Base Facility: Centauri Preserve

“In the years since our arrival, we have foolishly disrupted so many of Planet’s ecosystems that entire species may vanish without our ever having understood, or even known them. We must halt this plunder, and halt it immediately, for our own survival as a species depends on our ability to strike a balance on this world.”

— Commissioner Pravin Lal, “Mind Worm, Mind Worm”

Centauri Preserves are one of the rare base facilities that are labeled with the green color the player has come to associate with exploration technologies. They require Centauri Meditation to construct and do nothing other than raise the global clean mineral cap, in the same way that Tree Farms do. But to compensate for the lack of other benefits, Centauri Preserves are significantly cheaper.

They seem to accomplish this feat just how you’d expect them to from the name: by setting aside a portion of the base for native life. Which, upon reflection, is a little weird. We’ve already seen that the only human-habitable places on the whole planet are those inside the city domes. Everywhere else humans go, they have to wear masks and suits or travel inside vehicles.

But it seems that the speed and thoroughness of the human terraforming efforts are disruptive enough that Planet is seeing mass extinctions by the fifth tier of the technology tree. Even though the player only sees fungus, somewhat ugly land, and mind worm boils at the distant remove from which he plays the game, Reynolds has clearly imagined a rich ecology for Chiron. And he shows the player enough glimpses through these quotes that it really helps the place feel both real and alien.

The other intriguing thing about this quote is that it comes from Brother Lal, not Lady Deirdre. And his angle is naturally quite different from what hers would have been. Instead of approaching Planet from a New Age quasi-religious perspective, he is instead approaching it like a modern-day policymaker tackling the problems posed by slash-and-burn agriculture in the Brazilian rainforest. Which makes total sense. This sort of global collective-action problem is right up his alley as the heir to the U.N.

Peering into the choice of quote a little more speculatively, we can also draw a couple more inferences here into the implied canon. By the middle of the game it would appear that Lal has come to agree with Deirdre on matters of economics and ecology. I suspect that the book “Mind Worm, Mind Worm” is his treatise by which he pushes for the adoption of a Green economy. Chances are Deirdre has returned the favor by adopting Democratic politics and they are either allied or have an active treaty of friendship.

Since Lal gets a bonus to elections for U.N. Commissioner by virtue of his faction and we have concluded that the Gaians built the Empath Guild, between the two of them they probably control a decisive block on the Council. This is probably why Lal is consistently credited in the quotes as Commissioner Pravin Lal even though in the game interface he is usually referred to as Brother Lal. In the implied canon, therefore, it would seem that Lal manages to be elected Commissioner from the first election at least through the mid-game.

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