The Bad News? The current U.N. report on climate unequivocally states that global warming is happening, that we are causing it, that it will be much worse than previously projected, and that we need to reduce damaging emissions to near zero. Also, the U.S. has just catapulted into congressional and state leadership a political party committed to rejecting these scientific findings and expanding our use of fossil fuels. The Good News? Actually—right at the moment I can’t think of anything.
Forecasting the future is typically impossible. However, here are two scenarios of our future: as the oil eventually runs out, as the storms and droughts and social disequilibrium vastly increase, as so much of what we thought was guaranteed fades away, what will life be like?
I haven’t been outside for 2 days, and I’m getting pretty hungry. But the wind just won’t let up. Every time Grandpa shuffles up what’s left of the stairs and pokes his head out, I can hear it—howling, whining, pulling at everything it touches, trying to get in here. So he just slams the hatch door shut, and shakes his head, reaches over to pat me on the shoulder. “Soon Adam, soon. Then we’ll go out and see if the berries have ripened; and maybe some kind of fish is in the flood plain. We sprout old seeds, the ones that aren’t too moldy, and that’s mainly what we eat when we can’t get out.
But I also see what he doesn’t think I can see—that look in his eyes. Like what I saw in a dog once, that we chased down because it had lost a leg, just before we killed it. We roasted it slow over a fire. Grandpa’s eyes look like that dog’s—fighting till he couldn’t go on anymore, but knowing it was hopeless.
If it wasn’t for the boy I would have killed myself years ago. He’s lucky, he doesn’t remember what it was like before…It had been happening for years. But the early stuff seems like nothing—a few tornadoes, hurricanes, long droughts, typhoons in Bangladesh, and vicious heat waves in Moscow and Texas.
We thought that was bad. We didn’t know. Or we knew and we didn’t care.
How many of us are left? No way to know. The planes, the grid, the cloud, the cell phone towers, the Internet—all gone. Everything we believed in, from local hospitals, to supermarkets where we bought all that food, to the gas stations—Ahh, all those gas stations, how we loved to “fill ‘er up” and whip out the smooth plastic card to make it happen.
We didn’t know we were just dreaming of a future that was about as real as some little girl’s fantasy of marrying a prince.But when the bats and the bees started to die, that cut into the food supply. A hundred thousand pine trees in the Rocky Mountains were falling every day because some beetle really liked the warmer weather and could eat trees for an extra few months. Breast cancer was an epidemic. Spring was coming weeks earlier. There was a stew of plastic junk in the Eastern Pacific that was as big as fucking Texas, some said as big as the U.S.
We thought we’d ride it out. That someone else would take care of it.
We didn’t realize all this was kid stuff, like rolling down a little hill. And that we were about to fall off a cliff.
The wind is slowing down. Grandpa says we’ll go up soon. We’ll try to find something safe to eat. Grandpa says there used to be something called bread, which I can’t quite understand it. He even showed me a picture in an old magazine. But I’ve never seen anything like it and I can’t imagine. I only know this world. And there was fruit, all kinds of fruit, all year round, and so many different vegetables besides the seeds. And none of it was moldy; and you didn’t have to fight the rats or the roaches for it.
When the oil stopped, that was the worst of it. No cars, no planes, no ships, no fertilizer, no cars. Most of the alternative sources–wind, sun, hydro—depended on spare parts and machines and stuff that came by truck, or car, or were dependent on other stuff that came that way. And the damage was done. The climate had finally changed, no going back.
Someone told me they heard a last desperate message from Saudi Arabia, before all contact was lost. They had a secret reservoir of oil. And they were offering to trade it, straight up, gallon for gallon, for water. They were dying of thirst, finally realizing that you can’t drink oil.
Inland it’s worse than here: no rain, no water. Whatever oil they have left they use to truck in water, or to pump it in. But they can never get enough, and then the storms kick up and smash the roads, or the machinery, or the pipeline. We never did figure out how to desalinate ocean water—too busy building smart phones and tablet computers, I guess. All we’ve got now is hundreds of millions dead, refugees roaming the land hoping to find something better. And when they do, there are too many of them and then in a few years, or months, that’s gone too.
I guess this is just what it is. I’ll never understand what happened, what there used to be. Grandpa says all the trees broken by the wind used to be something called a forest, that you could swim in lakes that weren’t all choked with green slime; that there were things called beaches where people went into the ocean, which wasn’t with jellyfish and old plastic.
All those things that used to be.
Where did they go?
[Scenario 2: Next week]