John Craven: “The God Gig”

Every now and again the Gods have a conference to review developments and kick up their heels in ungodly frivolity. A key part of the celestial fun is to review a component of the universe and, in 2021, the focus is on planet Earth.

The performance criteria are, basically, related to matters that affect the longevity of the planet and, to simplify the review, this is defined as a place where the apex predator maintains a viable breeding population. On Earth, Homo sapiens is the focus of the study. The key performance indicators include:

  • Harmony within the human species
  • Sharing of wealth
  • Food adequacy and distribution
  • Health
  • Environmental stewardship

The chair of the enquiry opened proceedings by reminding the Gods that planet Earth had been set up as an experiment to see if it was possible to establish a mix of plants, animals, insects and micro- organisms and have it evolve into a stable, self-sustaining biological community. They had started modestly with a few micro-organisms and then steadily added other bits to the mix. There had been some spectacular periods such as the time when the giant reptiles and dinosaurs ruled the earth. It had not always worked, and the Gods were reminded that they had already had to implement five mass extinction events to get the ecosystem back on track. They were also reminded that at the 100,000 BC conference they had decided that the whole thing was a bit of a mess and that the answer might be development of a species with a large brain capable of advanced analysis. They postulated that such a being would be able to consider complex questions of survival and evolve strategies to optimise a harmonious, self-perpetuating rhythm of life on Earth. They popped a few hominids down in Africa and, in due course, they wandered all over the planet. The swarming masses seemed to be going OK, but the onset of intergroup rivalry was sufficiently worrying that at the 10,000 BC conference they had divvied the population up into religious groups and given each God a portfolio more or less aligned to geographic regions. This really had not worked well as the different religions kept dividing into smaller groups and using their religious alignment as an excuse to fight each other. The review systematically discussed their terms of reference and concluded:

  • The harmony of different bits of the human race was not going well and, despite some serious learning modules during world-wide wars and pandemics, they had not made much progress. Indeed, the big brain that had been given to the humanoids had been used to develop horrendous weapons that could wipe out whole countries. The rapporteur was at pains to point out that the vast majority of the human race lived at peace with their fellow citizens and the problem was that a nasty class of people had got into leadership positions and were out of control. There was, however, no way that the review panel could mark Harmony as anything better than an F.
  • Sharing wealth had never had much of a run and in every society, there were people scheming to get more than their fair share. Marked F.
  • Food production has been an enormous success as the humans had innovated new ways to grow food and, despite some poor performance in distribution and sharing, the report was a B.
  • Health was also an area where extraordinary innovation had achieved huge improvements in treating and preventing diseases. The weakness noted in the report was that the advances in health care had not been shared very well across the nations of the Earth. Marked C.
  • Looking after the environment had been reasonably successful until the last 100 years when the human race had started to clear the land to grow more food with little regard for the sustainability of their bit of the ecosystem. They had also discovered the joys of using fossil fuels for heating, power and transport. This had transformed life on earth but, unfortunately, generated the production of gasses that became trapped in the upper atmosphere and were steadily causing temperatures to rise. The smarter humans knew all about this and devised means to halt the heating. However, the fossil fuel barons had undue influence on governments and, globally, it is touch and go whether the human population takes action or elects to self-destruct. The mark for environmental stewardship was F minus.

After a fun-filled night the gods reconvened. There was no doubt that introducing a human species into the planet earth experiment was not going well but there was still time to prevent immolation if smarter people managed to get control. If all else fails and the human race is unable to save itself then the gods concluded that they would need to have a sixth mass extinction and start again. They were disappointed but agreed to defer a decision until their next meeting in 2050.

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