This one is all my friend Kim Richer's fault.
Two children, one older, one younger, walking along the promenade of Flushing 2 in the Queens Ring:
"We saw an antelope this week..."
"What's an antelope?"
"A midsized ungulate, sort of like a deer--you have seen deer, right?"
"Yeah, they have them in the big park on the Brooklyn ring, I think."
"Yep, there and a few others. We brought them with us as part of the original biobank for the colony. They're very adaptable."
"So, what's an antelope?"
"Well, like I said, it's similar, but it's got horns instead of antlers--antlers fall off and regrow; horns are permanent. Anyway, they said the new ambassador from Earth brought some with her, along with some other things. There's a lot of curiosity about how they'll do here."
"Well, we apparently have the most successful...what did they call it...artificial ecology currently known. Most stations back in Sol are small things and nobody really lives there. The city stations are something we came up with so we could stay here. Some of what we brought with us did well, some didn't, and nobody's really sure why. And a couple things were lost in the early days by accident.
"Anyway, now that we're back in touch with Earth, they're curious what works here. And the Mayor and scientists and stuff see an opportunity to get back some of the things we've lost."
"Why? I mean, do we need it?"
"I don't know if we need it, exactly, but...the way my teacher explained it, diversity is important. The Founders apparently worried a lot about whether we'd have enough different things to actually be healthy if we never landed on a planet. And of course, we never did land on a planet--except the rebels, and nobody knows if they're even still alive! A lot of people think we got lucky."
"Rabbi David says it was a miracle!"
"A lot of people think that, too. Some people think it's both at the same time."
"How does that work?"
A shrug. "Dunno. Haven't thought about it much, really. Anyway, point is, the skipships have found a couple other places where people tried to go the same time we did, and most of them didn't do so good. And the ones that didn't, didn't plan for enough diversity, they think. So even if they got somewhere and built something, they got sick or ran out of food or whatever.
"So my teacher says everyone wants to make sure we keep having what we've got, and maybe get more. And Earth...well, we left Earth because it was in trouble. They managed to keep going longer than we thought they would but they're still worried. So they want to make sure animals and plants and stuff have somewhere else to live, just in case. Then, if they can fix Earth, they can bring them back again, too. And if they can't, well, at least things will still be alive somewhere..."
"Can they fix Earth?"
"Nobody knows. They're gonna try though."