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Chapter 27 Evans

Novel:The Three-Bodyauthor:Cinxin Liu pubdate:2019-02-14 15:05

Chapter 27 Evans
Half a year after her return to Tsinghua, Ye took on an important task: the design of a large radio astronomy observatory. She and the task force traveled around the country to find the best site for the observatory. The initial considerations were purely technical. Unlike traditional astronomy, radio astronomy didn't have as many demands on atmospheric quality, but required minimal electromagnetic interference. They traveled to many places and finally picked a place with the cleanest electromagnetic environment: a remote, hilly area in the Northwest.
The loess hills here had little vegetation cover. Rifts from erosion made the slopes look like old faces full of wrinkles. After selecting a few possible sites, the task force stayed for a brief rest at a village where most of the inhabitants still lived in traditional cave dwellings. The villages production team leader recognized Ye as an educated person and asked her whether she knew how to speak a foreign language. She asked him which foreign language, and he said he didn't know. However if she did know a foreign tongue, he would send someone up the hill to call down Bethune(*41), because the production team needed to discuss something with him.
[Translator's Note(*41): Norman Bethune (1890-1939) was a Canadian surgeon who served with the Chinese Communists in their fight against the Japanese invasion force during World War II. As one of the few Westerners who showed friendship to the Chinese Communist, Bethune became a Chinese hero known to the elderly and children alike.]
"Bethune?" Ye was amazed.
"We don't know the foreigners real name, so we just call him that."
"Is he a doctor?"
"No. He's planting trees up in the hills. Has been at it for almost three years."
"Planting trees? What for?"
"He says it's for the birds. A kind of bird that he says is almost extinct."
Ye and her colleagues were curious and asked the production team leader to bring them for a visit. They followed a trail until they were on top of a small hillock. The team leader showed them a place among the barren loess hills. Ye felt it brighten before her eyes. There was a slope covered by green forests, as though an old, yellowing canvas had been accidentally blessed with a splash of green paint.
Ye and the others soon saw the foreigner. Other than his blond hair and green eyes and tattered jeans and a jacket that reminded her of a cowboy, he didn't look too different from the local peasants who had labored all their lives. Even his skin had the same dark hue from the sun as the locals. He didn't show much interest in the visitors. He introduced himself as Mike Evans without mentioning his nationality, but his English was clearly American-accented. He lived in a simple two-room adobe hut, which was filled with tools for planting trees: hoes, shovels, saws for pruning tree branches, and so on, all of which were locally made and crude. The dust that permeated the Northwest lay in a thin layer over his simple and rough-hewn bed and kitchen implements. A pile of books, most of which dealt with biology, sat on his bed. Ye noticed a copy of Peter Singer's Animal Liberation. The only sign of modernity was a small radio set, hooked up to an external D battery. There was also an old telescope.
Evans apologized for not being able to offer them anything to drink.
He hadn't had coffee for a while. There was water, but he only had one cup.
"May we ask what you re really doing here?" one of Ye's colleagues asked.
"I want to save lives."
"Save .. . save the locals? It's true that the ecological conditions here—"
"Why are you all like this?" Evans suddenly became furious. "Why does one have to save people to be considered a hero? Why is saving other species considered insignificant? Who gave humans such high honors? No, humans do not need saving. They're already living much better than they deserve."
"We heard that you are trying to save a type of bird."
"Yes, a swallow. It's a subspecies of the northwestern brown swallow. The Latin name is very long, so I won't bore you with it. Every spring, they follow ancient, established migratory paths to return from the south. They nest only here, but as the forest disappears year after year, they can no longer find the trees in which to build their nests. When I discovered them, the species had less than ten thousand individuals left. If the trend continues, within five years it will be extinct. The trees I've planted now provide a habitat for some of them, and the population is rising again. I must plant more trees and expand this Eden." 
Evans allowed Ye and the others to look through his telescope. With his help, they finally saw a few tiny black birds darting through the trees.
"Not very pretty, are they? Of course, they're not as crowd-pleasing as giant pandas. Every day on this planet some species that doesn't draw the attention of humans goes extinct."
"Did you plant all of these trees by yourself?"
"Most of them. Initially I hired some locals to help, but soon I ran out of money. Saplings and irrigation all cost a lot—but you know something? My father is a billionaire. He is the president of an international oil company, but he will not give me any more funding, and I don't want to use his money anymore."
Now that Evans had opened up, he seemed to want to pour his heart out. "When I was twelve, a thirty-thousand-ton oil tanker from my father's company ran aground along the Atlantic coast. More than twenty thousand tons of crude oil spilled into the ocean. At the time, my family was staying at a coastal vacation home not too far from the site of the accident. After my father heard the news, the first thing he thought of was how to avoid responsibility and minimize damage to the company.
" That afternoon, I went to see the hellish coast. The sea was black, and the waves, under the sticky, thick film of oil, were smooth and weak. The beach was also covered by a black layer of crude oil. Some volunteers and I searched for birds on the beach that were still alive. They struggled in the sticky oil, looking like black statues made out of asphalt, only their eyes proving that they were still alive. Those eyes staring out of the oil still haunt my dreams to this day. We soaked those birds in detergent, trying to get rid of the oil stuck to their bodies. But it was extremely difficult: crude oil was infused into their feathers, and if you brushed a little too hard, the feathers would come off with the oil.... By that evening, most of the birds had died. As I sat on the black beach, exhausted and covered in oil, I stared at the sun setting over a black sea and felt like it was the end of the world.
"My father came up behind me without my noticing. He asked me if I still remembered the small dinosaur skeleton. Of course I remembered. The nearly complete skeleton had been discovered during oil exploration. My father spent a large sum to buy it, and installed it on the grounds of my grandfathers mansion.
"My father then said, 'Mike, I've told you how dinosaurs went extinct. An asteroid crashed into the Earth. The world first became a sea of fire, and then sank into a prolonged period of darkness and coldness... One night, you woke from a nightmare, saying that you had dreamt that you were back in that terrifying age. Let me tell you now what I wanted to tell you that night: If you really lived during the Cretaceous Period, you'd be fortunate. The period we live in now is far more frightening. Right now,  species on Earth are going extinct far faster than during the late Cretaceous. Now is truly the age of mass extinctions! So, my child, what you're seeing is nothing. This is only an insignificant episode in a much vaster process. We can have no sea birds, but we can't be without oil. Can you imagine life without oil? Your last birthday, I gave you that lovely Ferrari and promised you that you could drive it after you turned fifteen. But without oil, it would be a pile of junk metal and you'd never drive it. Right now, if you want to visit your grandfather, you can get there on my personal jet and cross the ocean in a dozen hours or so. But without oil, you'd have to tumble in a sailboat for more than a month. . . . These are the rules of the game of civilization: The first priority is to guarantee the existence of the human race and their comfortable life. Everything else is secondary.'
"My father placed a great deal of hope in me, but in the end I didn't turn out the way he wanted. In the days after that, the eyes of those drowned birds always followed me and determined my life. When I was thirteen, my father asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up.
I said I wanted to save lives. My dream wasn't that great. I only wanted to save a species near extinction. It could be a bird that wasn't very pretty, a drab butterfly, or a beetle that no one would even notice. Later, I studied biology, and became a specialist on birds and insects. The way I see it, my ideal is worthy. Saving a species of bird or insect is no different from saving humankind. 'All lives are equal' is the basic tenet of Pan-Species Communism."
"What?" Ye wasn't sure she had heard the last term correctly.
"Pan-Species Communism. It's an ideology I invented. Or maybe you can call it a faith. Its core belief is that all species on Earth are created equal."
"That is an impractical ideal. Our crops are also living species. If humans are to survive, that kind of equality is impossible."
"Slave owners must also have thought that about their slaves in the distant past. And don't forget technology—there will be a day when humanity can manufacture food. We should lay down the ideological and theoretical foundation long before that. Indeed, Pan-Species Communism is a natural continuation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The French Revolution was two hundred years ago, and we haven't even taken a step beyond that. From this we can see the hypocrisy and selfishness of the human race."
"How long do you intend to stay here?"
"I don't know. I'm prepared to devote my life to the task. The feeling is beautiful. Of course, I don't expect you to understand."
Evans seemed to lose interest. He said that he had to go back to work, so he picked up a shovel and a saw and then left. When he said goodbye, he glanced at Ye again, as though there was something unusual about her.
On the way back, one of Ye's colleagues recited from Chairman Mao's essay "Remembering Bethune": "'Noble-minded and pure, a man of moral integrity and above vulgar interests.' " He sighed. "There really are people who can live like that."
Others also expressed their admiration and conflicted feelings. Ye seemed to be speaking to herself as she said, "If there were more men like him, even just a few more, things would have turned out differently."
Of course, no one understood what she really meant.
The task force leader turned the conversation back to their work. "I think this site isn't going to work. Our superiors won't approve it." "Why not? Of the four possible sites, this has the best electromagnetic environment."
"What about the human environment? Comrades, don't just focus on the technical side. Look at how poor this place is. The poorer a village, the craftier the people. Do you understand? If the observatory were located here, there would be trouble between the scientists and the locals. I can imagine the peasants thinking of the astronomy complex as a juicy piece of meat that they can take bites from."
This site was indeed not approved, and the reason was just what the task force leader had said.
Three years passed without Ye hearing anything more about Evans.
But one spring day, Ye received a postcard from Evans with only a single line: Come here. Tell me how to go on."
Ye rode the train for a day and a night, and then switched to a bus for many hours until she arrived at the village nestled in the remote hills of the Northwest.
As soon as she climbed onto that small hillock, she saw the forest again. Because the trees had grown, it now seemed far denser, but Ye noticed that the forest had once been much bigger. Newer parts that had grown in the past few years had already been cut.
The logging was in full swing. In every direction, trees were falling. The entire forest seemed like a mulberry leaf being devoured by silkworms on all sides. At the current rate, it would disappear soon. The workers doing the logging came from two nearby villages. Using axes and saws, they cut down those barely grown trees one by one, and then dragged them off the hill using tractors and ox carts. There were many loggers, and fights frequently erupted among them.
The fall of each small tree didn't make much sound, and there was no loud buzzing from chain saws, but the almost-familiar scene made Yes chest tighten.
Someone called out to her—that production team leader, now the village chief. He recognized Ye. When she asked him why they were cutting down the forest, he said, "This forest isn't protected by law." 
"How can that be? The Forestry Law has just been promulgated." "But who ever gave Bethune permission to plant trees here? A foreigner coming here to plant trees without approval would not be protected by any law."
"You can't think that way. He was planting on the barren hills and didn't take up any arable land. Also, back when he started, you didn't object."
"That's true. The county actually gave him an award for planting the trees. The villagers originally planned to cut down the forest in a few more years—it's best to wait until the pig is fat before slaughtering it, am I right? But those people from Nange Village can't wait any longer, and if my village doesn't join in, we won't get any."
You must stop immediately. I will go to the government to report this!"
"There's no need.'' The village chief lit a cigarette and pointed to a truck loading the cut trees in the distance. "See that? That's from the deputy secretary of the County Forestry Bureau. And there are also people here from the town police department. They've carried off more trees than anyone else! I told you, these trees have no status and aren't protected. You'll never find anyone who cares. Also, comrade, aren't you a college professor? What does this have to do with you?"
The adobe hut looked the same, but Evans wasn't inside. Ye found him in the woods holding an ax and carefully pruning a tree. He had obviously been at it for a while, his posture full of exhaustion.
"I don't care if this is meaningless. I can't stop. If I stop I'll fall apart." Evans cut down a crooked branch with a practiced swing.
"Let's go together to the county government. If they won't do anything, we'll go up to the provincial government. Someone will stop them." Ye looked at Evans with concern.
Evans stopped and stared at Ye in surprise. Light from the setting sun slanted through the trees and made his eyes sparkle. "Ye, do you really think I'm doing this because of this forest?" He laughed and shook his head, then dropped the ax. He sat down, his back against a tree. "If I want to stop them, it'd be easy. I just returned from America. My father died two months ago, and I inherited most of his money. My brother and sister only got five million each. This wasn't what I expected at all. Maybe in his heart, he still respected me. Or maybe he respected my ideals. Not including fixed assets, do you know how much money I have at my disposal? About four point five billion dollars. I could easily ask them to stop and get them to plant more trees. I could make all the loess hills within sight be covered by quick-growth forest. But what would be the point?
"Everything you see before you is the result of poverty. But how are things any better in the wealthy countries? They protect their own environments, but then shift the heavily polluting industries to the poorer nations. You probably know that the American government just refused to sign the Kyoto Protocol.... The entire human race is the same. As long as civilization continues to develop, the swallows I want to save and all the other swallows will go extinct. It's just a matter of time."
Ye sat silently, gazing at the rays of light cast among the trees by the setting sun, listening to the noise from the loggers. Her thoughts returned to twenty years ago, to the forests of the Greater Khingan Mountains, where she had once had a similar conversation with another man.
"Do you know why I came here?" Evans continued. "The seeds of Pan-Species Communism had sprouted long ago in the ancient East."
"You re thinking of Buddhism?"
"Yes. The focus of Christianity is Man. Even though all the species were placed into Noah's Ark, other species were never given the same status as humans. But Buddhism is focused on saving all life. That was why I came to the East. But. . . it's obvious now that everywhere is the same."
"Yes, that's true. Everywhere, people are the same."
"What can I do now? What is the purpose of my life? I have four point five billion dollars and an international oil company. But what good is all that? Humans have surely invested more than forty-five billion dollars in saving species near extinction. And probably more than four hundred and fifty billion has already been spent on saving the environment from degradation. But what's the use? Civilization continues to follow its path of destruction of all life on Earth except humans. Four point five billion is enough to build an aircraft carrier, but even if we build a thousand aircraft carriers, it would be impossible to stop the madness of humanity."
"Mike, this is what I wanted to tell you. Human civilization is no longer capable of improving by its own strength."
'Can there be any source of power outside of humanity? Even if God once existed, He died long ago Yes, there are other powers."
The sun had set and the loggers had left. The forest and the loess hills were silent. Ye now told Evans the whole story of Red Coast and Trisolaris. Evans listened quietly, and the loess hills and the forest in dusk seemed to listen as well. When Ye was finished, a bright moon rose from the east and cast speckled shadows on the forest floor.
Evans said, "I still can't believe what you just told me. It s too fantastic. But luckily, I have the resources to confirm this. If what you told me is true"—he extended his hand and spoke the words that every new member of the future ETO would have to say upon joining—"let us be comrades."
Chapter 27 Vocabulary Note
loess - a fine-grained yellowish brown soil left by the wind
rift - a crack or narrow opening in a large piece of rock
hillock - a little hill
splash - a small area of bright color
tatter - clothes that are tattered are old and torn
hue - colour
adobe - earth and straw that are made into bricks for building houses
hoe - a garden tool with a long handle, used for removing weeds from the surface of the soil
prune - cut off some of the branches of a tree to make it grow better
permeate - if liquid, gas etc permeates something, it enters it and spreads through every part of it
rough-hewn - rough-hewn wood or stone has been cut without much care and its surface is not yet smooth
implement - a useful piece of equipment, usually a specially shaped object designed to do a particular task
eden - in the Bible story, the garden where Adam and Eve, the first humans lived, often seen as a place of happiness and innocence
crowd-pleasing - able to interest people or make people happy
sapling - a young tree
aground - if a ship runs aground, it becomes stuck in a place where the water is not deep enough
hellish - extremely bad or difficult
asphalt - a black sticky substance that becomes hard when it dries, used for making the surface of roads
Cretaceous - the Cretaceous period was the time long ago when rocks containing chalk were formed
tumble - to move in a uncontrolled way, as if falling or likely to fall
drab - not bright in colour and boring
tenet - a principle or belief, especially one that is part of a larger system of beliefs
pan-species - including all the species
crafty - good at getting what you want by clever planning and by secretly deceiving people
promulgate - to make a new law come into effect by announcing it officially
arable - fit for planting crops
prune - cut off some of the branches of a tree to make it grow better
slant - to be at an angle, or set something at an angle
speckled - covered with many small marks or spots


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