A Vietnamese village’s uncertain future

Tran Thi Kim Lien reports on the threats to the communities of her childhood.

In one study in my hometown – a mountainous area in North Central Region of Vietnam, we considered Huong Lam commune – one of the vulnerable areas of climate change in Ha Tinh province. The commune is home to 6,673 people in 1,636 households with an average population density of 400 people/km2. Their main livelihood activities are agriculture, small industries, trades and services. Our study found that this commune faces risk from floods, droughts, cold and storms.

The most immediate impact of drought is a reduction and even loss in crop production (paddy rice, peanut, maize, etc.) due to inadequate and poorly distributed rainfall. Another severe impact of droughts is water shortages (Overseas Development Institute, 1997 PDF). Lower pasture production from droughts may also decrease fodder supplies. With little land available, the people cannot reduce risk through diversification (Beckman, 2011). The unusual dry conditions since the end of 2015 (allied with El Niño) have led to severe droughts around the country (IFRC, 2016).

The worst agricultural losses are from floods that arrive with typhoons. Floods destroy both standing crops (paddy rice and fruit trees) and stored food. They also increase fungal infections that destroy seeds for the next planting. Floods of 2-3 days cause serious health problems for people (in particular, the disabled and elderly) who live in poor conditions with limited food sources, polluted water sources, and poor sanitation (Few, Ahern, Matthies, & Kovats, 2004 PDF).

The author standing on a road that nearly flooded after torrential rains raised the river level by 2m.
The author standing on a road that nearly flooded after torrential rains raised river levels by 2m.

The Vietnam Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment projects that medium emissions climate change scenarios (B2) will increase annual rainfall by 2-7 percent by 2100, with less rain in the dry season and more in the rainy season. Maximum daily rainfall may double in the North Central zones (including in Ha Tinh). Typhoons can uproot crops, damage trees, and destroy housing and animal shelters (Few, Ahern, Matthies, & Kovats, 2004). Climate change will change the intensity, frequency and (un)predictability of storms. In Ha Tinh, storms that normally occur from August to October are sometimes showing up in April, causing greater damage due to their unpredictable frequency and intensity.

The people of Huong Lam will not find it easy to adapt.


Tran Thi Kim Lien [email] holds Bachelors and Masters degrees in Forest Science and Management from Vietnam and Australia, respectively. After earning her first degree, she spent 13 years working in forestry and rural development in North Central Vietnam. Her Masters degree has widened her knowledge to include environmental management and climate change adaptation. She now focuses on helping local people understand their vulnerabilities and adapt to climate change.

Endlands

flickering greys, the sea
changes: unaltering,
silently, chivvies, switching
the soft primrose sand; one
grain flicks position with
another — impossible, inevitable.

the boats are silent- they
cross this expanse at the end of lands
vikings first, then pirates
raid and burn, settle and farm,
netherlanders, flatland explorers,
hunting the new crossings, echo
the dykes and drains- invisible tracks,
eat their way into the soft marshes,
expose the rich peats,
carve and create out of nolands.

inlets creeks and badlands,
flatlands perfect
for creeping smugglers lands
illicit acts in shifting edges
land of no land
sea of no sea

estuary

but the sea can rise,
crawl towards the sky,
the moon cries, desires,
dragging it over land hand made land

water
energetically, without mercy,
rushes over the flatlands,
washes away the coastlands,
demolishes all in its pathlands,
creates new edgelands —

nomanslands


catherine-jonesCatherine Jones is a musician, writer and artist based in the west of England but studied and lived for 8 years in East Anglia, the fens and flatlands of the east coast of England. Living near the coast in King’s Lynn, Norfolk, for 3 of those years really brought home to her how fragile the coastal environment is and how a very small sea level change would have devastating results. Much of her writing harks back to her memories of living and working in an unstable environment. She originally studied music but for some reason became a lawyer for twelve years, during which time she constantly wrote statements and affidavits, not really realising that actually what she enjoyed was telling a story. She rediscovered her need to write while completing a Masters in Fine Art, during which time she illustrated her dissertation with poetry. Since completing her Masters exactly a year ago, she’s been busy writing, teaching piano and singing, making art situations, mixed media pieces and installations, and dealing with two lively tweenage boys. She’s been an environmentalist since she was a child, growing trees from acorns and conkers on her windowsill and worrying about saving the whales when she was about 7 years old.

hourofwrites* This vision was submitted for the “Life plus 2m” prompt at Hour of Writes, which carries out weekly, peer-reviewed writing competitions.

Bacon for everyone

The future, writes Philip Ridgers, will bring some good with the bad.

It was early September 2060, and the town of Flotsam was literally in hot water. Tom Williams wiped sweat from his sunburned brow, peered down the hill at a small boat meandering among pale chimneys and mosquito swarms.

‘Poor folk,’ he said, as the boat receded.

‘Nothing to be done though,’ said Dan, his brother. He’d had the sense to wear his black cap that morning.

‘I suppose not,’ Tom replied. ‘Reckon they’ll be back?’

Dan did not bother answering. The Styles family needed to find cows if they had a hope of returning. Most of Flotsam doubted anyone within a hundred miles had come across beef in ten years.

‘Well good luck to them,’ Tom said. He wrung sweat from his brown factory sleeve and wiped his face again. If it’s this hot now, I dread midday. He thought the same thing every day.

‘I s’pose we should get to work,’ Dan said. ‘Pigs don’t kill themselves.’

They turned from the lake that had swallowed Bath a couple of decades earlier, and headed for the town slaughterhouse. Dan whistled as they walked.

‘You’re in a good mood,’ Tom said. He watched his footing, careful not to tread in the copious amount of pig dung that covered much of the town.

‘Well why not?’ Dan asked.

‘We just saw a family of four go to their likely deaths.’

‘They’ve got a chance. The professors gave them a month’s worth of insulin.’

‘Pig insulin.’

Dan shrugged. ‘It’s all we’ve got. Better than nothing, right?’

Tell that to Anne Styles, Tom thought. All three of her boys had grown resistant to porcine insulin, and their blood sugars were constantly skyrocketing.

Flotsam was primarily diabetic. Some doctors with type one diabetes had made their home in an abandoned MOD site, on the hill of what had been Lansdown in Bath. As the waters rose, someone found it amusing to call the place Flotsam. The name had stuck. They made insulin for themselves from pig pancreases, and diabetics had rushed to the area.

‘Maybe they’ll manage to get some live beef after all,’ Dan said. ‘Dr Shortwick can have the pancreases, the rest of us can eat something different for once.’

‘And the waters will recede, and everything will be fixed,’ Tom said. ‘We’ll walk down to the city centre like we did thirty years ago, when we were kids. Maybe we’ll even go for lunch at the Royal Crescent hotel cos we’ll be rich too.’

‘Sarcasm only buys you an injury,’ Dan replied.

‘All right, save that for the pigs,’ Tom said. They pushed through the doors of a makeshift barn. It was even hotter inside, and the smell was incredible. Men and women were already hard at work, herding squealing pigs into a large room.

‘Oi, Williams and Williams! You’re late,’ shouted Rick. The bald old man was in charge of butchery. Tom wondered why he bothered with a meat cleaver, his tongue could almost lash skin from bone.

‘We were seeing off the Styles,’ Dan said.

‘Grab knives, and use ‘em an extra hour past everyone else,’ Rick said.

‘Balls,’ Dan said, though not loudly enough for Rick to hear. ‘I want to get my Friday started on time.’

‘It’s only fair,’ Tom replied, picking up a long sharp knife. He joined the other workers, waiting outside the room of pigs. Someone pulled a lever, and CO2 stunned the squealing swine.

‘They get a comfier death than most of us,’ Dan said.

‘That’s cos the whole world’s gone to the pigs,’ Tom replied. ‘But they should enjoy it while it lasts.’ Like everything else, Flotsam was low on CO2.

A gong sounded. The workers moved through the doors and among the unconscious swine. Tom grabbed the hind legs of an enormous sow, dragged it onto a table with Dan’s help. He ran his knife across its throat, grimaced as blood poured copiously.

We need more aprons, he thought. He doubted his three minutes of authorised shower time would give him a chance to clean his clothes properly.

Soon, dead pigs were being hacked into their various useful parts. Dan started whistling again as he chopped.

‘You know what tonight is,’ he said.

‘Obvious statement awards night?’ Tom asked. It was the hour of power. Once a month, Flotsam’s mayor allowed residents to draw an hour’s worth of electricity from the grid for entertainment purposes.

‘What shall we enjoy?’ Dan asked.

‘I was thinking a film,’ Tom said. ‘We could invite Bella and Amanda over.’

‘It’ll cost us,’ Dan replied, chopping away. ‘Bella’s had three hypos this month. She’s almost through her glucose rations already, and looking for help.’

‘We’ll just say no,’ Tom said.

Dan laughed. ‘When have you ever resisted her smile?’

Fair point, Tom thought. ‘It’ll be fine,’ he said. ‘I’ll persuade her to see the docs, reduce her insulin dose. If she sits nice and still, she’ll be ok. I’ll do the cooking, serve up my world famous regulation bacon, sausage and cabbage.’

‘You convinced me,’ Dan said, his broad chest spattered red. ‘We should watch Toy Story.’

‘That’s almost an hour and a half long.’

‘We’ll just act the first part of it then.’

Tom grimaced. ‘Don’t you dare…’ he began, but it was too late.

You got a friend in me,’ Dan sang.

I hate that bloody song, Tom thought. Dan sang it about six times a day. However, Tom seemed to be in the minority. To his horror, other workers started singing along.

In barbershop harmony.

‘You’ve ruined it even more,’ Tom said. ‘When the hell did you find time to rehearse?’

‘Oh come on, it’s catchy,’ Dan replied. Then, he launched into the chorus. Tom tried to frown, but a smile tugged at his mouth. He had to admit, they were rather good. He hummed along in spite of himself. Before long, everyone was singing.

The heat gathered, pig entrails were everywhere, and music covered the town of Flotsam.


philipPhilip Ridgers is a piano teacher and accompanist currently living in Bath. When he’s not busy at a piano, he also enjoys writing. As a type 1 diabetic, it was a natural choice for him to centre his contribution around diabetes. You can judge him for his opinions here.

hourofwrites* This vision was submitted for the “Life plus 2m” prompt at Hour of Writes, which carries out weekly, peer-reviewed writing competitions.

Slowly too late

Slowly
The light enters our eyes
Slowly
The answers now too late
Lie scattered on university tables
In books
In speeches
In films
Plans are hurriedly hatched
To save what is left
Too slow
Too late


majelMajel Haugh is a writer based in Limerick city. Her work has appeared in Abridged, Limerick Literary Revival and Burning Bush 2. She was also a finalist in the Desmond O’Grady International poetry competition.

hourofwrites* This vision was submitted for the “Life plus 2m” prompt at Hour of Writes, which carries out weekly, peer-reviewed writing competitions.