The lessons were hard to learn, but hard had been the collapse.
Despite that the horrors were largely self-inflicted, and that in the final struggle Homo had laid waste to the planet and its biota, the progenitors of the world to come saw in their kind a most promising species—a species that could make life, theirs and that of all other species about them, better.
And there was so much opportunity to do better that success was not unthinkable.
They began by subjecting all concepts, all the products of the concept forming mind, all beliefs, all assumptions, all faith, and all presumed knowledge to the flames of an all consuming doubt.
That which did not survive did not merit the embrace, and that which did survive might be true, but was not The Truth.
What survived were those claims meriting consideration of the possibility that they might be true—those claims that might accord with what actually is, independent of what is believed to be.
The passion for what-is concentrated the mind wonderfully. No pretense to certitude was allowed. Doubt was embraced. All claims were assessed as probable—as possible truths of varying degrees of uncertainty, ever subject to revision and devoid of certitude.
Those craving certitude became mathematicians with a taste for the pure.
Homo narrator remained the storytelling animal, but was now committed to telling the most likely story and living by that story.
The most likely part of the story, that which came closest to certainty, was that exponential growth in a finite system was untenable, and the belief that it was was conceptual illness.
Limits to growth were identified. By not exceeding them overshoot was avoided, carrying capacity preserved, and life sustained.
Amid the sprawling wasteland, islands of functionality arose. Constraint was embraced, land was stewarded, communities of tribal size formed.
Of each community's domain no more than 20% was used—by people, their plants, their animals. Of the remaining, much effort was made to restore thriving diversity, so that in Nature restorancy the restoration of the world could be forthcoming.
Many came to question whether one species and their domestic mutualists could by right lay claim to 20% of a planet, but clear it was that 80% (or more) of the planet must never again be exploited, and this became known as the Prime Directive.
Villages were scattered about the land, rarely more than ten score humans in size. Habitations were clustered within the agricultural zone. Farmland gave way to a biomass reserve that blended into Nature's reserve, ending at the enclosure fence. Good fences make good neighbors.
Humankind's islands of 20% were surrounded by Nature's vastness.
Roads interconnected villages, as did fiber optics, as technology or real value was preserved. All who survived were interconnected, and all knowledge was accessible. The Gog did know what was known and AI was freely shared.
Some cities did survive clustered about high-energy sources. Villages had wind, biomass, and solar, but the cities were centers of science and technology. Surplus from the villages came in, and high tech flowed out to serve the villages.
Intelligently directed small machines, powered by Sol, planted, cultivated, and harvested the fields. The heavy toil did they do slowly. The people of the village had leisure to make art and love, to talk the talk, to learn and teach, and care for their domain. They did sing and dance to joyous trance.
Villagers in their youth to the cities went, to study and to work. But for a family it takes a village, and to one of their choice did they return, their children to raise close to Nature, close to the world's wildness.
A global Federation of Watersheds arose to govern best by governing least.
Mobile warriors served the global State, but only to prevent the slightly larger from subsuming a weaker neighbor. Otherwise, apart from monitoring and enforcing the Prime Directive, no governance from on high was needed.
Federation scientists were tasked to assess the carrying capacity of the planet's 20% used to support the villages and cities. Sustainable productivity had to be balanced against per capita consumption multiplied by total population.
Low per capita consumption did allow for more humans.
The old way valued 'MORE!', the new way valued 'enough'. To have enough was the greatest good for the greatest number. To not exceed the greatest number was the greatest challenge.
The solution lay in mutual agreement that each new citizen of the world must with a birth certificate come.
The number of certificates was limited, but transferable. One parent one child, two parents two children. Upon a child's untimely death, to the parents did the certificate return.
The non-reproductive could transfer their certificate or sell it to the Federation that could give it to another, or not.
If too few children were being born, the Federation gave awards to willing parents, and if too many children were in demand, limited certificates came to be too few to meet the longage of demand.
The Federation alone could issue new certificates to increase population, and it could purchase certificates and retire them to adjust the planet's human population as needed.
By living within limits—humans, their plants, and their animals did prosper as did the 80% unused. And the land did breathe a sigh of relief.
Depend upon it, Sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.
As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain, as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.