It’s spring again, after yet another wet and windy winter. I’d better go out and feed the chickens, but can’t say I feel particularly motivated to do so, not with the rain lashing against the window, sending muddy streams of water running down the hill to the already swollen river.
At least we don’t live in the village, that’ll be flooded again. I’m surprised more people haven’t moved, but I guess folks are clinging on to what they can these days. Maybe I’ll trade the last orange with the kids, as payment for doing the morning chores; we don’t see much in the way of oranges, and haven’t done for several years now, not since the new laws came in around carbon footprints. As for bananas, the children have never had one, they got wiped out by some new fungus that couldn’t be eradicated in time to save the plantations, and they’d be too far away to transport now anyway.
Still, life is pretty good, all things considered and despite the lack of exotic foodstuffs. There’s definitely more of a community spirit, and healthier lifestyles going on, both mentally and physically. Sod it, I’ll save the orange for later.
I bang on the kid’s bedroom door to wake them from their respective slumbers, and put on my boots, heading out into the rain as the sun rises behind the clouds, and the neighbours ever hopefully cockerel welcomes in the new day. The constant whirring of the wind turbine supplying power to both our house, and those of several neighbours, reminds me that I should check the solar panels soon, now that we’ve more daylight they’ll need cleaning. There’s a lot more renewable energy now, with the ban on most fossil fuel burning in place. We’ve enough power for everything we need, unless it’s really cloudy and there’s no wind for an extended period. As long as the kids have an internet connection they’ll be happy, but I ration them to an hour online a day, aside from school, to make sure they have time for chores and learning skills that’ll be important should things deteriorate.
So much has changed in the last 30 years, and so quickly, faster than any of the scientists were predicting, or willing to predict anyway. The CO2 levels in the atmosphere rocketed, due to warming oceans soaking it up less and less, more being released from vast areas no longer locking greenhouse gases away under a permafrost layer, and humankind’s continued thirst for cheap and dirty energy. A few big and unexpected volcanic eruptions didn’t help either, although they did remind people we can’t control everything. We reached a tipping point where global temperature rises were locked in, and are still locked in despite a massive reduction in carbon emissions. In the space of about 20 years the big glaciers in the Arctic Circle had all but melted, causing sea levels to rise dramatically, and huge areas to be flooded; the Norfolk coastline certainly changed, however at least we’re still above water, unlike swathes of Bangladesh and India, the Maldives, and countless other areas around the world.
I let the chickens out, make sure they’ve got enough grain, then do the rounds to check everything is in order, the pigs are happy, and nothing’s been stolen overnight. We don’t have much trouble nowadays, compared with 10 years ago, but there’s still the odd band of desperate people about, those without a home or means to contribute enough in return for food. All’s well and I head back inside hoping Danny and Jess have got breakfast ready.
The altered climate brought with a whole host of challenges. Some areas had too much water, whilst other suffered from extended drought, causing huge population migrations. War had been the motivating factor before, however now climate change took over. Then things got really bad, with economic meltdowns in China and the US sending everyone else down the tube. This led to more unrest, with richer countries no longer able to help out those most in need, or unwilling to do so with so many issues on the home front. Borders started closing, but this didn’t stop huge numbers of people streaming into Europe from the Middle East and Africa. The dystopian future people had feared would happen started to become a reality, with fascism on the rise in many countries, and vicious crackdowns on anyone threatening to further destabilise already precarious governments. The UK, by virtue of the English Channel, was spared a lot of the problems that hit France, Germany and Scandinavia, especially after some radicals blew up the Channel Tunnel; no mean feat considering it was meant to be relatively bomb proof.
Danny and Jess are up and already half way through their breakfasts by the time I’ve shaken the water off my coat and sat down at the table. We chat about who’s doing what today as we munch our way through eggs and bacon, with a few rounds of toast for good measure. I’ll need to go and restock on butter from the farm down the road again soon, and we’re nearly out of jam, with a few months until we can make any more. My wife Cassy used to make the best jam, but she passed away a few years ago, one of the last to die of the Snow virus before a vaccine was made widely available. Danny and Jess will work on their schooling this morning, before helping out in the workshop this afternoon. I leave them to clear up breakfast and head there myself, keen to finish fixing up a couple of biofuel generators that have been on my to do list for the last month, and which the mayor chased me up on yesterday.
I think about Cassy, as I often do, as I get to work cleaning the generator alternators. I miss her so much, but life goes on and I still have Danny and Jess; I’m fortunate compared to so many others. Rising global temperatures and melting ice didn’t just cause sea level rises and intense storms, we got hit by diseases no one was expecting. It started with the Zika virus spreading like wildfire, and then a whole load of other outbreaks as vector numbers and their viable habitats increased. We saw more Ebola due to a deterioration in sanitation in parts of Africa, but the Snow virus was the worst. Scientists reckon it was something locked away in the ice that thawed and went airborne, infecting masses before a vaccine could be created. Survival rates were low, and death not pretty, with funeral pyres lighting up the countryside for miles. The latest stats estimate over 70% of the world population perished due to Snow, with outbreaks still happening in some remote areas; I guess that’s solved the overpopulation crisis. Weirdly Russia seems to have done a lot better than other countries, and there are more than a few conspiracy theories suggesting why that might be, however it might just be that they were more prepared to take drastic measures to look after their own.
I finish the generators, grab lunch with Danny and Jess who as usual seem determined to explain why learning algebra isn’t going to help with anything, then we all head back to the workshop to continue working on the tram components needed for the new network in Norwich; self-drive systems I have the knowhow to build, and which Danny and Jess can help with, sort of, they’re learning anyway, and I’ll get them working in the vegetable patch if they get bored.
It’s great we have power to run things like trams, and electric vehicles, as well as our homes. We didn’t a few years ago when huge storms wiped out a lot of the off-shore turbines; higher sea levels, and massive storm driven waves aren’t kind to turbine blades. Some places started to use old petrol and diesel generators again, but that didn’t last long, with a violent backlash from many who saw such things as the cause of all our problems, and rightly so might I add (just in case the Environment Ministry is reading this). How could the human race continue using resources that are essentially dooming us, for so long, ever since the industrial revolution…bastards…why didn’t they just think a bit more about the future and their children, instead of being so unwilling to make even the slightest change to their excessive lifestyles. We’ve got fusion coming online now, finally. We should no doubt have put more effort into developing it sooner, but hindsight is a wonderful thing. Fusion is going to take a few more years to roll it out across the country, however once it’s in place we’re sorted energy wise, and the last of the nuclear plants can finally be shut down for good, getting rid of another threat to the world’s future.
We knock off an hour before dusk, after a productive day on all counts, even if Danny did fall out of an apple tree trying to retrieve the drone he’d accidentally flown into its branches. They shouldn’t have been playing with it anyway, but I let that pass; they’re good kids for the most part, and I’m conscious they don’t get as much time to just be kids as they should. Over supper we watch the latest news reports, which aren’t all doom and gloom, despite more severe weather warnings as the persisting El Nino effect and disrupted Jet Stream send more storm fronts our way; nothing new there. There’s a great documentary on how marine life has recovered in the last 15 years, since the genocidal fishing fleets were put out of action, and demand fell due to a reduced population. It reminds me we should head up to the coast, not as far away as it used to be, to enjoy some fresh crab and restock on smoked fish. Although we don’t have all the food luxuries that were ever-present 30 years ago, we’re pretty well off now, and even have an abundance of some things, such as vegetables and meat, although we try not to eat too much of the latter. It was bad for a while, with anarchy reigning when food shortages hit and things collapsed, but we got there in the end.
We wash up and ensure any waste is assigned to the relevant pod for recycling, not that there’s much waste these days with packaging made illegal, and people taking their own containers and bags to pick up food or goods from merchants or the government-run outlets. That’s another thing that’s hard to believe nowadays; how could people in the 20th and early 21st century be so wasteful? We’ll be living with a legacy of plastic bottles for millennia to come, but at least we can reuse them for various things, and very few are produced new now due to the restrictions.
After dinner, and for a bit of fun, we take the electric motorbikes out for a scramble around the nearby forest track, wearing our light enhancing goggles to avoid crashing on the way there. We enjoy seeing who can perform the most outrageous stunts around the solar storage lighted track, and as usual Jess wins; she’s no fear that girl. After a chat with the neighbours on the way back, who are out for a horse ride and like us enjoying a break in the rain, we all plug-in to the Net for an hour before bed, surfing our way through games, adventures, social media or news, whatever takes our fancy, and occasionally interacting with each other, far away friends or relatives as we float disembodied in the ether; I can see why some people were tempted to go fully virtual.
Then some alone time. Jess and Danny are in bed. I sit by the wood burning stove which I’ve lit as a luxury, burning a few kilograms of our wood allowance, and reflect. We’ve made it, things are looking up for the human race now, as long as we remember lessons learned. A tear tracks down my face as my thoughts turn to Cassy, and all the others we’ve lost, including my parents, early victims of the Climate Riots. Yes, we’ve made it, Danny and Jess have a future, and as long as we continue to strive to live in harmony with Earth, rather than exploiting and abusing it and each other, we stand a good chance. There’s still the threat that the climate changes we’ve locked in will throw us some curve-balls, or the odd country might go rogue and contravene the Earth agreement; Russia still worries a lot of us, but we’re getting there. I wonder what our parents, grandparents, great grandparents would have changed if they could have only seen us now.
Interesting to write, and think about what life could really be like in the not to distant future. If not by 2050, then within the next few hundred years. It’s fascinating to think about how things could change, quite quickly, for the worse in the short-term, but better in the longer term, with sustainable policies coming into effect, and the human race living in parallel rather than perpendicularly to the rest of the planet, and technological advances still benefiting us. Of course I haven’t mentioned a zombie apocalypse, but I’ll save that blog post for another day.
Now if only everyone would really think about this, and the challenges ahead, and make changes before we’re forced to by circumstance.
Fantastically done. Although, if all the Greenland glaciers melted, Norfolk would be 10-12 feet underwater.
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Thank you, I’ll consider finding a bigger hill to live on!
Enjoyed this story, saw the link on Robert Scribbler’s site. I’m a big fan of futuristic dystopian stories based heavily on real science. You should flesh this out into a longer story?
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Thanks Matt. I’m considering it. It’s a fascinating topic to ponder, and strange to think about what might come to pass.
This was very enjoyable! And, in my opinion, not far fetched at all. Sadly, I think many ideas you touched on will, in fact, become reality.
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Thanks for reading Ryan, glad you enjoyed it. It’s going to be a very interesting, if worrying, next 50 years.
Incredible, and optimistic actually, when it’s so much easier to make distopian scenarios nowdays. It was a great read, and would be a nice setting for a longer novel.
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Thank you. I’m thinking about expanding it, could be fun to explore further.
Over 40 years ago folks were saying if Greenland went sea level round the UK would rise 12 ft. I couldn’t understand it as my calculations indicated it would drop by a few feet. You see I suffer from a very rare complaint it is called “thinking for yourself”
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I agree Paul, thinking for yourself, and drawing your own conclusions after reading about stuff is very important. I’d welcome any counter arguments/evidence.
In the early 70’s I was working on computer modelling of traffic flows. We used gravity models to distribute car trips around the network, trips being proportional to size of, say a shopping centre, and inversely proportional to the square of the distance to said centre. To me, if no one else, the mass of all that ice must be pulling an awful lot of n. Atlantic up towards the UK. Take away the ice and the sea level will drop. And all done on a slide-rule!
Back then I spent 9-5, Mon.-Fri in the 21stC because we were modelling traffic 40 years away. From my calculations the world economy would fall over (my background is in Structural Engineering) by 2010 but I could only be that smart because of course I knew nothing of economics. Anyway I’m confident Norwich is safe and more importantly so is Wells-Next- the-Sea where my sister lives
The ice melt I’m referring to is locked in glaciers, rather than in the ocean, although in either case I’m not sure how it melting would cause a drop in sea levels, quite the opposite; mostly in the case of the glacial melt rather than sea ice. There might be some kind of gravity/displacement thing going here I’m not getting? I was in Wells a few weeks back; love that part of the Norfolk coastline, long may it continue!
I really enjoyed reading this. Albeit a necessary reality check. X
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Thanks Louisa. Often think about Seb and Anna when pondering this stuff. See you all soon I hope 🙂