people in such a small space, it becomes economical to put huge effort into engineering works to provide for the population's needs in the cheapest, most renewable way. To achieve this outcome, banks of high-tech greenhouses surround all arcologies, providing not just food, but also air filtration, water recycling and solar energy. The greenhouses are combined with vast reservoirs to create a system of heat sinks and exchangers that allows the interior to be kept at a comfortable temperature without human intervention. The greenhouses cannot provide all the necessary food, but the space saved by the increased population density can be turned over to farming, and arcologies are designed with integrated external transport systems to allow for high volume transit of goods into and out of the city.
Within an arcology itself, there are no automobiles. Public transport systems are extensive, but more importantly still, arcologies are structured so that the vast majority of people are within walking distance of everything that they need. This requires that residential and industrial spaces be mixed together, something enabled by the vertical nature of the arcology. No effort is made to hide industrial areas; instead, they are regarded as an integral part of the life of the city and it is not unusual for residential units to look out into factory spaces. Apart from saving energy and time, this concentration of residential and industrial also allows for the development of a close community as people walk, work and live among their neighbors. To help this communal spirit, huge public entertainment spaces are integral to every arcology.
All of this integration and miniaturization adds enormously to the degree of complexity inherent in an arcology, making it difficult to design and build. To overcome this problem, Soleri foresaw the development of prefabricated arcology designs, with just a few minimal changes made depending on the each building site's particular environmental conditions. This does not, however, overcome the inherent difficulty for strangers finding their way around such complex structures; for those born within arcologies, however, three-dimensional navigation becomes second nature.
The Modern Earth ArcologyEdit
In a tribute to the fundamental soundness of Soleri's concept, few changes were made to the arcology during the twenty-first century, when it became the most common home design of the Earth's thirteen billion inhabitants. The biggest change was the addition of fusion power systems, which made arcologies almost completely self-sufficient, and more modern building materials. During the Fall, however, arcologies proved susceptible to rioting and attack, and much of the initial death toll stemmed from greenhouses not proving strong enough to resist the disasters that hit the planet. During reconstruction, these deficiencies were recognized and a huge effort was put into rectifying them.
Rings of defensive bunkers, armored panels, automated air defences, internal anti-rioting systems and a general strengthening of all essential systems have turned the twenty-third century Earth arcology into a city-fortress vulnerable to little short of nuclear weapons. Military-grade filtration and alarm systems protect against chem and bioweapons, while strict quarantine procedures defend against the more prosaic threats of the Earth's damaged environment. Barracks, training centers and specialist eco-restoration systems are the final addition to Soleri's vision, fitting the arcology neatly within the paranoid, militaristic and isolationist creed of twenty-third century Earth society. In the poorer and more backward areas, many arcologies are twenty-first century ruins that have been rehabilitated or second-rate structures built without the necessary engineering skills to work correctly. The poorer arcologies are not all hellholes, however; by their very nature, arcologies can be self-sufficient and thus provide a better standard of living than traditional habitation. Arcology engineers are therefore among some of the most sought after professionals on Earth, and it is only the arcology's environmentally harmonious functionality that has allowed the Earth's population to rise again without causing another Fall.
Living in an ArcologyEdit
Given their highly communal nature, arcologies reflect the culture of the societies that inhabit them. Thus the arcologies of France are opulent palaces for the nobility, while those of the Californian Green states are ascetic and strictly ordered. Yet there are a few attitudes and habits that are common to all. By their very nature, arcologies encourage an ordered lifestyle; stepping outside the norm will quickly be recognized by authorities and the offender re-educated, exiled or incarcerated. This is not oppression, but a recognition that the densely populated confines of an arcology must be tightly controlled to forestall anarchy and destruction. The close communal nature of the tightly integrated living spaces make people very aware of all their neighbors' business. There are in reality numerous villages, each existing in the same physical and economic structure while socially and communally living almost completely separate.
Tensions are a natural byproduct of such high-density living, and arcology life has evolved numerous mechanisms to reduce it. Sporting competition between living spaces is one popular method; another is sabbaticals and outside excursions on a regular basis. Arrogance and disdain for those who dwell outside arcologies, as well as fear of what such foreigners might bring into the arcologies' carefully controlled environment, are prevalent traits for many citizens. There is also a natural class system within arcologies, with the wealthier, more important citizens living on higher floors with more space and greater natural light. Arcology dwellers can become quite unaware of the outside world, focusing entirely on the internal society of their home, working all their life toward little goals such as a personal bathroom or an apartment with a window. How insular an arcology becomes depends very much on its physical location. Those situated in habitable surroundings, as in California and most of the non-aligned states, tend to remain outward looking, while those in areas with serious pollution problems, such as the Maritime League, become fixated on their internal life.
While the Fall wiped out a vast number of the Earth's species (both flora and fauna), the planet is still the only one in the Solar System that supports a notable variety of wild plants and animals. Earthers like to regale offworld tourists with stories of unwary Solar nationals being eaten, gored or poisoned by this or that native animal or plant, whether the organism is dangerous or not. To Earthers, wildlife is both just another risk in the daily struggle for survival and something to admire, emulate and protect. Those plants and animals that survived the Fall are the hardiest and wiliest that the Earth has produced and are often held up to young Earthers as good examples of how to survive in the face of a savage planet.
As a result of the Fall, many plants and animals now harbor diseases or have bonded in parasitic dependence with humans and human-related species of animals and plants, such as wheat and farm animals. Though they cause major problems, they cannot simply be rid of after all, they are also remnants of the Earth's once rich ecosystems; Earthers are highly protective of any remaining wildlife, since it represents a link to a past diversity that they hope to regain.
Bacteria and VirusesEdit
Beyond the natural microbiological flora and fauna, three other types of plague are now found on Earth, many of them the result of direct or indirect human intervention. The most dangerous ones are the lurking remnants of the Third World War, known colloquially as warganisms. Not quite so virulent as the warganisms but often harder to treat, the mutated descendants of bio-weapons and the natural diseases warped by radiation or chemicals during the Fall represent no less of a danger to the unwary person. They are flanked by the killers that Humanity has been familiar with for centuries which have, with the collapse of modern medical infrastructures, returned to haunt the Earth. Considering all this, it is unsurprising that every Orbital station and planet-based arcology works hard to ensure that they remain free from infection.
Natural plagues are more likely to be picked up in the poorer and more backward parts of the planet, since those who cannot afford to eat properly or get proper medical care often carry them. Mutant plagues mostly enter society through animal or plant hosts, though occasionally an unwittingly immune human can act as a plague carrier. The war plagues can devastate entire cities in a single outbreak, though thankfully they tend to only be found in isolated areas, old ruins or in unexploded ordnance.