The teleconference was small, made in meeting rooms a world apart. There were two hundred of them, as people had always supposed, the men who ran the world. It was no longer true that all were white men, and not even strictly true that all were men, though one of the two cases had once been a man. No one talked about that, and it was seen as a sign of progress. Both sides had chosen one to speak for them. On one side one who had drawn the long straw, the other one who had drawn the shortest.
“Our civilization is a dead-end road,” One said in a voice of rolling vowels and perfect elocution. A gift of breeding rather than lessons, as so much is.
“It might be,” the Other said, younger. He was perhaps younger, and his eyes were hardened with desperation. “It doesn’t have to be.”
“We have the figures,” the One said, with a mirthless smile. “The facts. We consume more resources than the world produces.”
“We have done so since records began,” the Other said, softer.
“And it destroyed so many. Easter Island. Rome. So much fallen, so much lost to time. We cannot think our civilization will be any different though we leave less behind than all others did.”
“The solar project –.”
“Ah, yes.” The One cut him off, causing a murmur from both sides. “Science will save us, because it has always done so. Because each time we were about to fall, someone built a bridge. That cannot go on forever. Every sign says this is a dead-end road but no one believes. Such is the power of science, such the strength of the promise. Do you not wonder at that?” the One continued, softer still. “If we did not have this hope, we would be forced to make due with less. We would pull back. We would entrench and put reins on the drives of growth.”
“We will be undone by hope?” the Other said, but his laugh cut off as the One merely nodded.