It was not until the Industrial Revolution, which ushered in the Emissions Era, that the real catastrophe began. For thousands of years, humans had driven other species to extinction, but over those next three centuries, the impacts grew until they produced the Cull. During the Cull, millions of species went extinct, and the human population crashed in a cascade of climate-related storms, famines, pandemics, wars, and social upheavals. Today most of Earth is too hot for us to visit. We destroyed most of our habitat and became endemics of the far north.

The Cull defines us. From a biological perspective, it is more important than language, art, toolmaking, or intelligence, more categorical than our capacity to produce value or bring fresh consciousness into being. We are the species that betrayed itself. We betrayed life, which makes us monstrous beings.

Dictionaries of the Emissions Era define monsters as “extraordinary beings.” In...

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