“I shall not confront Planet as an enemy, but shall accept its mysteries as gifts to be cherished. Nor shall I crudely seek to peel the layers away like the skin from an onion. Instead I shall gather them together as the tree gathers the breeze. The wind shall blow and I shall bend. The sky shall open and I shall drink my fill.”
— Gaian Acolyte’s Prayer
Based on the Centauri Ecology technology, the Weather Paradigm enables the faction that constructs it to perform all of the terraforming actions that would be otherwise unlocked via upper-level technology. It also speeds up all terraformer actions (with the exception of removing the native fungus) forevermore. As this is a 4X game where exponential growth is expected, and since the key determinant of success in the early game is terraforming, it follows that this is probably the most important secret project from the perspective of winning the game.
So it’s interesting that the quote and the name strongly implies that the Gaians were the ones to build this project in the canonical timeline. After all, the Gaians probably gain the least from terraforming. And they have ideological reasons not to prefer building too many of the massive terraforming projects that are unlocked early by this project.
That’s because the game models ecological damage from human activity with a score based on the number of artificial improvements being worked by a base (farms, mines, etc.) and a large factor for the number of minerals that are being harvested by that base. The Gaians’ higher Planet rating represents their attempts to minimize the effects of industrial activity on the Planet, and as such, reduces the ecological damage score.
However, I think that the video and the quote are more interesting than even the massive gameplay effects here. This is the first real insight we get into what living among the Gaians is actually like. And it turns out that they’ve started essentially worshipping the alien planet from the moment they landed on it, generating an entire new religion and corpus of rituals in the process.
There are several modern pagan traditions that are held with varying degrees of seriousness. Many argue that the gods and goddesses that were worshipped are symbolic of certain universals that it behooves a person to venerate or meditate upon. Like, for instance, all of the fertility goddesses standing in for the prime role of femininity in bringing forth new life and establishing the links between the past and the future.
I’m guessing from the quote and the video that this is the spirit in which the Gaian acolytes pray. And the early effort necessary to generate and promulgate this religion and its new doctrines are probably what are being represented by the mineral cost of the secret project. If so, then it’s interesting to contemplate what the other factions would make of this if they were the ones to build it instead.
It’s not hard to imagine Lal and the U.N. adding sustainability and wise ecological stewardship to a high priority by building this Secret Project. After all, the U.N. does that today. Similarly, Yang and Miriam have a bunch of doctrine they expect their followers to take on something resembling faith. Their approach to the Planet upon building the Weather Paradigm might be somewhat similar.
The others, on the other hand, are a much tougher fit. The University can’t help but seek to peel away the layers of anything they analyze. The Spartans see everyone as an enemy. And a potential Morganite Weather Paradigm would be hilarious.
Perhaps with them, the Weather Paradigm is less ideological and more just ruthlessly practical. A set of tips and tricks arduously developed by their Former corps that provide them with better civil engineering than their rivals.