“You see in this dome the intermingling of native and earth plants. Outside, they are competitors, struggling over the trace elements required for life. Often, one destroys the other. Here, they are tended with care and kept well nourished. They thrive together, and the native fungus does not unleash its terrible defenses. As you can see, competition is unnecessary when resources are plentiful and population growth is controlled.”
— Lady Deirdre Skye, “Planet Dreams”
Hybrid Forests are the next evolution of the Tree Farms. They are unlocked by Planetary Economics, which is quite naturally the successor to the previous Environmental Economics tech that allowed Tree Farms. And, other than being more expensive, they have all the same effects: a boost to energy and psych output; a +1 to the nutrient yield for all forest tiles worked by this base; and an increase in the clean mineral cap. Since these bonuses stack together, it’s probably best to just think of Hybrid Forests as an in-place upgrade of Tree Farms.
As has been discussed a few times by now, even seemingly small changes in nutrient tile yields can have powerful impacts on base growth rates. Tree Farms were significant because by going from one nutrient to two per forest they made it so that bases could grow indefinitely on nothing more than easily-replicable forest tiles. Hybrid Forests are significant because now, at three nutrients per forest, each one now actually increases the base’s food surplus in addition to providing a solid combination of minerals and energy.
Let us now turn our attention to the accompanying quote. On the surface, this is just a description by Lady Deirdre of the base facility. It’s an experiment in getting native and Earth plants to live together harmoniously. Which brings up an interesting point. The gameplay actually supports the ecological competition that Deirdre speaks of. On the map, forest and fungus are mutually exclusive tile types. When the forest naturally grows into the fungus, the fungus is replaced. And when Planet reacts with a fungal pop or xenofungus bloom, the ensuing spread of the fungus will plow under forest squares as readily as it does any other tile improvement.
But the quote also serves as a succinct statement of the core of Deirdre’s unique philosophy. One might expect a deep ecology movement like the Gaians to be enthralled with nature in all its aspects. And the most salient feature of ecology is the reality of Darwinian selection. A brief look at any nature documentary shows the basic themes are always the same. It’s all about the intense struggle for life: surviving in order to eat, mate, and ensure the perpetuation of the next generation.
So it’s quite interesting to note that the brutal reality of nature is much more congenial to several of the other factions than to the Gaians, the faction that supposedly worships the natural world. For instance, Morgan would readily agree that life is a struggle and man’s attempts to try to buffer himself from that truth have historically led to the tragedy of socialism. Santiago believes might makes right. The right to life is won by victory; defeat brings extinction. Even Yang has gone on record as saying that the only purpose of life is life itself, which implies the height of enlightenment is the growth of the group and the greater race.
But with this quote we see that Deirdre actually doesn’t believe in “Nature, red in tooth and claw”. She sees competition itself as wasteful, destructive, and ideally unnecessary at this stage of human advancement. Her view of the good is not the wild jungle; rather, it’s the carefully cultivated garden, where each flower can bloom in its own ideal conditions.
Deirdre believes that the only way this tranquil garden environment can possibly be maintained is by providing a lush environment while simultaneously drastically restricting population growth. Ideally, each plant and creature need never struggle for resources, since they each fill an ecological niche that is intentionally kept largely empty.
This would obviously never happen naturally. Basic selection theory predicts (accurately) that lifeforms respond to abundance by reproducing wildly until the surplus is consumed. Equilibrium is then restored at the limit of subsistence.
And this is the real reason why the Gaians are intrinsically philosophically opposed to the Morganites. It’s not just that the Morganites don’t consider the ecology to have moral value and thus act in a way that results in significant environmental externalities. If the problem were just instrumental, then in theory you could pay a Morganite to take the environment seriously. The game even supports this. CEO Morgan can, if he chooses, adopt Green economics.
The problem is that the Morganites believe that energy capture is life and more is always better. Morgan considers growth, in energy consumption, not necessarily population, to be a matter of fierce moral urgency. The future stream of value from every Joule not captured now for human use is wasted forever and always. This is why competition is a moral good. It ensures that resources are allocated in the most efficient way for continued growth.
But the Gaians are advocating for a world that is awash in so much uncaptured surplus energy that competition and growth are rendered archaic. To compete in the harmonious garden by seeking to gather more of the surplus to yourself and your progeny is to defect against the commons. You become a weed instead of a flower. And it is clearly the duty of the gardeners to prune such bad actors back.