Reading and Reflecting, Again

Back on Coyote

Coyote Frontier by Allen Steele from Goodreads

I blogged, previously, about reading the Scifi novel Coyote by Allen Steele (2002). I’ve now finished reading the full trilogy: Coyote, Coyote Rising, and Coyote Frontier, of which I enjoyed Coyote Frontier the most, the characters came to life most in that volume, and it presents an intriguing dilemma which had me avidly reading to find out how it would be resolved.  The spacecraft EASS Columbus arrives at Coyote with stargate technology that allows traveling through a wormhole to a similar stargate at a Lagrange-point in the Luna orbit of the Earth. The colonists of Coyote now have access to Earth in the several hours that it takes to travel to and from the stargates, rather than several decades, at sublight speeds through normal space. Of course, Earthers have the same rapid access to Coyote.


The dilemma can be framed this way: if Earth had access to another unspoiled planet, that could sustain humans and had plentiful natural resources, what would we do? Would we allow all those that who could afford to migrate to do so? Potentially millions of people. Would we consume all the natural resources from the new planet and export our polluting industries away from earth to there? This dilemma reminded me of the parable of the bacteria in the test-tube that appears to have originated with David Suzuki in his Canadian TV shows in the 1970’s. It has become embodied in much of his life and work ever since (see the YouTube video next).

A quick quiz question to see what you’ve learned from the David Suzuki video above:

Given that we start the experiment at 11:00am. If the resources of the first test-tube are fully consumed at 12:00 pm, at what time would the resources of the second test-tube be fully consumed?
Correct Answer: At 12:01pm. The second test-tube would give you just ONE more minute! Such is the reality of exponential growth.
Wrong Answer
Wrong Answer

Note: The first test-tube is analogous to the Earth and the second test-tube analogous to Coyote.

Warning: there are a few spoilers ahead if you haven’t read the Coyote books.

The basis of the dilemma facing the colonists of Coyote is that their access to modern technology, is from 2070 AD Earth years, when the original URSS Alabama expedition was launched into space, as well as some remaining technology from the WHUSS Glorious Destiny,  and other WHUSS spaceships, that left Earth starting in 2256 AD (relative Earth years – owing to relativistic time dilation effects from the respective spaceships travelling at 0.2c and 0.92c, the Glorious Destiny arrived at Coyote 2304 AD, about 4-earth years after the original Alabama colonists).

In Coyote Rising you find out how the Coyote settlement at Liberty town on New Florida, was liberated from the freeloading interlopers, brought from the Glorious Destiny, and 4 other WHUSS spacecraft, the last being the Spirit, which arrived in successive years afterward. After liberation, those later arrivals, unwilling to work with the new Coyote Federation, were sent ingloriously back to earth on the same WHUSS Spirit.

Doom and Hope

In 2339 AD (in relative Earth years), the spaceship EASS Colombus arrives at Coyote with stargate technology, the dilemma facing the colonists on Coyote is that all their technology is wearing out, transportation by space-shuttle or gyro-aircraft is failing, The colony’s electricity generation is dependent upon converted motors from wore-out machines. In a decade or so their machinery will unusable and they will be reduced to a frontier life, similar to the American frontier, in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

The logical thing to do is to come to an agreement with Earth, technology exchange in return for access to resources and migration. But as I pointed out elsewhere, the logic of sustainability and logic of market capitalism aren’t necessarily compatible. This is essentially what plays out in, broad terms, with the Coyote – Earth agreement in the Coyote Frontier book. The good thing about the Coyote trilogy is its optimistic outlook. That is for future of Coyote under the Federation government,

In the fictional Coyote universe: “[t]hose who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it”, so at the end of Coyote Frontier, the Earth is doomed through lessons that it failed to learn about severely depleting planetary resources. The future for Coyote is hopeful if lessons from Earth history can be heeded also by succeeding generations.   


All the dates mentioned here are mentioned in relative Earth years. Because of relativistic time dilation effects, It would be better to use Coyote’s LaMarean calendar years, but then I would need to explain the workings of the LaMarean calendar.

URSS is a designation for spaceships from the United Republic States, a right-wing repressive political entity in 2070 AD. The WHU (Western Hemisphere Union) is a social collectivist state (read: a corrupt version of Marxism straight out of George Orwell’s Animal Farm) that overthrew the far-right United Republic States (URS). EASS is a designation for spaceships from the European Alliance, a seemingly middle-ground democratic political entity that coexists in time with the Western Hemisphere Union on Earth in the Coyote books trilogy.

2 Replies to “Reading and Reflecting, Again”

  1. Very interesting article. It would be interesting to know how analogies bacteria growth is to the growth of humanity. Considering the paradigm of supply and demand, would introducing more land and resources to a dying earth lower demand and cost of scarce resources thus improving the plight of both worlds? I think you summed up Steele point very well [t]hose who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it”. Allen makes some interesting points about the dangers of central planning as well thru the WHU. It would seem where the “logic of sustainability and logic of market capitalism” diverge is the question of how much capitalism requires imposed restrictions to maintain sustainability. Great article.

    1. Thanks for your kind thoughts. Glad to hear you enjoyed it. The parable of the bacteria is an argument by analogy, meant to provoke thought. However, the law of the exponential is universal. Having a second planet does benefit both, but the problem is that the benefits are so fleeting. Very quickly both worlds will become unsustainable without drastic reductions in population. The trick is to avoid overpopulating the planet in the first place.

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