The people of the Fifth World vary as much as the land itself.

At its peak, the old world united all of humanity in a single civilization. People could speak of the history of the world as a singular thing, all leading to this moment. The only sensible history of the Fifth World, though, would simply tell the tale of how that single story unraveled back into ten thousand sagas, each one focused on the ties of kinship that bind a particular community to a particular territory, and of their honored ancestors who rediscovered and renewed those ancient covenants.

Compared to a primordial earth, the Fifth World might seem diminished. The mass extinctions and climatic shifts have certainly left their mark, but in the intervening centuries an overwhelming richness and biodiversity has covered the world once again. Just enough time has passed for the oldest woods in many places to become old-growth forests. Shaped on every level by their dwelling in such places, the people of the Fifth World have become native to a particular place. The soil, water, and air of a particular valley flows through them and back into that same valley. The stone and wood found there influence their art, and the songs of the birds there teach them how to sing. The traditions of the Fifth World vary as much as the land itself because they arise out of the land, from thirteen generations of engagement with it.

The close apprenticeship to the spirit of place that the people of the Fifth World take for granted shapes their minds to a particular soundscape, the rhythm of seasonal life and seasonal tastes, in close relationship with other-than-human neighbors. Like any other animal, they recognize the songs of birds and the calls of different animals. They may not see for miles off into the distance, but the hawk can, and they recognize the hawk’s calls and the way it flies when it sees prey. The whole world becomes an extended set of senses for them. Sneaking up to surprise such people in their own territory proves all but impossible. Every rodent, every bird, every insect in their territory rushes to alert them to your intrusion. To invade the territory of such a community means more than just challenging the community; it means challenging the land itself. Such incursions rarely happen anymore, but when they do, they usually end quickly and decisively.

The flourishing of the Fifth World has meant not only the restoration of the world’s biodiversity, but humanity’s own diversity along with it. Even as the old world’s genetic exchange has leveled the species’ klines into a fairly consistent omni-ethnic mix, the thousand thousand traditions that fill the world with unique songs, stories, customs, rites, beliefs, philosophies, values, and sciences exhibit the full breadth of wonder, wisdom, brilliance, hope, fury, and beauty that human beings can bring into the world. Each tradition rises from the unique history of engagement and collaboration with each other and all their kin, human and otherwise. Once, their ancestors spoke of “world history” as a singular thing, a story leading to one, singular achievement of human potential. The Fifth World instead offers histories in the plural, and ten thousand visions of how to live as a human being.

View Page History