It was a lucky break for the human race. In less than a year, the air across the globe would have been unbreathable. It was already too hot to go outside when the sun was up; the greenhouse gases were so elevated that only a very minuscule amount of heat was released from the atmosphere. So when the aliens arrived, the whole world rejoiced.
The first sighting of Earth’s visitors was by scientists at the Okutamba Observatory in the Namib desert. They saw an anomaly, a strange moving light, when observing Proxima Centauri, our closest neighbouring solar system. The moving light was barely bigger than a dot when it was first observed. It was moving at a speed that was impossible for any natural celestial object. Within minutes, the minuscule dot was marginally bigger. If it maintained its trajectory, it would arrive at Earth within weeks.
However, after an hour of observation, the anomaly disappeared. The scientists analysed the data for days, but looking to the skies, there was no sign of the phenomenon. One young scientist remained intrigued and undeterred. While her colleagues became occupied with other things, she continued to analyse the observations of the phenomenon. She calculated the most optimal route to Earth and transmitted a signal towards an estimated advanced location every hour.
One morning, she sat at her station at the Observatory, and saw that a message had been transmitted back:
“Well done. We cloaked our ship so as not to cause a panic,” said a strange voice over the transmission. “Please inform your governments, we need to talk.”
The young scientist informed the Namibian government. They did not believe her, that is until several spacecraft appeared over the Namib desert. Calls were made, and soon all world leaders were gathered around the table.
Apparently, the aliens had been watching us for decades, waiting for us to pass certain tests. We never passed the tests, but the climate situation had become so dire that they felt compelled to intervene.
As the talks advanced, one thing became clear, the aliens were incredibly kind and benevolent. They were rendering much-needed assistance to Earth in its hour of need. But moreover, they were in their very nature, considerate, altruistic and self-sacrificing. Visually, they looked just like us, but with shades of skin ranging across the whole colour spectrum. They said that they came from a planet similar to ours in many ways, just a lot bigger. They were willing to offer a whole continent for Earth’s population to relocate to.
“We can take most of your lifeforms,” their ambassador said. “But we have a directive, a rule that forbids us from completely evacuating your planet.”
The politicians looked around in confusion.
“We are obliged to leave approximately one per cent of the population in place,” said the ambassador. “To tend to the planet, and give it a fighting chance at recovery.”
“Do you need us to provide lists?” one of the Presidents asked. “We can use census data to determine who should be prioritised.”
“No, that won’t be necessary,” the ambassador said. “We will make the necessary determinations.”
“How exactly will you decide?” asked a prime minister.
“We will seek to act in the best interest of your planet,” explained the ambassador. “ Whilst also, considering who will best integrate into our society.”
Within days, more spaceships began to appear across Africa and eventually across the globe. The aliens began to share evacuation instructions. Those selected for evacuation would see a band of light appear around their wrist, ankle or torso.
The world waited. The spaceships hovered above every region. The world leaders grew restless and worried.
“We need to ensure that the most important people will be evacuated,” they said in a secret meeting.
“Let’s draw up a list and insist that the aliens prioritise our selections.”
One might have hoped that the government would have developed a fair and thorough process for compiling the priority list. However, after their families, friends and a number of individuals who had provided hefty donations were added to the list, they were stumped for criteria to add any more and had little incentive to do so.
“That will be enough,” they said to themselves.“As long as these people are evacuated we don’t really mind who the other 98% are.”
The world leaders called another meeting with aliens.
“We want you to prioritise the people on this list for evacuation.”
“We will consider your petition,” the ambassador responded.
On evacuation day, the light bands began to appear on people all over the world. At the allotted time, they found themselves surrounded by an orb of light and floating up towards the spaceships. Once the floating ended, those without the light bands were gathered, gazing upwards.
When the final spaceship departed, calls began to be made. The remaining 1% attempted to figure out who had been left behind. One by one, it became apparent that every world leader was still on-world. They were all on a group video call when the alien ambassador appeared.
“We demand an explanation,” one president said angrily. “You left behind some of the most important people.”
“Leaders who would prioritise their own well-being, over that of the people they are supposed to serve, are the least likely to adapt well to our society,” explained the ambassador. “Thank you. Your list made it very easy to decide who should be left behind.”