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Humanity’s Leap - by Frank Spencer

The Journey There we were, just the three of us, strapped into a tin can that was about to leap light-years across the universe in just a matter of seconds. Below us, you could see the curvature of Mars, and through the left window you could make out Phobos in the distance. I remember thinking two things at that moment: how large swaths of Earth now resembled the barren Mars terrain, and that the next sight we would see - if the leap was a success - would be unlike anything we had ever experienced before. Yes, all data indicated that TOI 700 d - an Earth-sized world in the habitable zone of a hospitable star, just a short 100 light-years from here - might exhibit a few similarities to Earth before it was ravaged by the man-made homogenocene extinction and the resulting climate collapse. However, could any of those calculations or extrapolations really prepare us for how alien this new world might be? As crew commander for this historic journey, I had the privilege of uttering our last words before our leap through the Einstein-Rosen Bridge. “Mars Transition Station, this is Commander Nova Pasterski of QuantumCraft 1. We’ve completed our final systems check and are ready to make the leap.” “Copy Commander, one minute until final countdown sequence.” My crewmates, Chief Engineer Jean Baudrillard Pesquet and Chief Scientist Shawna Pandya were both well aware of my love for the old Guardians of the Galaxy movies, so they knew I would be blasting one of my favourite songs prior to the jump, just like my hero Star-Lord would do in the films. “What you know about rollin' down in the deep? When your brain goes numb, you can call that mental freeze.” “Masked Wolf’s Astronaut in the Ocean? Isn’t that a bit on the nose?” said Shawna. “Maybe it is,” I retorted with a snarky smile, “but it’s one of my favorite old-school songs. And, besides, I think it pretty much describes exactly what the three of us are feeling right about now.” The voice of CAPCOM at Mars Transition Station broke through our conversation. “15 seconds to leap, good luck QuantumCraft 1.” I nervously tightened my harness as I watched my crew members do the same. “5… 4… 3… 2… 1…” 76 A sudden jolt, a flash of blinding light, a high-pitched whine, my body was forced back into the seat, and suddenly… utter stillness and silence. The entire experience couldn’t have lasted more than a few seconds. I loosened my harness to get a better view out of the front portal, and a wave of shock flooded my entire being. I was more confused than I had expected to be. The planet below us didn’t look anything like the speculative renderings of TOI 700 d that we studied in our briefings. “Are you guys seeing this?” I practically shouted through the headset. I’ll never forget the look on Jean’s face as he whispered in stunned disbelief. “That’s… that’s not TOI 700 d, that’s… EARTH!” The Transformation It’s now been two years since that fateful journey, an event that has completely changed the way many of us on Earth - this Earth - are thinking, learning, acting and creating. The mission was supposed to be all about us finding a new home, a strange but inviting planet where humanity would explore, inhabit, and thrive as we began multiplying our species across the universe. Instead, something found us. Most experts believe that what we experienced was akin to the theory of superposition in quantum mechanics, the idea that an object can exist in two places simultaneously. Scientists are still trying to determine exactly what happened in the leap, but the planet we visited was definitely Earth, albeit a very different Earth than the one I’m on right now. During the mission, we set our rover down at the edge of the rainforest in what, on our version of Earth, is known as Brazil. The moment we stepped out of the craft, we all knew that something was very different, not just about this version of Earth - that was obvious - but about… us. We could hear, or should I say understand, that EVERYTHING was talking, communicating, interacting and cooperating with one another. It was instantly obvious that all life on the planet was intimately interconnected, that each part made up a larger living entity, a sentient world. It wasn’t until we got back to Mars Transition Station and began extensive medical testing that they realized the leap to this parallel Earth had altered our DNA in order to instantaneously incorporate us into the ecosystem. In other words, this version of Earth genetically modified us through the planet’s atmosphere, much like a bio-distributed vaccination fighting against any disconnected life form. We weren’t just on a new Earth, we were an integral part of its very fabric. Now, the planet and the crew had become one. The Gift The connection we felt with all living things while we were on this new Earth, and the resulting surge of creativity, cooperation and consciousness was intoxicating. Once we returned to our Earth, it was a very different story. We’ve retained the genetic alteration that was gifted to us by this living planet, and it has taken some time to adjust to a world that is so detached. Here, we can still feel the connection, but we can also intensely feel 77 Part 4: Sustainability & Technology 78 79 Part 4: Sustainability & Technology the separation - of minds, voices, purpose, and life. It’s as if, being in this place of widespread dissociation, that we have both a superpower and a disease. These days, Jean has immersed himself in ecological regenerative design, and Shawna is teaching deep meditative practices to school children. As for me, I knew what my mission had to be. It wasn’t possible to pass on my genetic modification - at least not yet - but I could teach others how to communicate with the life that was all around them. At first, I created a tech start-up to work on a system for cataloging all of the different animal languages that soon became the popular hyper-digital community known as Animal Talk. I used a network of drones for recording animals in their natural habitats, and then fed the countless hours of video into a translation software to build a basic working knowledge of the multitudes of different languages and tribal dialects. Of course, I could understand these wonderful life forms in some deep and mysterious way, but the language courses we were building would help others to communicate with the world around them, even if they lacked the same level of connection that I was experiencing. I spent most of my time doing fieldwork with the core team from Animal Talk in places such as Tanzania, Thailand and the outback of Australia. At that point, we were well beyond cataloging languages; we were actually having in-depth conversations with the animals, and learning a great deal about how they viewed life, history and even humanity. A year later we published the best-seller If I Could Talk Like The Animals, and this text has already been used to redefine educational models, business practices, city development, biomimetic design, food production, you name it. As it turns out, animals aren’t just talking to one another, telling each other where to find food or how to build community. More importantly, they are talking directly to planet Earth. Mind you, they aren’t having a conversation with the planet in the way that we have traditionally understood language or communication, but it’s actually the most important conversation taking place in the entire world. Their languages all share subtle similarities to the frequencies that scientists had been observing throughout nature such as waves emanating from stars or water molecules changing shape in accordance to different sounds. After many hours of research, we were finally able to catalogue the basic tones that different species were using to communicate with the “voices” coming from the trees, the oceans and the planet itself. All of this work was done so that I could help others understand the depth of connection we have to all living things, but the ultimate message didn’t surprise me. Just as I had first experienced during our monumental leap to another world, or maybe to another time, I could hear them telling each other how to sync up, how to live in harmony. The animals are telling the planet what they need for maximum sustainability, resilience and growth, and the Earth is telling the myriad species the same thing. And this is where humanity had its biggest revelation. Not only can we talk to the animals, but we can learn how to speak the language of mother Earth as well. Once we have everyone speaking that language, we’re going to shift from living ON Earth to living in harmony WITH the Earth. And when this happens, we will hold the key to eradicating poverty, climate change, resource depletion, and many of our big world problems. It’s going to change the way we govern. It’s going to change the way we approach physical and mental health. It’s going to change the way we learn, the way we consume, and the values we hold. Soon, the greatest personal and collective shortcoming will be defined as the inability to speak, to hear, and to understand the diverse but unified language of Earth. By the way, we did try to send another team of astronauts back to the parallel Earth that we discovered. Instead, they arrived at TOI 700 d. We’ve found life on that strange new world. Maybe now, we won’t take it for granted.

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