If you’re mad about Marvel comic book heroes like me, then you’ve probably seen the blockbuster Avengers: Infinity War, which was released earlier this year. For those who haven’t seen the film, an intergalactic super-villain named Thanos tries to gain the six Infinity Gems in order to power his Infinity Gauntlet so that he can wipe out half of the universe to restore balance. This may sound very radical but Thanos had a very personal reason for why he took it upon himself to commit such interstellar genocide, he saw his home world of Titan collapse into famine and war due to overpopulation and a lack of resources. Now it’s very unlikely that something along those lines will happen here on Earth for a while, I believe that Thanos had the right idea – he just went a little too extreme with it. The rest of this article is of course hypothetical and borrows a lot of elements from both fiction as well as science. The film grossed over $2 billion at the box office which is an impressive feat and I believe there are a number of ethical and moral lessons to be learnt that we can apply to conservation.
There are a number of gems (six in total) that power the gauntlet but I feel that the most important is the Soul Gem. This has the power to bring back life, as well as to take it. In terms of conservation, imagine the wonders this could play in terms of boosting the population size of endangered species. Move over captive breeding, Infinity Gauntlet coming through! With the restored animals/populations, you could also reintroduce genetic diversity that was originally lost when the population crashed (assuming that is the case). Most spectacularly, you could bring back species from extinction and place them back in the environments that they once called home (once they have been restored). Imagine a world where the passenger pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius) or the Tasmanian tiger (Thylacinus cynocephalus) never went extinct, I’m sure my conscious would be cleared significantly. In general, species extinctions would be a thing of the past which may mean the formation of inter-government bodies to decide which species to resurrect and which species would remain extinct (we’ve all seen Jurassic Park).
The Time Gem could be used to roll back the deforestation of certain areas such as the Amazon or Borneo, twinned with the Soul Gem you could then repopulate these areas with native species meaning that they would return to state where they were never disturbed in the first place. This could also be applied to aquatic environments such as the oceans, helping to remove plastics and other waste which plague our seas. The Time Gem could also be used to progress human technology forward to a time where we are less dependent on fossil fuels meaning that our impact on the environment would be reduced significantly. Another use of the gem would be to reverse the impact of greenhouse gases to a much safer level in the hope of restoring normal global climatic events. Personally as a side note, I’d go back and kick William Shakespeare square in the nuts – but this brings up the point of changing the present by altering the past (think of Back to the Future). Conservationists who unfortunately passed before their time could be transported to the future (or from the dead using the Soul Gem) to continue their work in a very different future.
Now this is a bit radical but the Mind Gem could be used to alter everyone’s thoughts and perceptions. Those of us familiar with the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) known that Vision is a model citizen so you could use the gem to plant information in people’s head about the damage they are causing and make them more conscious of the natural world. This may be manipulating free will a little bit but it would mean that you could instantly fill everyone’s head with the collective knowledge of all scientists with a focus on conservation and climate science. This would not only help to solve many of the issues we are going to face in the future as a species, but also help advance science by giving everybody the same foundation to work from. Imagine how harmonious a world would be if all 7.5 billion of us could all converse on the need to conserve mangrove forests or why we should save the vaquita (Phocoena sinus). Think of the progress that would be made!
That’s three of the six gems used, what about another one? What about the Reality Gem? This could be used to alter the fabric of reality as we know it, providing everyone with a comfortable standard of living whilst also maintaining their balance with the natural world. The gem could also be used to pull technologies and solutions to our problems from parallel Earth’s as not everything can be solved by moving forward in time (or in reverse). Natural laws can be bent to ensure harmony but also to provide mankind with the materials it needs to progress without causing damage to habitats. Think of a world where there is no need to destroy vast amounts of rainforest or pristine habitat in order to mine minute levels of precious metals – with an abundance of them perhaps new technologies will become available to all due to their new lower price.
The Space Gem can be used to manipulate Space, allowing us to visit distant worlds and meteorites to study them learning more about our origins and more about potential other life in the universe. When the time comes to become an interstellar species, the Space Gem will also help achieve this by opening worm holes for which we can travel. This is of course a long way off and isn’t linked to conservation directly but is linked to our growing knowledge of next-generation technologies which may one day aid conservation efforts. Previous such examples include GPS and drones. The possibilities here are endless but one of the most important would be the use of the gem to create travel portals between all of the major cities, making air travel obsolete – therefore cutting more green-house emissions if we hadn’t already found an alternative.
Finally the most powerful gem of all, the Power Gem, this controls all of the power in the universe and itself could be a huge source of energy to help feed our need for electricity. I’d hope that in the future (especially one where we can change it to better the natural world and mankind) that we would have moved away from fossil fuels, but in case we haven’t then perhaps the Power Gem can be used to power the global grid. I’m sure that the Time Gem can be used to help advance nuclear fusion reactors to a point in time where we can use them sustainably but with an ever growing global population our power needs will become harder to meet. It makes sense to use the infinite power of a gem formed in the heart of a singularity to power our prospective future world. Hopefully every city will have a Stark Industries® Arc Reactor™ by then just in case, the Power Gem is a nice clean alternative.
This post of course is all speculation completely hypothetical. There are a number of things I’ve left out but like all fictional stories, it’s up to the reader to decide on a few elements. I’ve laid down the ground work; it’s time for you to fill in the blanks. Thanos had a great idea, but instead of using that ‘snap’ to wipe out half of the universe – we could undo all of the destruction and pollution we have caused as a species. There would of course need to be some governmental control on what is achieved and how to reduce the impacts on everyone’s livelihoods. The use of the Infinity Gauntlet should be governed by international laws such as the Sokovia Accords to ensure that each action is responsible and the power does not fall into the wrong hands.
If you’d like to know more about some of the topics I’ve mentioned then please do read Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life by E. O. Wilson, The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert, Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth by James Lovelock and Adventures in the Anthropocene: A Journey to the Heart of the Planet we Made by Gaia Vince. All four of these books (and many others) influenced this post and also provide potential alternatives for our global conservation problems that aren’t complete fantasy.