The grass is pale on the other side

This “vision” is one of the 30+ that we’ll publish here in the next months. Most of them will go into Life Plus 2 Meters, Volume 2 (expected publication: Dec 2017). We hope that you will comment on the message, suggest ways to sharpen the narrative, and tell us how the story affects your understanding of adapting to climate change.

Most importantly, we hope that you enjoy reading these stories and share them with your friends and family. —David Zetland (editor) and the authors

Krishna and his three siblings are enjoying the dimming sunlight playing in the courtyard of their dilapidated mud hut. They have skipped lunch and will hate to be called inside for dinner. Devki, mother of the four children, looks out of the window gazing through spider webs and decides against calling them inside. She smiles at her youngest daughter, Imly, who is playing in shade of the giant Babul tree. Devki’s smile quickly wanes, giving way to tears of pain and anguish. Her husband Balraam had committed suicide by hanging from that tree a few months ago. Ever since, Devki is managing herself and the children on her own. Several days in a week go by with a single meal and she has less to explain if the four children keep themselves busy in the courtyard.

Balraam owned a small farmland in Vidarbha village in Maharashtra, India. Vidarbha has suffered from water shortage for several decades. However, the situation has changed– only for the worse. The village is now among the several severely drought-affected villages across the state of Maharashtra. Balraam took a farm loan to buy seeds, fertilizers and used a small part of it to celebrate with his family the occasional few days he had some extra cash. A local weather guru Hirana had predicted a heavy monsoon and received a token of appreciation from the farmers for his promise of healthy produce. The farm was ploughed and seeds were sown. But instead of abundant rain, it barely rained at all. Balraam’s crops failed. Drenched in debt, Balraam could not bear the pain of not being able to provide for his family anymore. He followed other farmers from the neighboring villages in ending his life.

A postman, meanwhile, stops by the mud hut and hands over a letter to little Imly who quickly brings it over to her mother. Tears trickle down Devki’s face as she looks down at Imly holding the letter from her aunt Sujata – Devki’s sister. Sujata writes in the letter that she is coming to

visit them with her family and that they could stay for several days. Sujata lives far East in the state of Bihar boasting vast stretches of fertile land. Ganges – the holy Indian River and its tributaries flow through Bihar and keep the land wet.

Devki has always found happiness in Sujata’s prosperity, but for the first time she experiences a hint of jealousy. Devki writes back explaining Sujata that she is barely feeding her children and it will be impossible for her to honor the guests. Devki almost wants to ask her sister for help but stops short for the respect of her deceased husband. The children, dehydrated after playing for long return inside and sleep shortly after. Devki looks upon as another day goes by and eventually sobs herself to sleep.

Next morning, she is woken up by a knock on the door. It is Sujata and her children. Imly quickly brags to her aunt that she was the one to receive her letter from the postman. The sisters feel a little differently about the Indian Postal Service. Devki invites Sujata and children inside and offers water. Sujata looks at the brimming glass of water and starts crying. Confused, Devki asks the children to go outside and play, and holds Sujata in her arms.

Sujata informs Devki that there was a flood in Bihar from heavy rain resulting in increased discharge from the rivers. Her husband, Ranjan was swept away in the flood and their farm is inundated. The stagnant water is making people sick and several children have died of diarrhea. The only drinking water they had was floodwater and they were running out of the food rations she picked up before leaving the house. She had no option but to come to Devki to avoid the death trap. Sujata reminisces that Ranjan had once proposed to settle elsewhere during a previous “near-flood” situation but she had decided against it.

Sujata offers to work in Devki’s farm and raise their children together. Devki informs her that she sold the land to repay Balraam’s farm debt and now works in the local government office. Devki promises to talk to the babus for Sujata’s employment.

Next morning, Devki goes to work and sees a large gathering outside office. She hears people discussing adaptation strategies to deal with the simultaneous drought and flood in different parts of the country. She remembers how each year there are similar meetings but nothing ever gets done. Agitated, she returns home and along with Sujata starts making some dinner for the children. Later in the evening, the village panchayat announces that the central government has promised green light for the river-linking project. This, according to the government, will allow the surplus water in Ganges to flow through one of the rivers in Maharashtra. Devki recalls reading about this project when she was young. She, along with Sujata go to the local officer to understand how long it will take to complete the task. Rama, the officer, tired after a long day of work is not interested in taking any questions. After several minutes of trying to get away, he responds to them “Not in your lifetime, and may be in your children’s”. Sujata and Devki look at each other with welled eyes.

Nishita Sinha has a Master’s degree in Economics from Jawaharlal Nehru University, India. Currently, she is a doctoral student in the Department of Agricultural Economics at Texas A&M University. Her research interest lies in studying resource policy implications – primarily water resources. Currently, she is involved in a project developing a market solution to deal with water shortage during extensive drought periods in South Texas. She believes the role of “invisible hand” is critical to policy issues in natural resources and should be employed more often. She can be reached at

Message in a Bottle

This “vision” is one of the 30+ that we’ll publish here in the next months. Most of them will go into Life Plus 2 Meters, Volume 2 (expected publication: Dec 2017). We hope that you will comment on the message, suggest ways to sharpen the narrative, and tell us how the story affects your understanding of adapting to climate change.

Most importantly, we hope that you enjoy reading these stories and share them with your friends and family. —David Zetland (editor) and the authors

After saying their farewells to our chief, my tribe left the pyre, their heads bowed. But I have remained, waiting to be left alone, because Chief Tyson was more than a chief to me, he was my grandfather.

Standing on the headland, I look out across the expanse of sea, a sea dotted with islands much like our own. Islands inhabited by our enemies, who legend would have it, had once been our kith and kin. That had been just one of the stories my grandfather had told his people. And yet it was hard to believe, given the great battles and skirmishes that had taken place between their tribe and ours, in an attempt to control the seas between us.

I could barely comprehend that my grandfather was dead. Only the stench of burning flesh and the curl of smoke, rising to the sky, confirmed I was not in dream time. And with him gone, I worried for the future. Would I be able to earn the respect of the people, like he had? He’d been as wise as the spirits that protected us. His knowledge of our people and our past, had, he assured us, been passed down from his grandfather and his grandfather before that – and so on and so on. But his tales were so fantastical, that without respect for him, I was sure many of the islanders doubted their truth. But isn’t that the place of myth and legend?

The sun was beginning to set behind the island of Skiddaw now — a full orange sun, burnishing on the sea and not for the first time, I wondered what was beyond. Once, thousands of years ago, our island of Helvellyn had been a mountain and Skiddaw the same. And where the sea was now, had been dotted with beautiful, fresh-water lakes. It had been a place of peace and beauty, an escape from that other place they’d known as tar and cement.

But legend would have it, that our ancestors had conjured up a storm. A storm so otherworldly, that it had ended life as they had known it. Hungry bellies and selfish desires had harnessed what they could, no matter the outcome. They’d robbed from the land, thirsty for more and more. They didn’t understand they were mere caretakers and some say, they did not care. They had lost sight of what was important.

The more unusual stories, told tales of people being able to speak to each other across the seas, see each other on the other side of vast landscapes. Others whispered that they’d climbed up to the moon, to find the man and then flown, like birds, around the stars. Those same stars, that were just becoming visible now.

Apparently, they had been a blasé people and despite the warnings written across the skies and in the rising of the seas, they had been persuaded by the money Gods that they could have it all, so they took it. And they kept taking. The more they had, the more they wanted. A given, a truth, a right. They guzzled and consumed until it was too late.

My grandfather described storms that had rumbled until the skies had cracked, crimson with fire -– the air had gotten hotter and hotter, until our ancestors had choked for breathe. Even the wildlife had suffered. The winged life began to fall limp, plummeting to earth. Flies swarmed — flesh eating. Rank, putrid smells hung in the air and invaded nostrils. And out at sea, great tidal surges had thundered towards the land, bringing with it, the finned and swollen — their bodies diseased and left to perish on the beaches. Corals, once orange, green and brown, sea lettuce and grape, smothered, choked and bleached, as their sun faded. There was no breakers — no end to push the tide back. Great civilisations were destroyed and drowned. The world had imploded and the people with it.

The people had grown weaker, disillusioned as their bodies failed. They prepared to die and did. Only the fittest made it, taking refuge on the peaks, whilst the troughs rose higher and higher. Only a few survived long enough to populate the mountains and eek out an existence, foraging on a land that had nothing to give.

Of course, these were just stories; ancient folklore based on witchcraft and daemons and couldn’t possibly be true. Could they? I’d often asked my grandfather this very question and once, he’d taken me down to the water’s edge and made me fish one of the clear and battered containers out of the sea. ‘Where do these come from?’ He had asked, holding up the container towards the light.

We knew them as bottles and we collected and drank from them, we buried them in the ground to collect bugs for our food and we built totems with them. Where they’d come from, I hadn’t rightly cared. I’d shrugged my shoulders, ‘well they’re a gift from the sea.’

‘A gift you say.’ My grandfather had looked thoughtful, as he combed his greying beard with his fingers. ‘Well they are a gift of sorts. Look at them, littering the beaches,’ he’d motioned with his arms. ‘But their gift, is not their usefulness. Their gift is the message they bring from our forbearers.’

‘Message?’ I’d looked at him, dumbfounded. The vessel was empty, save for a mouthful of dirty water and sand.‘But there is no message’, I’d said, ‘and how could something so old, last so long anyway?’

‘Well that my son, I can’t tell you, but I do know you must guard its message, always. Guard it and pass it on to your children and beyond.’

Bending down now, I fish a similar bottle from the beach, remembering how he’d leaned over his staff that day and whispered conspiratorially, into my ear. ‘Our ancestors reaped what they had sown, so learn from it’ he’d warned. ‘Be neither blind nor deaf. Never get complacent, son, never get greedy, never go after riches and convenience and most of all, remember that we are mere caretakers of this land. When we forget that,’ he’d continued ‘it will be the beginning of our own destruction.’

Just like then, I looked at the bottle now, bemused, searching for these hidden messages and could see none. And just like then, I brought it to my ear, listening, but heard nothing. Frustrated, I kicked the dust over the last, burning embers of my grandfather and decided his warnings, were just the ramblings of an old man. Times were different now and we must adapt and change, in order to survive. We must survive, whatever the cost might be.

Karen Rollason is a qualified Solution Focused Hypnotherapist, working with clients to find solutions to their problems. She is a Lakeland lass and lover of the countryside, but lives in the South of England where the pace of life is much faster. She is chair of a writers’ circle in Kent and loves to run writing workshops, particularly in Flash Fiction. Karen is a journal writer and believes in the Healing power of writing for well being. She is the proud mother of two grown up boys.

Hurricanes in Ireland?

Yes, indeed. Here’s one Irishman’s advice on how to cope:

I told my nephew the storm might cause the power to go out. The thoughts of not being able to go on youtube for a few hours almost had him in tears.

I told him youtube will be the least of his problems if flooding is bad enough, because then the pirates will come. They’re probably going to sell his mother as a prostitute and drown his little sister in the water. I probably won’t help because I’ll be a pirate too and my pirate crew would be my family in that scenario, making our relationship worthless. His best chance of survival, well, he wasn’t old enough to understand any of that stuff yet. He can figure that out when the situation arises.

I told him it was important to remember there is no God and his existence doesn’t matter. Our relationships and very existences are so fragile and can be altered so dramatically that they are ultimately worthless. We’re all alone in our lives, I told him. Nobody really gives a fuck about him.

My sister kicked me out of her house at this point.

New Atlantis

This “vision” is one of the 30+ that we’ll publish here in the next months. Most of them will go into Life Plus 2 Meters, Volume 2 (expected publication: Dec 2017). We hope that you will comment on the message, suggest ways to sharpen the narrative, and tell us how the story affects your understanding of adapting to climate change.

Most importantly, we hope that you enjoy reading these stories and share them with your friends and family. —David Zetland (editor) and the authors

Lost at sea-
Tides hit and run,
Slow waves maroon and hide,
Drown in depths of hunger and drought.

Cities, coastal, sink into sand-
Disappear before our eyes,
Four metres a year- two rooms high-
The earth, the sea, is already taking savage bites.

New Atlantis… lost, half drunk with drowning,
Power of skyscraper floats over Hong Kong,
The hustle and thrust of Shanghai,
Pastel exoticism of fondant Miami villas,
The glory of Sydney’s bay,
And swathes of London…
Who so-called ruled the waves, is ruled again,
St Pauls, a dome floats an island meringue
In an ocean of brown vanilla sauce,
Manhattan mythed of epic stature,
Chocolate slabs and gelatine sheets
As weak and nothing,
A global powerhouse caved in,
Encroached by white fighting crests.
Islands, pinpricks on maps, invisible once again,
Low lying places- Bangladesh to Netherlands
Mown down,
dislocation, relocation- easy-thrown words,
A Neverland of blight.

Meanwhile emperor penguins huddle watch,
Birdbrains curious at melting ice,
Their land, their home, dissolves and crumbles
Before their black bead eyes.

And humans, our very small birdbrains
Pump out Mount St Helen’s each day,
Twelve times a day, emissions vomit putrid gas
Flatten, suffocate, melt and disintegrate.

Canute understood- no-one can control the sea,
It takes no orders,
Admire it.
Respect it.
Cosset it.
Treat it right and it might take care of you.

Disregard the sea-
Care not for the swallowing of ice sheets,
a gulp of raspberry ripple ice-cream-
Blood of futures folded through it,
Sickness and sweet sticky cloy,
And we dream in futility.

Catherine Jones was a lawyer until she had her family and now works as a writer, musician and artist which is what she always wanted to be… A Londoner, who loves the city, she is based in Gloucestershire, UK, but with dual German and UK citizenship, she has always felt she is a citizen of the world, and she cares passionately about its survival. She uses her writing and art to share her vision.

Castrillo Matajudios

This “vision” is one of the 30+ that we’ll publish here in the next months. Most of them will go into Life Plus 2 Meters, Volume 2 (expected publication: Dec 2017). We hope that you will comment on the message, suggest ways to sharpen the narrative, and tell us how the story affects your understanding of adapting to climate change.

Most importantly, we hope that you enjoy reading these stories and share them with your friends and family. —David Zetland (editor) and the authors

Last known recording of Argi Mikolas Munoz (and unknown male); Beit Jamal Salesian Monastery; Beit Shemesh, Israel. Translated from the Basque(Upper Navarrese) By Fr. Ibon Garcia.

UM: What have you done with the life I have given you?

AMM: I have served.

UM: No, you are serving now – and it is too late.

AMM: I have always kept the faith; I have fought and bled for my country.

UM: Stone and earth are ambivalent my son – what faith?

AMM: That the Lord is my saviour and that…

UM: Come now Argi. Even now you would try to lie – and I am here watching you. Can you see the softening of the walls and the opening of the ceiling?

AMM: God help me, I am afraid.

UM: That’s what Maria Dolores would have said – had she had time. You knew her too didn’t you Argi?

AMM: I knew her.

UM: Did you know her little child?

AMM: I never met the child, I am sorry, I never wanted any of it to happen, I…

UM: But you didn’t do anything to stop it, did you?

AMM: It was not my decision, I could do nothing.

UM: And if I was to say the same to you now my son; how would that be?

AMM: I will do anything, anything!

UM: Oh! They say I will, I would, I wish, I pray. They never say I have, I made, I tried, I hoped. They seek benevolence when all they have offered is ruthlessness; they plead for mercy though they have never bestowed it.

AMM: Surely it is never too late?

UM: Ah, surely it is never too early? You know that place your wife came from? Did you know that they’ve twinned it with Kfar Vradim? I had a chuckle at that one. It’s yet another example of irony. You were supposed to learn from irony Argi. All of you are supposed to learn from it. Still, it doesn’t matter much now.

AMM: Is there anything I can do?

UM: Once – there was a lot you could have done, but you played with fire didn’t you? You knew that you shouldn’t have – but you still did. What can I do when I’m faced with that?

AMM: I thought that if I did certain…things.. then my people would gain their freedom and…

UM: Those are the thought processes of a child; besides they are not your people – they are mine. Freedom does not exist. There is only responsibility: to yourself; to others; to me. Those duties are the essence of self-emancipation. Have you ever seen those dogs in the country? You know – the ones that chase your motor vehicles. They wait, and wait, in anticipation – and then they charge out like lions protecting the pride – for naught. It always amuses me, and it always makes me a little sad; but bravery and intelligence have seldom been bedfellows.

AMM: So it is over then?

UM: Well, it is – and it isn’t. Answers are never neat. Answers only beget further questions. So I ask you again – what have you done with the life I have given you?

AMM: I do not know what you want me to say.

UM: That is correct; but also incorrect. Do you know what these men do?

AMM: What men?

UM: These men here. The men who took you in, who fed you, gave you a bed, treated you with kindness through the worst of your illness. These men.

AMM: They are monks.

UM: They try to take care of children. They try to help the homeless ones – the little unfortunates.

AMM: And I have heard the horror stories.

UM: I’ll just bet you have. I’ll say this for you Argi – you’ve got balls. My point is that you are a little child, even though you must be seventy now. Your mind is infantile. These men looked after you like a child. And yet here you are Argi: an old man in the dark eh?

AMM: Why have you come?

UM: I have come to show compassion; to practice what I have preached. I have come before Fr. Kendrick returns. What do you see now?

AMM: The dawn, I think.

UM: Yes, well – that will suffice. I want you to walk out over this meadow. I want you to move towards the rising sun. But you must not falter, this light is not as forgiving as I. You must adapt to it.

AMM: But it is so very far – so very far. I see Castrillo on the plain and Miriam’s house. I loved her you know. We got wed in, oh – I can’t remember it now. They had that old dog, the one with the torn ear…

UM: Zirta.

AMM: Yes – that was him, Zirta. So long ago. So long. Wait, oh Lord – I can smell the what do you call ’ems…?

UM: The red carnations?

AMM: Yes, yes, oh yes….

UM: Do not weep. Keep walking. Nice and steady; that’s it.

AMM: I am so very sorry for all of it. I am so sorry. I put a frog in the milk pail and made Ines cry.

UM: Take my hand now Argi. Do not be afraid.

AMM: What is it all? What is it?

UM: Adaptation Argi; little more than that.

Nb. As per instructions, translation of final tape recording. Cassette withheld from authorities and in my possession. Pick-up at your convenience.

Regards, I. Garcia.

Peter Lynch (in his words): “I’m from Co.Derry, but I’ve lived in Newcastle-upon-Tyne for over twenty years. My trade is demolition. I’m 46 , married with four children. I enjoy the outdoors, natural history, swimming and boxing. I read anything and everything, and have done for as long as I can remember. Music, writing, and drawing have always been my favourite ways to express myself.”