Author: Yvonne Lang

I have always believed in self-sacrifice for the greater good. I could not comprehend how people knew our way of life was going to be the end of us but still continued. I remember when the last rhino died. People were sad, but they didn’t change. They hoped to use science to bring them back, but weren’t talking about ways to stop further extinctions, only how we may bring back what we killed off. The priorities seemed skewed to me. When the last elephant died it wasn’t even headline news. How could people see such wonders and let them disappear? I vowed to make a difference.

I specialised in engineering and joined the first space mission to find another planet to colonise and perfect a better way of living. Some people had to be willing to make the sacrifice for the greater good. So, I signed up.

It was actually quite enjoyable. Even in a spaceship billions of miles from Earth we cultivated a sense of belonging and were full of optimism. That hope dwindled when the messages from home became more desperate. Fires were breaking out with a greater frequency and ferocity. Water supplies were running low inland and taking over coastal homes. We had to find a solution quick, otherwise there would be nothing to go back to.

Then we found the perfect planet that could take some pressure off Earth, and our experiments started producing results. Now we just had to get back home with the solutions, hoping we weren’t too late. As we got closer, we saw the sun – then realised it was Earth, blazing so brightly. Mankind had literally burned its home.

When we landed years later, the fires had gone, but so had the people. Humans had fought so much over the remaining resources; they had wiped each other out. There were no people anywhere. We searched for weeks. The only people left on Earth were those from the returning mission – forty-eight of us.

“We were too late,” Melala solemnly observed after another fruitless day of looking for survivors.

There was a low murmur of reluctant agreement, our team had found the solution, but too late for mankind. I disagreed though. We had been tasked with saving the Earth – and when we travelled thousands of miles each night in our craft to search for survivors, we saw a place deserted of humans – but teeming with other life. Rivers ran full, clean, and full of fish. I saw waterfalls – they had all dried-up decades before my birth. I got to experience snow – and saw a polar bear mother with her cubs. Mango groves were spreading along coastlines, uprooting old hotel and restaurant relics. Sharks were hunting in bountiful oceans free of fishing gear. Giraffe roamed plains again. Earth was beautiful and was self-healing after a break from us. Yet people were back now. Would we live better? Or would we repeat our mistakes and wipe out more species?

I wrestled with these thoughts late at night. Could we guarantee that we would not destroy it all over again? I finally decided that we could not, there was only one way to make sure Earth survived – people couldn’t. I made it painless, I filled the ship with gas and knocked them all out before setting it alight. I watched the ship burn like we had burned the planet. When I was the only one left, I raised the weapon to my head with no hesitation. I have always been a great believer in self-sacrifice for the greater good.