cleanup,

the planetwide, slow and painful, episodically coordinated history arc of dealing with the legacy of “overmaterial past”: erasing or readapting disowned constructions, industry, roads, vehicles; clearing landfills and dumps, vacuuming megatons of scattered small-scale junk; treating (some of) pattern poisoning. It ended up a journey of discovery: humankind learned a lot about itself as it “cleaned up the house after a noisy crowd of visitors.”  ■    It was an urgent rescue at first — a knee jerk towards the status quo ante, with a sense of guilt for past excesses as chief motivation; in the original mindset, anything human-made but no longer usable or otherwise redeemable was to be safely and tracelessly destroyed. The worst spills were still being treated, however, when the notions of what were trying to do began to shift: lists of exemptions ballooned, digger microbots had their erasers and incinerators gradually subsumed by tools for search, analysis, mapping. The bot-maintained catalog of surface and subsurface artifacts became the universe of archeology: the great majority of the finds remain buried, mapped and described but never touched; myriads of early-generation cleanup bots, broken and lost, are themselves a cleanup target and a collectible for newer bots (eventually, agencies). ■    “The future is now”: inspiring and daunting came the realization that, already, we have to decide what we want our home planet to have and be. Museums boomed, brought a new culture of searching, preservation (no longer just pulling propellers from decaying wrecks), study; cleanup “shapeshifted into a planetwide art fest”: rusts, dissolution art — once the freakery of few — entered the mainstream of art and dreams; gardening taught the new nature to grow around and through the ages' dust.

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