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I've created the outline to a story involving human beings colonizing Venus, or rather the atmosphere at an altitude of approximately 51 km. Through advanced medical techniques, the first colonists have been totally and permanently altered to thrive at that altitude and even to build floating structures. They fly naked in the air, just like fish in the sea.

Venus is assumed to be lifeless since it has such a hostile environment, so the moral implications of colonization are not of concern. Since climate change is continuing to make the Earth less habitable, the answer is to adapt colonists to exist on other worlds, including Venus (yes, there's mention in my story about humans being adapted for changes in Earth's climate, but the key to human survival is diversity of locations).

I want to introduce a previously unknown intelligence living in the atmosphere somewhere beneath. Relatively few altered Earth colonists might not affect the indigionus race since they effectively are designed to live at different atmospheric levels. Sort of like how say, if humans had colonized Earth in small numbers at first, they might not have significant effect on intelligent marine mammals.

I'm having a concern with the potential pros and cons of continuing the colonization efforts. For instance, as more colonists arrive and establish habitats higher in the atmosphere, would the light being blocked from the Sun have an effect. I'm proposing that my native Venusians absorb UV light as a food source and that the biology of my adapted humans does something similar, but higher in the atmosphere. Since the colonists and the indigenous beings eventually will be competing for the same resources, would the only solution be to abandon colonization efforts? After all, the colonists can't be returned to human form and can only exist above Venus.

What are some potential answers to the two "races" co-existing without adversely affecting each other and the environment?

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    $\begingroup$ Well, for one thing, if your native Venusians are eating UV light, I’m pretty sure that they are going to be going pretty hungry, given how thick the cloud cover on Venus is. $\endgroup$ – nick012000 Sep 5 at 1:41
  • $\begingroup$ Actually, the idea has been around for a while: space.com/40304-venus-clouds-alien-life-search.html $\endgroup$ – James Sep 5 at 1:43
  • $\begingroup$ That’s talking about alien life living in the clouds, not underneath them - and if they’re in the clouds, they’d be directly competing with the humans for territory. $\endgroup$ – nick012000 Sep 5 at 1:45
  • $\begingroup$ Well, it seems that we described 229 new species in 2018, it's par for the course of living on a planet apparently. The body of the question seems to not match the title, can you edit to give us a clearer idea of what you are asking? $\endgroup$ – We are Monica. Sep 5 at 1:54
  • $\begingroup$ Edited the title slightly. Does that help? $\endgroup$ – James Sep 5 at 2:00
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If you're set on everyone co-existing (which usually doesn't happen as colonists have superior technology and thus power, but need native resources), it comes down to how developed your natives are.

History shows us that colonists very rarely abandon their efforts due to the cost, immense difficulty and futility of returning home. Colonies that are lost often create mysteries that are still unsolved today. Considering your colonists can only live on Venus, they'd have no choice but to stay put. With this in mind, you have a few options.

You could take inspiration from the efforts to colonise New Zealand, where the colonisers took ownership of land whilst giving natives authority of state. Such an approach also gives you the license to write whatever story you want- conflict, diplomacy, everyone holding hands and making daisy chains, etc. You can strike trade deals with natives, agreeing to share local resources in exchange for exoplanet materials, knowledge, or whatever their needs happen to be.

Alternatively, maybe they do just that: co-exist. They just tolerate one another's presence to avoid conflict and turmoil. Developed societies fight less than developing socities: the number of wars between democracies in the 1900's is smaller than the number of wars in North Africa alone over the same time period. A series of unspoken agreements to take only what you need won't be ironclad, but should keep everyone in line out of fear of repercussions.

Outside of religion, resources are the largest cause of war. You would definitely struggle creating a harmonious society between natives and unannounced invaders. Who's to say your colonists will even begin to understand the natives?

Good question though- definitely gave me a fair bit to think about.

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    $\begingroup$ Thanks for all that. Also gave me a lot to think about. Insomnia had me considering much of this and you've helped give me a direction. Oh, in this case, although my colonists initially have technological assistance from Earth, the idea is for them to live as closely in harmony with the environment as possible, learning from the mistakes of the past, which is why they would have much greater concerns about colonization than western civilization has had historically. $\endgroup$ – James Sep 5 at 13:20
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Humans will need to farm and live sustainably. This isn't anything new, in fact it was done on Earth for thousands of years, humans even improved the ecosystems in turn. The downside is, the planet then can't support billions of people this way. Only one billion, perhaps.

The overpopulation can be solved by colonizing the space. If humans can genetically engineer themselves to withstand sulfur oxide in the atmosphere, why not near-vacuum too?

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  • $\begingroup$ Actually, overpopulation is one of the concerns, since endlessly throwing modified colonists into Venus's atmosphere certainly won't be sustainable over time. The problem is worse when you consider they're invading someone else's biosphere. $\endgroup$ – James Sep 5 at 12:38
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    $\begingroup$ So, someone endlessly breeds billions of genetically altered humans and leaves them stranded on Venus? Yuck. That does not have any good solution. $\endgroup$ – Juraj Sep 5 at 14:34
  • $\begingroup$ Actually, there are only six to start off with. $\endgroup$ – James Sep 5 at 15:26
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Or if the Venusians are not feeding on UV light (as the atmosphere is veeery thick) they might be feeding on other, smaller forms of life that are feeding on UV in the upper atmosphere but that travels lower down during the night (like fish feeding on plankton (Phytoplankton) and algae). The humans might be harvesting the same source of food (this... Venusian algae) and therefore irritating the Venusians.

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