"...the editors therefor hope that these resources will adequately serve the newest Observers while they are still becoming familiar with the world of our origin. We must all do our best to think like Earthlings and to assist active Observers towards that goal we have assembled here the accumulated wisdom of our most experienced agents on Earth..." -from the preface to State of the Planet
The State of the PlanetEdit
Of the four extant human subspecies on Earth, the Neanderthals are the most problematical for the Observer Corps. During the rapid climate shifts of about 100,000 years ago, the Neanderthal lineage was judged to be the most promising human subspecies. That was when the Heidelbergensis subspecies became extinct and the Heidelbergensis descendants at Observer Base became Overseers. Heidelbergensis extinction was driven by competition with two daughter subspecies: the northern Neanderthals and the southern humans who initially remained on the Origin Continent. Facing more environmental variation, the northern descendants of Heidelbergensis more quickly showed many promising brain changes and cultural innovations.
Neanderthal Status and Impending ExtinctionEdit
Having been judged the "most likely to succeed", Neanderthals were established as the dominant Observers, but members of the other human subspecies co-existent on Earth with the Neanderthals have also sometimes been brought to the Moon and many have served in the Observer Corps. However, it is now expected that the Neanderthals will soon become extinct on Earth. Preparations are well underway for shifting Neanderthal descendants on the Moon into the Overseer role.
For any new Observer to begin to think rationally about humans as they exist in the wild there must be a period of unlearning. You must stop thinking about Earthlings in the way that you think about yourself an your fellow Observers. All humans on the Moon have been taken through an extensive process of domestication. The Overseers domesticated us; we Observers are a type of domesticated human. Remember: the humans of Earth are still wild beasts. Yes, humans on Earth have a vernier of culture, but it is a thin disguise on top of their true nature. That realization must become the reflexive perspective of all working Observers.
One of the major research topics for the Observer Corps during recent times has been the dramatic decline in the Neanderthal population of Earth. What can account for that decline? The decline is highly correlated with unique cultural innovations of the Neanderthals, particularly their relationship with trees and their uses of fire. Neanderthals have made extensive use of fire for many purposes. Of special interest is their use of signal fires for cooperative coordination of the hunting activities of widely dispersed groups. Along with signal fires, their "sod and log" shelters, typically on the south side of forested hills, their meat drying racks and their ceremonial death pyres constitute a core of cultural innovations that correlate with a low-population, low-ecological impact culture that is distinct from those of other contemporaneous human subtypes. Neanderthals tend to clump and centralize near important food sources. In contrast, most of their former range is now occupied by humans with one of the less sedentary and more demographically aggressive "boom and bust" or "spread and splinter" cultures.
The new Observer often senses a paradox. The Neanderthals are described as having a more sedentary life style, but over time, it is the Neanderthals who first migrate away from territories where human population pressure begins to put strain on resources. The Neanderthals typically lock into a single pattern of resource utilization and move from site to site within their territory before depleting the key resources. In contrast, a different set of cultural tendencies evolved among humans on the Origin Continent. The southerly branch of humanity is reluctant to leave an established camp site and will relentless exploit a broader range of resources before moving on, usually moving only after having completed a "boom and bust" cycle. Also, the southern cultural style is characterized by a tendency to "spread and splinter". Often only part of a group will migrate following local depletion of resources, leaving behind a remnant sub-tribe that is willing to continue struggling for existence in the current home territory.
The apparent paradox is resolved in this way: over thousands of years, Neanderthals move locally, always returning in cycles to their previous camp sites. Their effective territorial range is large and they seldom over-exploit the available resources. In contrast, the southern human cultural pattern results in both more rapid spread from previous ranges and more ruthless exploitation of resources which in turn drives cultural innovation and that allows even more resource exploitation and sedentary behavior among a subset of the population, even while others have long since migrated on to a new range. However, with time, the extensive resource exploitation causes ecological collapse, and the southern humans must ultimately move on.
These cultural differences resulted in huge parts of the Northern Continent, formerly the territory of the Neanderthals, having now been claimed by the southern human subspecies. There can be little doubt that the few remaining Neanderthals on Earth will soon become extinct. We must conclude that the Neanderthals are a technologically advanced branch of humanity that has slowly been pushed aside by their fellow southerly humans who integrate with less harmony into the web of life. Left to themselves, the Neanderthals might have become ecologically friendly stewards of the Earth, but they could not compete successfully against a more rapacious branch of the human tree.
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