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jin-dui.swartzer.com • View topic - Terraforming questions!

Terraforming questions!

Start-up issues and world-building for this OC/Firefly 'Verse creative sandbox project

Terraforming questions!

Postby Whitney » Wed Oct 01, 2014 12:50 pm

Hey folks!

Brouwer and I have been debating this in email, and I thought it was time to throw the question open to wider input. My question for you all is this: when planets are terraformed, would higher types of wildlife (deer, bears, wolves for forested cold zones; lions, gazelle, giraffe for veldt-type zones, etc) included in the terraforming process?

Brouwer's got the excellent point that you don't get naturally healthy ecosystems unless you include the entire diversity of the desired biome, so therefore the Alliance would make the full financial investment and go all in.

My opinion has been that the Alliance department doing the terraforming is appearing to just churn the worlds out on the cheap -- hence the sloppy way settlers are allowed to settle out on the Rim. Quantity, not quality, seems to be the rule of the day, and I don't believe that the Alliance would make the necessary financial investment to build a full, natural ecosystem. I'm betting they just slap down as little they can to keep the necessary biochemicals in the system, and otherwise stack the deck only with the resources which can be easily harvested (i.e. -- why planet a forest, when you can have miles of trash pine?) If the Alliance did make the investment to fully create a healthy natural ecosystem on each planet, how come there aren't stricter controls on settlement populations, in order to protect that original financial investment?

(Which... granted, doesn't that lead to standardized Alliance environmental laws, and prosecution of those regulations, as being one of the reasons folks on the Rim wanted to fight the war in the first place? Mmmmm....)
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Re: Terraforming questions!

Postby Ron » Sat Oct 04, 2014 4:02 am

My take on the terraforming process is based on what Mal said in the series pilot, about how a lot of those worlds are pretty marginal, and colonies don't always survive. That and my head-canon explanation for so many worlds looking like southern California is that the average terraformed world doesn't have enough water to be very fertile.

So, my assumption is that the average colony is planted before their world's ecosystem is fully developed. Improvement of the biosphere can take place after the initial settlement; this will already have been done on some worlds, and be in progress on many more. The war must have messed up a lot of ecosystem projects, though. When a world was more fully developed before colonization (probably because it was naturally more fertile to begin with) then I think the settlement would be a much more organized and controlled operation, complete with the environmental regulations Whitney mentioned.

Another thing to think about is that a biosphere is so complex that it's basically impossible to simulate accurately. No matter how much advance planning the terraformers did, they couldn't know how well things would work until they tried them on multiple worlds. And of course every world will have a slightly (or extremely) different set of resources to work with. Terraforming must be as much an art as a science, at least in some ways. I bet there are some weird variations out there... planet of the cane toads, maybe?
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Re: Terraforming questions!

Postby Whitney » Sun Oct 05, 2014 9:37 am

I also bounced this question off the guys 'n gals over at the Firefly Props board, since they've got some heavy-hitters in the brainpan department. Here's some crunchy feedback:

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Re: Terraforming questions!

Postby Brouwer » Tue Oct 07, 2014 7:04 pm

Crunchy stuff indeed, as you say Whit!

All of this is incredibly thorough and doubly helpful!
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Re: Terraforming questions!

Postby Brouwer » Mon Oct 13, 2014 8:27 am

I just realized (thanks to the vultures eating roadkill outside my window, how cheery) that in the pilot episode when Dawson was tossed off the ship, Jayne mentioned buzzards being the only creatures to find his body. I doubt it was a figure of speech, as slang has developed extensively in this 'verse since humans left earth, and Jayne of all people doesn't seem the type to toss out an 'ancient saying'. That means that buzzards are still around and are at least on Whitefall, if nowhere else (though judging by the casual nature of Jayne's remark, I'd think they were common on at least a few other planets and moons.

Now despite their use as major garbage disposals, if I was terraforming a planet and/or preserving animal species from a dying planet, buzzards would not be high on my list unless I was planning to establish at least a basic ecosystem. Thoughts?
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Re: Terraforming questions!

Postby Whitney » Mon Oct 13, 2014 1:52 pm

From a rancher's POV, buzzards would be a species I'd want from the get-go. They help clean up carcasses of dead livestock (so I don't have too), plus they're a fabulous early-warning system for when you've had an animal go down and is in need of medical care. (Following buzzards was a summer job of mine at the Terrebonne ranch...) Whereas - as a rancher, I would not want coyotes or wolves or even crows -- crows will stab the eyes out of newborn calves, and coyotes and wolves will kill your stock.

(Plus -- some cultures use vultures for their burial rights...)
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