To Those Who Hear My Humble Plea, Forgive Me of My Atrocity

I preferred the period of my life before the HES, the Historical Ethics Society, came to power as the newest in a series of failed criminal justice bureaus passed by the Galactic Senate. As I am forced to endure unspeakable punishments to atone for my crime, I write in the hopes that my appeal will rouse the passion and sympathies of the common people.


The Milky Way is approximately 100,000 light years across from end to end and about 10,000 light years thick at the center of its disk if viewed edgewise. These distances constitute a problem enforcing legislation. I've always prided myself as a moral transhuman, a virtuous transhuman. I have lived according to those philosophical principles I hold in high regard and to the best of my ability as a transhuman. I cry out injustice at the new measures the Galactic Senate has taken to ward off belligerent anarchists! One must not idle at the prospect of suffering needlessly, but fight its beleaguered state of irrationality! Should I begin with the battery? That device that has cost my ancestors their honor and me my freedom? That rechargeable battery disposed with impropriety that led to subsequent injury and disease at the hands of the hapless? No, I'm afraid no story is so short or simple and this tale is not recalcitrant enough to break old molds.
The trouble begins approximately sixteen billion years ago. Ignoring the uncertainties of the earliest moments of creation, the universe was teaming with a hot broth of particles. Most particles combined to form either Hydrogen or Helium as the universe expanded, but a few formed higher elements—a process that continued with fusion in the floating balls of fire that came to populate it some hundreds of thousands of years later. The more massive stars would burn too quickly, forcing them to explode with excess energy and forge higher elements in their wake. They would collapse again and more energy would be needed to undergo the same process. When such a star exhausts its fuel, the final burst would shake the heavens and force even its brightest companions to cower in their own relative darkness. The heaviest stable elements of nature were thus spewed into the sprawling blackness; and among them we would find my enemies: Nickel and Cadmium.
Now imagine a fledgling world if you can, one in which people attempt harmonious lives and righteous deaths. One with vast blue oceans, billowy clouds, and lush landmasses with people sputtering about in noisy cars and seeking coitus in seedy bars. My ancestors were such limited beings. Among them was a young student living in a college apartment. Now he was similar in disposition to me: he craved technological wonders. His living space was apparently suffocated with electronic equipment, many requiring batteries. Being a crafty, clever young man, he decided for the sake of his own economy that he would use rechargeable batteries for many of these devices. But I have gone too far already.
In typical human manner, with little care for his environment, man carves careless cavities in the Earth's surface to expose its coy minerals to his eager hands. Cadmium is usually gathered at the same time man is satisfying his lust for other metals, as Cadmium is rare and is usually found naturally bound to other elements such as Oxygen or Sulfur. Nickel is fairly inert and safe to mine, but Cadmium is not so nice to delicate human frames. It easily enters the air and carries long distances before settling. It can cause health problems in the fragile humans that eat foods contaminated by it or breathe the air it has saturated. Cadmium is not as dangerous as many other metals and its effects are usually exaggerated by the HES, especially since Cadmium is only useful in a minimum of applications. But we have only come so far. Of what possible use are Nickel and Cadmium to fledgling human endeavors?
Human ingenuity never fails to astonish me. The first battery was built by Alessandro Volta in 1800; and voltage, the enduring electrical term, bears his name as a reward for his efforts. For reasons unknown to Volta (electrons were not discovered until 1897), certain combinations of metals and solutions produced a net electric current. To the more electron-savvy mind, Volta discovered a way for a chemical reaction to force electron movement through a conductor, thus producing electricity. These types of batteries lose their effectiveness after a while and must be discarded. My ancestor therefore plucked the fruits of Gaston Planté's labor from 1859—the rechargeable battery or secondary cell. Planté realized that the reactions of certain combinations of solutions and molecules are reversible chemically. A battery constructed on this premise can undergo recharging and last many years until at last entropy, the eternal enemy of efficiency, has its way. A NiCd, Nickel Cadmium battery, is such a device, and it is the device my ancestor chose to purchase many years ago.
Although these batteries served him well for a time, they eventually ceased their usefulness. In any chemical reaction, there is always a net loss of ordered energy in accordance with the second law of thermodynamics. Instead of braving a moment of environmental conscience, my ancestor, perhaps in a bout of lethargy, simply threw a NiCd battery away with normal household wastes. The garbage was later hauled away and taken to a landfill. The landfill was properly maintained—supplied with a synthetic liner and leachate collection pumps. During one of the many raucous trips bulldozers take to suppress the volume of the landfill's inhabitants, it crushed the batteries disposed by my ancestor. The subsequent exposure of Cadmium to the bulldozer, the landfill, and the air has since caught the attention of the HES.
And we arrive, at last, at the seat of the fault that causes my current predicament. The HES has calculated that the resulting Cadmium spill has contributed to disease in at least three humans. The crime I am to answer for is "consanguineous environmental negligence. " I have no defense outside that of protesting the punishment of descendents for the crimes of their lineage. My ancestor was a foolish young man; he intended no harm but he is guilty of the indolence that led him to disregard his duty to respect the Earth and its populace. A planet belongs to everyone—I know the doctrine! But what manner of galaxy is this where any human or transhuman need fear for his freedom at every moment for circumstances long since beyond his control? When such policing stretches to include those tainted by man's original sin, perhaps they will see their hyperbolic justice for what it is. To those who hear my humble plea, forgive me of my atrocity!

Works Consulted

Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. June 1999. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Atlanta, GA.
"Battery." Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia 2000. 2000.
"Battery Chemistry FAQ." PowerStream Technology. 17 August 2003.
Brian, Marshall. "How Batteries Work." How Stuff Works.
Miller, Tyler G. Sustaining the Earth: An Integrated Approach. 6th ed. California: Thomson Learning, Inc., 2004.