The last mission

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


Joe! Wake up!

What?

I saw another Mars bus in the sky.

Go to sleep.

But Joe, maybe we can get them to help us.

Look Mark, we decided to stay here on Earth and deal with it. I don’t understand why you would change your mind now, since it’s probably impossible to get to Mars.

Sorry Joe, but take a look at what is left! Nothing. We’re 400 meters above sea level but forced to hide in this cave to avoid skin cancer. We don’t have medicine, the fish have been exported to extra-terrestrial ecosystems, and the remaining animals are disappearing quickly.

Can I just remind you that you were the one who said we should hide and wait to restart with the others when nature heals itself?

And what are we going to do while we wait for them? For Nature?

We’ll do exactly what you said. We will work at night with the abandoned tech to keep going. Earth is a paradise!

I know what you mean but look at all the trouble. Who’s going to handle the radioactive material? Who’s going to rebuild after earthquakes? What about the contamination from newly flooded areas?

One step at a time! Fossil fuels are no longer being used, cars are abandoned, and meat production has ceased. We can eat the lab food and wait. We can hope!

Wake up already! That’s going to take years. We should’ve gone to Mars with everybody else and waited there.

I’m going to sleep. I’m staying here. I heard there’s a spaceship in Romania. You can helicopter there in ten hours, if you want. I was going to keep the chopper and fuel a secret, but it looks like you’re desperate.

You can adapt your way, and I’ll do it my way.

I’m staying here.


Xenia Artemiou moved to Glasgow, Scotland from Nicosia, Cyprus. She studies BSc environmental science and sustainability at the University of Glasgow. Passionate about the environment, she undertook an internship in The Hague, the Netherlands where she worked on the Life plus 2 meters project in communicating climate change adaption to the general public. Following that internship she undertook another internship with HHNK (a Dutch governmental water body) where she was responsible for analysing pharmaceuticals in waste water treatment plants. She is due to graduate in 2018.

Un jour en la vie

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


[Click here for the English version]

Joseph s’aplatit sur le sol, et le coup porté par le Chef des Pillards le manqua. Il fit une roulade, attrapa le pistolet qu’il avait perdu plus tôt dans le combat et se retourna pour affronter le bandit. Il était toujours en train d’essayer de sortir sa hache de guerre du tronc blanchi de l’arbre more. «Rends-toi, ordure. » Le bandit lui lança un regard de haine pure et tendit la main vers le révolver à sa ceinture, mais Joseph fut plus rapide. Une détonation déchira l’air, et le Chef s’effondra. Le Cimetière fut silencieux de nouveau. Lentement, Joseph claudiqua jusqu’au corps de Neema. Il retira sa gourde de la main inerte de la femme qui l’avait mené dans cet endroit impie. « Adieu, bébé ». Sans se retourner, il enfourcha sa moto, lança le moteur et s’en alla vers le soleil couchant, laissant le Cimetière profané derrière lui.

Joseph posa son crayon et s’étira. Il adorait écrire ses histoires, mais il s’en sortait toujours avec une main endolorie. Il ferma son cahier et le mit dans son sac. Il commençait à faire chaud sous la tente, ce qui signifiait que le matin était déjà bien avance. Il était temps d’aller chercher de l’eau.

Il sortir de la tente, et ses yeux s’emplirent de larmes en réaction à la lumière brûlante. Les deux bidons standards étaient posés à l’entrée de la tente, vide. Il les attrapa et commença à marcher à travers le camp. Après quinze minutes de marche, il arriva à la queue. Mauvais signe. Si la queue s’étendait jusqu’ici, ça allait être une longue attente. Il connaissait de vue la femme devant lui. Il la salua poliment, et lui demanda si elle pouvait lui garder sa place et ses bidons le temps qu’il aille voir à l’avant jusqu’où s’étendait la queue. Elle accepta. Il vérifia rapidement que le nom de sa mère et le sien était toujours bien lisible sur les bidons, puis partit.

La queue était longue, mais droite. Le camion de distribution d’eau n’était pas présent au début de la queue. La distribution n’avait pas encore commencé, ce qui expliquait la longueur de la file. Les soldats du HCR étaient cependant déjà présents, avec leur armure et leurs armes. Ils étaient toujours là pour surveiller la distribution d’eau, et vérifier que personne ne tentait de s’attribuer plus d’eau que leur quotas.

Il rebroussa chemin le long de la file, en réfléchissant à comment il pourrait intégrer les gardes dans l’une de ses histoires. Une milice protégeant une cité avec une réserve d’eau souterraine, peut-être ? Il était arrivé là où il avait laissé ses bidons. «Le camion n’est pas encore arrivé, mama.» La femme acquiesça. Il espérait que le camion serait bientôt là. Depuis qu’il était dans le camp, il n’y avait eu que deux jours où les camions de distribution n’étaient pas venus. Ça n’avait pas été des bons jours. Il empila ses bidons et s’assit dessus. Derrière lui, la file continuait de grandir. Il se rappelait de quand il n’y avait pas besoin de camions de distribution d’eau dans le camp. Quand ils étaient arrivés avec sa mère, il y avait un puits qui fournissait l’eau au camp. On lui avait dit que le camp avait été construit ici précisément pour le puits. Puis il s’était tari.

Il avait souvent pensé que Dieu avait un étrange sens de l’humour. Ils avaient quitté leur village à côté de la mer à cause des inondations, parce qu’il y avait trop d’eau. Et maintenant ils n’avaient pas assez d’eau. Oui, un étrange sens de l’humour.

Joseph ne se rappelait pas bien du village, il était trop petit quand ils avaient dû partir. Mais il se rappelait de la mer. Même s’il avait du mal à y croire. Autant d’eau. Le Pays de la Mer était l’endroit où le Joseph dans ses histoires tentait de retourner. Un endroit loin des Terres Désolées. Au delà des barbelés qui entouraient le camp. Il y avait de l’agitation dans la file. Les camions étaient enfin arrivés.

La queue avança, lentement. Joseph empoigna ses bidons. Un peu plus d’une heure passa. Enfin, ce fut son tour. Un des gardes scanna sa puce d’identité, puis celle de sa mère. Il lui fit signe de remplir les bidons. Joseph but quelques gorgées directement au robinet. C’était toléré, et sa mère lui avait dit de toujours le faire. Il le faisait donc, consciencieusement. Puis il transporta les bidons jusqu’à l’endroit où sa mère avait installé son échoppe. Il devait lui donner les bidons pour qu’elle puisse utiliser l’eau pour cuisiner, puis il aurait le droit d’aller jouer. Peut-être qu’aujourd’hui Neema le laisserait rejoindre son groupe. Ça n’avait pas été très gentil de sa part de la tuer. Peut-être pourrait-il changer la fin de son épisode ? Peut-être qu’elle et Joseph pourrait partir en moto ensemble vers le Pays De La Mer?


Aurélien Puiseux est un écologue français. Il travaille sur le changement climatique, la biodiversité, les forêts urbaines et les ressources en eau. Il travaille actuellement chez Total.

A day in the life

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


[Cliquez ici pour la version Français]

Joseph ducked, and the Scavenger Leader’s blow missed him. He rolled, grabbed his fallen gun and turned to face the bandit. He was still trying to get his axe out of the bleached trunk of the dead tree. “It’s over, scumbag”. The bandit gave him a look of pure hatred and reached for his own gun, but Joseph was faster. A shot echoed, and the Leader fell down. The Cemetery was silent once more. Slowly, Joseph limped to the corpse of Neema. He snatched his gourd from the cold dead hand of the woman that had led him in this ungodly place. “So long, sweetheart.” Without looking back, he straddled his bike, hit the starter and rode into the sunset, leaving the desecrated Cemetery behind him.

Joseph put down his pencil and stretched his arm. He loved writing his stories, but it always left him with a sore hand. He closed his notebook and put it in his bag. It was starting to get hot under the tent, meaning the morning was already well advanced. It was time to go and get water.

He stepped out of the tent, and his eyes watered because of the harsh light. The two standard issue jerrycans were at the entrance of the tent, empty. Joseph grabbed them and started walking through the camp. After fifteen minutes, he arrived at the queue. That wasn’t good. If the queue was reaching until here, it would be a long wait. He knew from view the woman before him. He saluted her politely, and asked her if she could save his place and his jerrycans while he’d go and check the length of the queue. She agreed. He checked that his mother’s name and his were still readable on the `cans, then left.

The line was long, but straight. There was no water truck at the beginning. The distribution hadn’t begin, that explained the length of the queue. There were the usual HCR guards, though, with their armor and their guns. They were always watching the water distribution, making sure no one tried to get more water than their allowance. He walked back along the line, thinking of how he could integrate the guards into one of his stories. A militia protecting a city with an underground reserve of water, maybe?

He arrived back at his place in the line. “The truck is not there yet, mama”. The woman nodded. He hoped the truck would show up soon. There was only two days since he was in that camp when the truck had not showed up. Those had not been good days. He piled his jerrycans and sat on top of them. Behind him, the line kept on growing. He remembered when there was no need for trucks in the camp. When they had arrived with his mother, there was a well supplying water to the camp. He had been told the camp had been built there precisely because of the well. And then it had ran out.

He often thought that God had a strange sense of humor. They had left their village by the sea because of the floods, because of too much water. And now they didn’t have enough water. Yes, a strange sense of humor.

Joseph didn’t remember the village well. He was too young when they had left. He remembered the sea, though. But it seemed mythical, now. That much water. The Land By The Sea was where the Joseph in his stories tried to return. A place away from the Barren Lands. Over the barbed fence of the camp. There was a clamor in the line. The trucks had finally arrived.

The line moved on, slowly. Joseph picked up his jerrycans. An hour or so passed. At last it was his turn. A guard checked his identification, then his mother’s. He gestured him to fill the jugs. Joseph drank a few sips directly from the tap. The guards tolerated it, and his mother had told him to always do it. So he did. Then he walked back to the place where his mother had her small shop. He had to give her the jerrycan so she could use them to cook, then he would be free to go and play. Maybe this time Neema would let him join her band. It wasn’t very nice of him to have killed her. Maybe he could change the ending of his episode? Maybe Joseph and her could ride together until The Land By The Sea?


Aurélien Puiseux is a French ecologist working on climate change, biodiversity, urban forestry and water resources. He is currently employed by Total.

Climate night

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


`It not only happened sooner than expected, the consequences were larger than ever imagined as well. At 2 AM we finally managed to reach the first street. The water was so high that we were not able to reach any of the doors on the first floor, so we started knocking on the windows of the second floor. It was difficult to see where we were; the power was down and darkness had taken over. Everywhere around me I heard men shouting, women screaming, and children crying.’

Maya can’t stop turning. The whistling of the wind and sounds of drunken students are keeping her awake. Out of experience Maya knows the students pass by her house every Saturday. Usually they get bored after ringing the bell twice and move on to the next street in the neighbourhood. Tonight however, the students do not seem to be leaving. The ringing is replaced by knocking and the singing by shouting. Suddenly Maya remembers seeing something about a storm on the news earlier today. However, as an exchange student from Argentina, she does not really watch the Dutch news carefully, or actually any news for that matter. Out of experience she knows a change in the train timetables is the worst thing that happens during these storms. Tonight however, it seems different.

Suddenly Maya jumps out of bed. Adrenaline starts running through her body. It’s Wednesday! She runs into the hallway and sees flashlights mysteriously shining through the windows. Maya realises the knocking is not coming from the first floor, but from her windows on the second floor. After a short hesitation she decides to walk over to the window and to open the curtains. A feeling of fear takes hold of her. In front of her stands a soldier on a small boat. He urges her to open the window. After two attempts it opens slightly and when Maya steps back to open the curtains further the wind causes the window to blow out. Maya cautiously sticks her head out of the window and looks down; the ground has disappeared. There is no sign of the small porch or the recently planted flowers in the small communal garden. Instead, there is darkness and water.

`In the third house a girl opened the window. Her eyes were covered in fear. She did not speak the language and obviously was not aware of the severity of the storm. While I managed to avoid pieces of broken glass from the window, I shouted she had to come with me, because the storm had caused the dikes to break and the water was rising rapidly.’ He takes a break. He has to. Too many horrible things have happened in front of his eyes that night.

Maya is shocked. How could this be happening? How can she not have noticed the severity of the storm? The Netherlands was supposed to have the best flood protection in the world!

He continues: `She seemed in shock. I asked if she was okay and told her to come with me, there was simply no time. The water level had gone up 3 meters in only one hour and we had no idea of what was yet to come.’

Maya continues to gaze at the soldier. The boat looks almost full, the old lady from next door and her two grandchildren are already seated. Further away she hears women screaming and men shouting. The whole street is being evacuated.

He looks around. Hundreds of people are silently listening. Although it is almost thirty years after the first big storm hit, its consequences are still of enormous significance today. `Thirty years ago, no one had any idea this would be the first one of the `Big Five’: the five disastrous storms which took billions of lives. It caused an unknown global sea level rise due to which many coastal cities disappeared under water. Consequently, diseases spread and harvests failed, which led to a huge famine.’

Thirty years later Maya finds herself in a conference centre in South Germany. After the storm she was able to move to South Germany; one of the few `safe’ places in Europe: it was not swallowed by the water and there was a sufficient amount of food available. Returning to Argentina was not an option. The infrastructure, including transport routes, had been destroyed.

He looks at Maya, the girl he saved years ago. He knows she was one of many who were not fully aware of the consequences of climate change and how their behaviour contributed to that.

Maya sights, anthropogenic climate change turned out to be the major cause of the Big Five and all the disasters that followed. Back in the day she had heard of climate change, but did not really feel like it would be an issue for her. She was enjoying her studies abroad and did not feel the urge to take action herself. She looks down. She would give anything to travel back in time and alert people to take action. It would not have prevented any of the disasters, but it could have decreased its intensity.

He looks around. `Although the Big Five has destroyed our modern society, it has given us the chance to renew our system and learn to live in harmony with nature again. Today I am filled with feelings of hope and I am confident that we, if we hold on to our new way of living, never have to face such a disaster again. Today I would like to announce that, after restoring transport routes with North America and East Asia last year, we have been able to reach South America and we will start restoring transport routes to Buenos Aires soon.’

Maya feels tears glittering in her eyes; her exchange semester might finally come to an end.


Jorie Knook is a doctoral researcher at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland’s Rural College and AgResearch. Her research focuses on the evaluation of advisory programs that focus on the voluntary uptake of environmental measures by farmers in both Scotland and New Zealand.

Climate-charged democracy?

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


Introduction
In many advanced democracies governments provide public goods, such as health care, education and property rights. Moreover, they provide those goods impersonally (if you meet certain characteristics, you can get those goods regardless of who you are or whether you support that politician). Voters vote for politicians because they believe in their platform or for other reasons. However, in most of the world, especially in most autocracies, politicians buy political support from the happy few in direct exchange for legislation or cash. In those systems it matters who you are (are you a loyal and powerful individual?), and what connections you have, as this determines whether you benefit from government expenditure, or suffer from taxation. One of the major questions in political science and economics is how countries get from the latter situation to the former situation. Lizzeri and Persico have argued that democratization of autocracies depends on whether the political elite prefers more public goods.

Climate change will increase the demand for public goods, such as dykes, large scale irrigation systems, desalination plants, or better protected water property rights. Could this spark democratization?

The link between public goods and democracy
Before trying to predict the future, let’s have a look at the past, namely at the United Kingdom during its industrial revolution, when it created the first parliamentary democracy. Let’s zoom in on London, the biggest city in the world, with its teeming millions, hundreds of factory chimneys, and its polluted water sources. Rich and poor suffered from killer smogs, cholera, and other problems created by the industrial revolution.

Politicians did very little about these problems, but why? While the UK’s government was constitutional, it was far from democratic, as the large majority of the population did not have voting rights. Those that could vote were often tied to specific political parties, based on their ideological preferences. This meant that politicians could win elections by financially rewarding those who were indifferent between the two parties, that is the swing voters. These financial rewards could come in the form of favourable regulation, sinecures or allowing corruption. The ideologically tied voters received much less in terms of patronage for their political support.

For most of history, elites had been quite happy with systems like these, in which the happy few enjoy rewards in exchange for political support, while the large majority of the population has to pay taxes to pay for these rewards. However, in the UK in the 19th century some aspects of the industrial revolution changed elite opinion about this political system. While the urban elite benefited tremendously from the industrial revolution (so going back to the feudal age to solve the problems caused by the industrial revolution was not an option), the industrial revolution did lead to pandemics due to high urbanization and excessive pollution. No matter how rich the elite was, these diseases also killed members of the elite, seeing modern medicine was not available yet. Therefore the elite started preferring public goods which could prevent these diseases over private goods. However, because of the political system described above, politicians did not supply the public goods that were needed to prevent diseases and pollution. This was mostly because many elite members did not want to vote for a party other than their ideologically preferred party, even if another party promised public goods.

Many elite members therefore started seeing an extension of the franchise as a way to get politicians to supply more public goods. The extension of the franchise would make it harder for politicians to buy votes. This is because of the difference between private and public goods. Private goods are rival, so if one voter consumes a private good supplied to him by a politician, other voters cannot consumer that private good. So, you can only hand out a Pound Sterling to a voter once in exchange for a vote. Meanwhile, public goods are not rival, so expenditure on public goods, like health care, allows politicians to spend one Pound Sterling which can benefit multiple voters. With a few voters it is not attractive to build a sewer system, giving them cash is more efficient to win their vote. However, with a large group of voters, handing them cash will result in paltry amounts of cash to persuade voters, while the same total amount of cash can, for example, build a lot of sewerage which multiple people can use at the same time. Thus, to force politicians to provide public goods, without repeatedly having to vote for an ideologically distant party promising public goods, the elite voted for an extension of the franchise once, to then be able to revert to their ideologically preferred party.

Climate change and public goods
Climate change will cause the situation in many countries to resemble the situation in the United Kingdom in the 19th century. To protect valuable farming land, factories and offices, and even their own lives, the elite will want their government to supply certain public goods. Such public goods could be protection from flooding (dykes and research on flood risk in specific areas), protection from environments which are increasingly hospitable to diseases (especially herd immunity is a public good, but also other prevention measures), protection from droughts (irrigation systems, and clear water management solving common pool resource problems), protection from increased pollution and reduction of pollution, reduction of CO2 emissions, etc.

Climate change could thus radically alter elite appetite for public goods. Essentially, the question is, how dependent are elites on environmentally vulnerable areas? This hinges on the mobility of those elites themselves and of their assets (nevermind the individuals who may suffer from an overemphasis on protecting assets vs protecting people or communities). The more mobile the elite and their assets, the less invested they will be in their local environment, because they can simply move with their assets to places which are not suffering from climate change. Although I am no expert on climate science, it does not seem far fetched to claim that in many countries elites will demand their government to protect them and their assets, as climate change starts wreaking havoc on economies the world over.

My prediction in two sentences
As climate change starts having a large impact, elite members too will be harmed by climate change, leading to a higher elite demand for public goods and thus more democracy.


Joes de Natris recently graduated at the University of Amsterdam in the Research Master Social Sciences after doing his BSc. at Leiden University College The Hague. His bachelor’s thesis was about how economic reforms alienated the Egyptian Army from Mubarak, which lead to his fall. His master’s thesis was on the economic roots of democracy and good governance.