All empires fall

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


All empires fall, and all empires fall for the same reason… Arrogant Complacency.

They rise through hunger and innovation. The Egyptians invented the war chariot, and conquered North Africa and the Middle East. Then the Mesopotamians built a better chariot, and that was it for the Pharaohs, after them came the Persians, and after them the Romans, and so on and so on; each building newer and better machines of war.

If it is true that necessity is the mother of invention, then it must be doubly true that war is its father, after all nothing says necessity quite like your neighbours attempting to part your head from your body.

“What has that got to do with climate change?” I hear you ask (I have truly excellent hearing)

Well everything. Empires grow fat the more successful they become, the people no longer hungry become lazy, delegating work to slaves, or immigrant labour, their sense of inherent supremacy over their enemies leads to complacency, and then one morning you find the Visigoths at the gates, and they aint no tourists neither.

Even when they recognise the danger, it’s either too late or they’re so inured from reality by their belief in their supremacy, (We’re number one, HoooWahh; sound familiar?) that they simply refuse to believe they can lose. Ask Louis XVI, or the Romanovs, they could tell you a thing or two about it; and the British still cannot believe the Empire is gone.

You’re still wondering what all this has to do with Global warming; Jeez calm down, I’m getting to it.

It’s a commonly held belief that man’s interference in the workings of nature leading to his ultimate demise, is unique to our time, not so. Eleven hundred years ago an entire Peruvian civilisation disappeared because of irrigation. Yes, you read that right, irrigation proved to be their undoing.

What they didn’t realise was that every time they irrigated the land, the absorbed water, as it was drawn back up through the soil brought nutrients and minerals with it; and one of those minerals was salt.

Over the course of two hundred years they salinated the land so thoroughly that they rendered it incapable of growing anything.

And how do we know this? Because it`s happening all over again, only this time in California.

We may be unique in the history of mankind, in the history of any species that has littered this planet for that matter; we can see our own demise heaving very slowly into focus, one degree at a time. But we suffer from the same paralysing sense of entitlement that bedevilled all the Empires long gone.

We complain that it’s too hard, that wind farms are ugly, that we can’t make the sacrifices. We’re too pampered, too fat, too full of ourselves; we live in a society that claims that not only is broadband a necessity, it’s a human right; y’know, like clean water, only more important.

Are we capable of learning the lessons of all those fallen civilisations? Possibly.

The most heartening sign is that China and India, the fastest growing economies in the world are ditching coal faster than you can say “Fake News” and switching to solar.

So there may be hope for us yet, though I won`t hold my breath; lucky for me I’m a good swimmer.


Finbarr Swanton was born on a bitter March morning sometime in the last century to much screaming and wailing. Though not by his mother, she slept through the whole event. Raised in the purgatory that was 20th Century Holy Catholic Ireland, he survived a primary school education at the hands of the (un)Christian brothers; just. And yes; it is true that none of the schools he attended are still places of education, though he contends that they never were in the first place, and that their closures are purely coincidence, having nothing at all to do with him. He has had too many jobs to list here. None of which; he admits, have led to a life of indolent riches. He has to date epubbed two books, a Y/A fantasy fiction novel and a collection of short stories; both of which were received with rapturous indifference… The struggle continues.

One thought on “All empires fall”

  1. I like the humorous tone of this story very much.

    A suggestion – perhaps elaborate a bit more more in the conclusion, make it longer? I felt like there was a really nice, suspenseful build-up to the main question, but then the elaboration on this question was cut short.

    (Otherwise reminds me a lot of H.G. Wells’ views on human arrogance and complacency)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *