Observe the Razorbeak as it tends so carefully to the fungal blooms; just the right bit from the yellow, then a swatch from the pink. Follow the Glow Mites as they gather and organize the fallen spores. What higher order guides their work? Mark my words: someone or something is managing the ecology of this planet.
— Lady Deirdre Skye, “Planet Dreams”
Living on a planet that is verging on becoming conscious is, in a word, weird. Not only do you have to contend with everything that goes with being on a brand new planet that works in mysterious ways – these very same ways are bound to become even more mysterious as the sentience of Planet grows. Ecological systems are complex even at the simplest of times, and adding will and intent to the mix does nothing to reduce said complexity. Indeed, the increased complexity is more than likely a manifestation of the increased sentience, the figurative and/or literal neural pathways growing into shape. In short, it is time to let go of the ecological intuitions of Earth.
Humans, being both emotional and pattern seeking animals, tend to imbue inanimate objects with feelings and sentiments. This is due to our highly developed sense of empathy and social sensitivity – millions of years of social interaction have honed these senses into finely tuned tools. When confronting a new object, our first instinct is to seek out its emotional implications. Both to understand the reaction in ourselves, and the reaction in our peers; the latter arguably more important to our everyday dealings than the former.
Extending this sense of empathy to an ecosystem is not an easy thing to do. As we have seen over the course of this chapter, these research projects do not represent easy accomplishments that happened as side-effects of doing something else. Each and every one of them took conscious efforts to achieve, and so it stands to reason that this project, too, is an important step for the factions to have undertaken during the course of settling in. For the Gaians and the Cultists (and, indeed, the Caretakers), the process is more intuitive than for other factions. For the Morgans, in particular, this whole empathy business is a sideways thing to pursue. However, somehow, at some point, they too managed to get a feel for Planet.
Knowing others to know yourself is a tale as old as time. On Chiron, it is not just a recognition of the inescapable situatedness of human beings in a social context not entirely of their own choosing; it is a recognition that the shape of the future might very well come down to how well humanity comes to grip emotionally with the fact that Planet is alive, feeling, and kicking out mindworms towards those insensitive to these feelings. Centauri empathy is not just a scientific advance in ecological sensitivity; it is a necessary step in humanity growing up.