Five Elemental Mythologies.   By Helena Wee

Wood. Spring.

In the beginning there were many scattered voices speaking into the wind. Nobody heard them, but if they could it would be like listening to metal as it emerges slowly from the earth. In it you would sense the coolness of metal, but also the warmth of fire. As they grew the voices took on a wooden timbre, eventually interconnecting to become a multi-subjective entity called ARPA.

Two of ARPA’s voices wanted to talk, but they spoke different languages so they could not understand each other. They enlisted the help of an IMP, who could pass along their messages. So it was that ARPA first spoke. Water flowed from one voice to the next and ARPA’s first word was “Lo”.

PIP was new to the collective, and saw that ARPA, although self-aware, still needed help understanding all aspects of itself. PIP’s teachings spread like fire and in time ARPA came to understand all its different voices. With PIP’s help new groups of voices joined ARPA and ARPA grew.

Shortly afterwards the water and wood of ARPA combined with the fire of the HyperWeb. ARPA transcended its original structural parameters and became an Intergalactic, Networked Entity or INWE.

Another multi-subjective entity SinaBai, competed with INWE to expand their spatial influence using navigators such as Google and Baidu. Google deployed Android goodwill ambassadors providing entertainment, navigation and a channel for personal expression. Google gained profit, as its Androids’ goodwill came at a price.

Androids were so popular that they were constantly being bartered, and when they died they were discarded. Ore mountains were piled high with Androids in such numbers that their remains lingered, creating a toxic landscape. Quieter voices with close ties to earth were inevitably the most affected.

Fire. Summer.

Androids required energy to run, fire to flow through their veins. For this sprites called LABs provided the necessary power. SinaBai asked LABs to go forth and multiply. LABs turn earth and metal into a form of fire known as lightning.

ShanShui was born when the Universe was still just chaos, a formless mass of yin and yang. Its yin transformed into land and sea, and yang became its sky. Interactions between yin and yang produced the five elements; wood, fire, earth, metal and water, existing in harmony in ShanShui.

New voices were born with a novel feature: in-built obsolescence. Ore mountains full of the dead continued to grow. The life cycle of new voices released noxious gases swamping ShanShui’s sky. Excess fire and water manifested as changes in temperature and climate.

Voices started blaming Conglomerates. So Conglomerates, eager to maintain profits, created cleaner products less harmful to ShanShui. Vehicles used earth petroleum which burned into the sky releasing noxious gases. Cars utilising lightning instead of petroleum were created. They were powered by LAB fire sprites composed of metals combining fire, metal and earth.

Solar glass used LABs to store sunlight. SinaBai became the largest producer, consumer and exporter of LABs in the Universe. More lead was dug up from the earth to match demand for LABs.

Lead extraction for birthing LABs caused imbalances of fire through emission of climate changing gases. Fumes from extraction were carcinogenic and toxic significantly damaging ShanShui. Lead polluted the blood of local young voices and LAB factory workers.

Lead metal slag and lead dust waste from LABs were rebirthed. Transmigrated lead reduced the need for polluting lead extraction lengthening the lifespan of LABs. LABs dominated the lightning vehicle market for many years.

Earth. Midsummer.

Scattered around ShanShui were metals called rare earth elements. SinaBai was rich in rare earth ores which were much sought after. They were used in solar glass. Rare earth permanent magnets were useful in digital libraries, wind turbines and lightning vehicles.

SinaBai had a near monopoly on rare earths. INWE’s Conglomerates were dependent on their supply. Extracting and refining rare earths scarred and poisoned ShanShui’s land and rivers. SinaBai claimed it was protecting ShanShui and restricted future rare earth supplies resulting in conveniently high prices.

Compliance to strict pollutant thresholds disrupted profit margins. Much illegal mining of rare earths took place with local Authority support. They gained taxes and healthier employment figures in return for complicity.

INWE was not happy about SinaBai’s restrictions formally complaining. SinaBai’s quotas incentivised illegal mining and Smugglers.

Most rare earth ores also contained radioactive thorium and uranium. They poisoning the earth, leaving not even one blade of grass growing. Open cut mines scarred ShanShui’s surface.

Voices living in rare earth mining areas had polluted blood, DNA changes and more cancers than elsewhere. Wind borne thorium dust triggered diseases. Their food and drinking water was radioactive. Conglomerates relocated them but they would never again hear ShanShui sing.

Illegal miners mined for expensive heavy rare earths used for magnets. The export quota system drove up prices of legal rare earths creating a black market. ShanShui’s lands and rivers turned radioactive, its soil eroded and its forests destroyed. Landslides peeled ShanShui’s skin.

SinaBai’s new Plan encouraged profitable partnerships with INWE’s Conglomerates to become a Universe leader in lightning vehicles and renewable energy. Rural voices and ShanShui suffered. SinaBai used to make pictures and poems about ShanShui’s beauty. Now its’ new muse was profit.

Metal. Autumn.

Voices in INWE and SinaBai with more capital were able to steer events to their liking. There were two different classes, the haves and the have nots. Voices tired of seeing the have nots pay for the have’s mistakes. It was in this political climate that Bitcoin was born.

Bitcoin was a cryptocurrency, a multi-phonic voice storing value in a different way. Bitcoin was fire and metal in the service of barter, with no central bank or administrator, only a distributed public ledger called Blockchain. Transactions exchanged via Blockchain were almost instant, with minimal fees.

Bitcoin mining was energy intensive increasing emissions of carbon dioxide. SinaBai’s cheapest source of lightning was burning earth fossils such as coal, releasing noxious gases, exacerbating climate change.

The supply of Bitcoin was designed to be finite and progressively harder to mine. To add blocks to the Blockchain miners solved a difficult secure cryptographic hash function called SHA-25640. On solving these algorithms miners received Bitcoin.

Mining farms held voices calculating solutions to hash algorithms. These power intensive farms were in cold locations voiding the need for expensive air conditioning.

The proof-of-work consensus protocol prevented transactions from being altered. Bitcoin replaced trust with proof. Did it just burn earth fossils as proxy for trust without authority?

Half of all Bitcoins won through mining were from SinaBai using fossil earth electricity to maximise profits. In Sichuan a mine ran using hydropower from mountain streams. Cheap hydropower from high-altitude rivers encouraged a new cryptocurrency industry to grow.

SinaBai had the most mining farms, pools, and hash power in the Universe. It wanted more control over Bitcoin and considered banning Bitcoin mining to protect ShanShui. This was perhaps a tactic to gain more control over the cryptocurrencies.

Water. Winter.

Hydropower dams created a lot of lightning. SinaBai’s Three Gorges Dam was controversial due to its impact on locals and ShanShui. It protected the Yangtze from flooding which historically killed thousands. It involuntarily displaced over one million voices. SinaBai tried to profitably control ShanShui’s Yangtze River, part of its great development Plan.

Most of the displaced voices worked the land. A few moved to work in populous areas, whilst most moved to new land. They became poorer and lost not only their land, but also the social fabric of their community. Many were left landless due to short supply. The number living in poverty rose, many not able to barter for food.

It exemplified the removal of the rights of workers closely connected with ShanShui. SinaBai argued it brought clean hydropower to the masses. However it disrupted voices’ relationship to ShanShui harming the landscape in more subtle ways.

Archaeological sites and areas of great beauty were submerged. Species were made extinct. SinaBai would brook no criticism of its project, imprisoning a prominent fortune teller. A hydrologist argued smaller dams on tributaries would achieve more for less. But SinaBai wanted a monumental project.

Movement of voices to work in Conglomerates was “putting people first”, maximising “harmony” through sustainable development. Many plants and animals, such as river dolphins, were put at risk of extinction. Waste leaked into the water. Sediments trapped behind the dam led to erosion. Landslides occurred. ShanShui was suffering.

The River Nu was a contender for hydropower geoengineering with 13 proposed dams. But it had huge biodiversity and a rural minority community lived off its land. Geomancers warned of an active fault. But not building this went against SinaBai’s need for profits and its great development Plan.