March 3rd, 2005

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Global Warming and the Interspecies Cold War

(Yet another in my series of essays from an alternate universe where the H.P. Lovecraft Cthulhu Mythos stories were journalism, not fiction, but the world survived anyway, because they were just one more apocalyptic thing hanging over civilization but we coped with it.)

I've been wondering about something ever since the last monsoon season. You may remember that a couple of Polynesian island nations, mere coral atolls really, got nearly swept into the ocean. It doesn't take much to wreck a place like Tuvalu, for example. The highest spot on the island's barely a couple of feet above water. In fact, if the island hadn't previously been under water, it wouldn't even exist; like all atolls, it's basically a coral bed that's been exposed by the fact that the oceans have dropped since it formed.

A lot of people blame global warming for how badly the last monsoon season hit Polynesia and Micronesia, but that's not the part I'm wondering about. I mostly don't care about global warming. No, really, no lie, and I'll tell you why. First of all, as George Carlin said many years ago, I can't shake the feeling that on some level, climate scientists are bragging: "Hey, look, we're so powerful that we broke the sky." There are so many inputs into global climate I have a hard time taking even six billion human beings seriously as one of them. Another reason is that I know enough about computer modeling of non-linear systems (like climate) to be really dubious of any computer model, especially since none of them can successfully predict the past, let alone the future. (That is to say, if you put historical data in and run the models, they don't predict current conditions accurately. So why trust them?) But the real reason that I don't care about global warming is that I'm hoping it's true. They're talking about a 4°F to 9°F rise in average global temperature. Never mind that I like it warm, what's interesting about that number is that the Earth has been that warm before. The result wasn't Waterworld. On the contrary, not only was there plenty of dry land, but there was also the maximum period of biodiversity in the fossil history, the Cretaceous Period.

But if sea level rises at all, it's going to really suck to be a south Pacific islander. Those atolls were all under water the last time the temperatures were that high, there's no reason to think that they won't be under water again. Sure, those people could move, but they don't want to move. If they'd wanted to move, they would have moved during World War II. So what are they going to do, learn to breathe water?

Well ... that's what I wonder about. Yeah, they just might do that. OK, it wouldn't work for the current generation, but for the next ... well, there is precedent. Heck, that's how the Interspecies Cold War began. For those of you who didn't get to the 20th century in your history classes and who skipped the 75th anniversary specials on The History Channel three years ago, let me recap. In 1927, an American with Deep One ancestry alerted the US military to the existence of a human/alien hybrid colony in the town of Innsmouth, Massachusetts. Federal officials rounded up the whole town, and threw most of the locals into internment camps. The US Navy found that the Deep Ones had built a city, a trading port, on the edge of the continental shelf just offshore of Innsmouth, so they used depth charges in an unsuccessful attempt to bomb it out of existence. Eventually, the Deep Ones telepathically informed the US government through their land-bound family members that they knew where there was an undersea shoggoth pit, and they threatened to wake the shoggoths. As the Pabodie Expedition found out when they found the alien city in Antarctica, the last time the shoggoths were awake and rampaging, they destroyed all land-based intelligent life (oddly enough, during that same Cretaceous Period); the Deep Ones survived because, well, the whole cubic volume of the ocean's a lot harder to search than the 2-D and smaller surface of the land. If we screw with them, they're willing to risk that again.

Since then, there's been an almost 80 year cold war. We don't attack them for fear of species-wide extermination. They've always been willing to deal with us, but only on their terms. Once the government found and translated a "treaty stone," the thing you throw into the water to establish contact and trade with the Deep Ones, it turned out that what they'd done in Innsmouth was all in the contract. The terms of a standard treaty between humans and Deep Ones says that the Deep Ones will provide any bounty that the ocean has to offer, but from that date on no fully human children will be born in that town or on that island; all women will have procreative sex only with Deep Ones. In the first generation, the gene breeds absolutely true; the offspring of a human woman and a Deep One man is always born human, but some time between age 20 and 30 metamorphosizes into a true Deep One: amphibious, batrachian in appearance, telepathic with all other Deep Ones, and nearly immortal.

There are a number of people running around America who're less than half Deep One, who have maybe one distant ancestor who hadn't made the change yet, and at that level it doesn't always breed true. (Although the fact that we can crossbreed at all makes me think that when the Elder Race uplifted our species, they may have used Deep One DNA. As I've said before, compared to other alien life that we know of, the Deep Ones not only lived here before we did, they're so similar to us that they're basically human.) Still, when you see someone with proturbant eyes and a thick neck with extra folds of fat, there's a frog-man somewhere in their family tree. Some of them make the change late; some never change. And since the Deep Ones are flatly not willing to negotiate any of the terms of that contract with full humans, that left first the US, then after WWII the rest of the world, to flatly prohibit the use of treaty stones.

But here's the thing: where do you think Obadiah Marsh, the Yankee trader who brought the treaty stone to Innsmouth, learned how to make one? In the South Pacific. There was an island there exporting gold and plentiful fish, and that's how they were doing it ... before neighboring islanders waged war on them and killed them all. Then came WWII, and the US Navy put troops on virtually every rock in the Pacific. (My dad was one of them, for what it's worth, by the way.) And when it comes to keeping the species separate, the Navy never really left all the way. The US, French, and Dutch naval fleets make periodic "courtesy calls" at every island nation, looking for unusual prosperity, children with "the Innsmouth look," or any other sign of human/Deep One intercourse. So far, nobody has been willing to have their children be born alien to make a living. Instead, places like Tuvalu and Nauru make their living in every form of internet and long distance telephone scam.

So here's the part I've been wondering about. Suppose that the Kyoto Treaty, which just went into effect everywhere outside the US, doesn't do the job; assume that sea levels rise a couple of feet and flood those atolls. Given those nations' propensity towards ignoring the legal standards of other nations, how long will it be before someone decides that maybe their children would be better off with gill slits?

P.S. I edited back in the picture link to the Lovecraft Tarot because I like the artwork in general in that deck so much, even though in my opinion this image looks nothing like a Deep One.
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