Blog

Death by a milli-nilli-trillion drops

This vision came after the deadline for prizes, but it’s still eligible for inclusion in the book. Please comment to improve its quality (or just praise it 🙂 — David


We knew we had to move fast when the Suisun Marsh was swallowed up and became this week’s new beachfront. Sacramento was next in line to get sucked into the Pacific. Then the old underground gold mine shafts started imploding under the pressure and spewing like Old Faithful. One, then another and another again. You could see the trail of impending doom and sinkholes coming up the hill. We had to move quickly. For weeks, I had had a false sense of security because after all, we had started out at 1800’ feet above sea level. Today, that meant we were now only 200’ above certain death. The swelling tide never ebbed. It only flowed.

I could sense their coming before anyone else heard them. I could smell them as they marched up the hill; thousands of sweaty feet, palms and nothing but exhaustion moving as one entity with deadly purpose. Their mission was to take our hill, even by force. The sound was insanity heralded by the putrescence of dying, feral humans. My exceptional sense of smell had served me well in this life, but today it was not necessarily a blessing. Suddenly, we all felt it. The reverberations of tens of thousands of feet pummeling the ground heading east and up to Cameron Park, and they were coming fast. The cacophony brought fear to life. We struggled to control our panic.

In my previous life I rescued people from general stupidity and specific homelessness. Very soon everybody would be homeless, and I knew I couldn’t save them all. I shook off my sense of responsibility and called my kids aboard. Our supplies were expected to keep the 6 of us alive for at least 12 weeks once we landed in Denver; life after that – well, I couldn’t hope for more than the generosity of a few thousand strangers and a few old friends and colleagues from Oracle. The last good engine on the Cessna was reassembled. We were gassed up and ready to soar. We only needed 130 feet to get out. Now, as I considered my assets, I felt woefully underdressed. In thirty minutes all hell is going to break loose. These people will be trapped. As we rose above the human tide, my thoughts were of our futile efforts to survive the ‘Big Swallow’. And so it goes…

We made it out of California, but what of the others? We have no way of knowing their fates without reports, and those are few and confused. I do know that we have run out of fresh food, clean water and most of our humanity. Now that Aurora has succumbed, we prepare for another evacuation. This time, they will head North to Minot, ND. Why Minot? Because Lake Sakakawea hasn’t breached its natural shoreline, silly, that’s why. Lest we not forget the Air Force silos. Not yet sure whether they represent survival or a sarcophagus. I’m not sure how I feel about 50 years underground.

I see my children and grandchildren preparing for the trek. I can only respond by dropping to my knees to pray: for reprieve but mostly forgiveness. I am old. My heart is heavy with the guilt of repeated warnings that began as far back as the Ban-the-Bra movement. Sadly, I recall every V-8 I drove, the enormous waste I created, the squandered natural resources. I can only hope that the next generation sees what we wrote on the wall.

I am deeply ashamed, but I don’t want to die just yet. Unfortunately, today is my 75th birthday – or, what we now call the Date of Expiration. I will not be joining them. “How long CAN I hold my breath?” I wonder.

Collectively, we have destroyed this planet because as a species, we are inherently selfish and greedy. There is no doubt about it — we are paying back on an old, unavoidable debt.

It’s funny that I had expected to die from a million paper cuts but now I’m going to die from a milli-nilli-trillion drops of melting ice and rising seas.


Rene Evans is a single mom, sci-fi fan, life lover, disability advocate, and non-profit president who’s armed and waiting for the Zombie Apocalypse. Raised in Silicon Valley and now housed in the Sierras, Rene has been an advocate for the under-served in El Dorado County for the past 20 years. Known for her tough love stance, she helps people re-stabilize after unfortunate events or choices land them in a residential crisis.

We have winners!

We ran a Kickstarter campaign to fund prizes for the best visions for Volume 2 of Life Plus 2 Meters. The 16 judges were Kickstarter backers, authors from Volume 1 (not submitting to Volume 2), and followers of this project.

The judges had 33 diverse and interesting visions to read and vote on, and here are the results:

Best story

  1. Daniel Gilbert for A Marsh Arab’s story
  2. Emma J. Myatt for Amplitude
  3. John Sayer for Data recovery unit – subsection culture

Best perspective

  1. Kalila Eve Morsink for Blue death
  2. Finbarr Swanton for All empires fall
  3. Ed Dolan for 2100: Hot, crowded and rich

Best by under 26 years old*

  1. Joes de Natris for Climate-charged democracy?
  2. Jack Cooper for Seventy metres and September
  3. Celia Daniels for We drown with history

Best by author from Economically Developing Country*

  1. Ignacio Carlucho for Dusk
  2. Anna Maria for Browsing pages

Winners will receive US$100 for first place, $50 for second place, and $25 for third place.

We are now moving into editing and improving all 33 visions (you may like some that did not win more than some that did, so please explore!) for publication in Volume 2, which should — if all goes well — come out in December.

Subscribe to the newsletter if you want to get updates on the project.


* These authors needed to submit evidence to be in this category.

A Marsh Arab’s story

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


My name is Faris and I am of the Ferayghāt people, one of the tribal groupings of the Maʻdān, that is the Marsh Arabs as you say, neutrally, in English. Sadly, the word Maʻdān is now often used in Iraq as a slight, aimed to inflict hurt and belittle. But I am proud of who I am, where I come from, and I will keep my memories of those former marshlands, now burnt to a crisp and virtually uninhabitable.

So much for my past: where I lived, happily and less so, throughout my childhood and as a young adult. Today, though, I “stay” in Fife, Scotland. I am a refugee, forced to leave my homeland far behind me, gone but never forgotten.

I am getting to know the local culture here, ways of living, speaking – e.g. “stay” rather than “live” – and song. I love music, and also humour – without being able to laugh at life I don’t know how I would’ve kept going through these last, painful, years. “It started up in Fife, and ended up in tears” sing an Edinburgh band, that national capital located far closer to me now than Baghdad was before my long journey. In truth, for me the tears have never been far away, whether in the lands of my birth and upbringing, or now here, in Fife.

Climate change is an important part of the story, but does not encompass the whole. Upstream dams, both in Iraq and beyond, have denied my marshlands of water. My parents told me that for many decades our homeland was drained on purpose, in a vain attempt to reclaim farmland and, later, in active persecution. But it was the ever-rising temperatures that finally killed off those marshlands, and the attempts that were made to breath new life into them. What marshland can survive the torching heat that I, myself a hardened son of the soil, was forced to flee from?

Old Bridge at Guardbridge (Credit)

My faith keeps me strong, and I constantly give thanks to Allah in my prayers for leading me to this, odd to me, place of refuge. Is it a coincidence or is divine providence that I have gone from one place of Eden to another? My homeland, you see, is known as the original Jannāt `Adni, or Garden of Eden, spoken of in the Holy Quran and also in holy books of the Jews and Christians alike. Now, the river Eden flows through the town of Guardbridge, the town I must now call home. I am still trying to do so; “it started up in Fife, and ended up in tears”, my tears that is. The Eden never leaves Fife, will I stay here forever too? Or return, like river water to the sea, to Iraq one day too?

Even amongst my tears, and my yearnings, I find this Eden here, and Eden there, coincidence funny and somehow comforting – as perhaps I am meant to do? Allah moves in unknowable ways, and I am thankful for all His blessings. Allahu Akbar.

I would never have guessed, let alone known that I would end up in Scotland. Not least since, until recently, I was unaware that such a country existed! In Iraq, people talk of England and the English, or the British, but not really Scotland or the Scots. Yet the Scots are truly a welcoming people and I have been treated with great hospitality since my arrival; hospitality is proud trait of the Ferayghāt people, and one that we mark as a sign of civility.

Scotland has had it tough in recent years, and for some of the same reasons as Iraq. In common between us, the price of our crude oil has collapsed, swamped by new supplies and discoveries made possible by new technologies, and undermined by the steady switch to electric vehicles. Scotland has also accepted many tens of thousands of climate refugees, its cities swelling with new populations even as its coastline and tidal river estuaries and “firths” invade its coastline, notably (to me!) swelling the Eden and pushing up against the gardens of the town’s most exposed “sea-view” properties. This has stretched services and further rocked the finances of the, newly independent, Scottish Government. An independent Scotland is exciting, but Scots have found that independence is very tough and – dare I say it – that they weren’t really ready for just how difficult it would be to manage their own economy. That they have pulled through is due to both their our stubborn nature – a stubbornness that I have been at the wrong end of – and determination, and also due to the people that they have welcomed to their shores, the New Scots.

Yes: us immigrants are proving our economic worth, helping to pull our adoptive country back to its feet – if I may be so bold. In so doing we help ourselves and help repay Scotland’s hospitality to us. We who are from countries like Iraq where the State has barely functioned in our lifetimes, do not readily rely on any State to provide for us – instead we provide for ourselves. Perhaps that is why so many of the new enterprises are run and owned by immigrants? I myself work for a Kuwaiti in Dundee who has set up his own company supplying offshore support vessels (boats) to the North Sea petroleum industry here (which increasingly focuses on natural gas, not oil), and for the fast-growing marine energy sector too.

Even as a New Scot there is no danger that I will deny or forget my heritage from amongst the Maʻdān. Every Friday at dhur (noon) I hear the Khutbah (sermon) amongst fellow Sunni Muslims at the newly built Guardbridge mosque and I am part of a Fife-based community of Marsh Arabs immigrants which, together, maintains our traditions in this new and strange, to us, land. I am teaching Arabic as an additional source of income – Arabic is an increasingly popular language to learn amongst Scots here, who are keen to open up to, and trade with, the world rather than just rely on their historic trade links to the south, with England. That makes me proud too. I think I will be happy too. My beautiful new bride thinks so too. A native of this land, she quoted to me a verse from another Scottish band, as follows: “For the family ; For the lives of the children that we’ve planned; Let’s get married; C’mon darlin’, please take my hand”. The wedding is next month and I cannot wait.


Daniel Gilbert has comprehensive experience as a consultant for major natural resources projects in Europe, Africa and Asia, and with regards to water, mining, petroleum (the ‘extractive industries’), and solar power. Daniel is a former Knowledge Exchange Coordinator at the Centre for Water Law, Policy and Science under the auspices of UNESCO, located at the University of Dundee. He holds Masters Degrees from both Dundee and Edinburgh universities and has given natural resources sector presentations at the UN in Geneva, the World Bank in Washington DC, and at a high-level UN Conference in Dushanbe, Tajikistan.

Amplitude

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’s hard to stay mad at Suze for long. When she comes splashing through the small waves carrying shopping bags to the bottom of the steps, late, as ever, I can’t help but smile. It’s more than her beauty that draws me in, every time; it’s her way of being, the light she seems to carry with her and her constant, sometimes infuriating, optimism.

I’m sitting at the top of the first flight of steps, and we fall into the hug that makes me feel whole again. Suze and I were best friends long before we became lovers. We were born within weeks of each other, to two equally unlucky families who ended up on low-lying land.

‘You almost didn’t make it,’ I say, into her hair.

‘I’ll always make it. Even when I have to swim,’ she says, pulling back.

I don’t remind her that the time she did have to swim she almost drowned; nearly got sucked into the strange currents that swirl below Gowan Estuaries’ grey towers. I’ve never swum it. If I miss the tides, I stay on land, in the damp swampy hut that was put there by the developers. They call it a Stayover, which makes us laugh. They make it sound like a place you’d choose to be, not a rotting hut for emergencies.

‘So what did you get?’ I peer into Suze’s bags.

‘Not a lot,’ she grins back. ‘But don’t worry; I’ve already a recipe in mind. I’m cooking you macaroni cheese, without the cheese. Or proper macaroni. And using dried milk…’

‘Sounds great,’ I say, pulling a face. ‘I’ve asked the families over for the Lotto results.’

‘I had some tokens left over so I bought an extra ticket,’ Suze said.

I nod. ‘Good. Because I gave ours to the Robinsons again.’

Suze mock punches me. ‘Seriously, Lou? You’re impossible. But funnily enough, I was going to do the same when I bought this one…’

I kiss her. ‘That’s why I love you,’ I say. ‘We’re as crazy as each other.’

She sits and produces some stale biscuits. We eat and watch the water climb the steps below us; greedy, surging water that looks like it wants to drink us in.

‘If you could go back, what would you do first?’ she asks me.

I hate this game and it always puts me in a bad mood. I sigh.

‘Go on,’ she says. ‘Humour me.’

‘I’d give our grandparents a bollocking for doing nothing to stop all this,’ I say, as I always do, gesturing at the water. ‘But then… then I think I’d take you for a drive, just because I could, to one of the old beaches somewhere, and we’d sit and watch the sunset. When we got back we’d go and surf the internet and order some stuff that would magically arrive in the post the next day, bought with real money. And then I’d open the front door and watch the stars and think how lucky I was to be alive in such an easy world.’

‘I’d buy you a proper ring and propose under a rainbow flag on a mountain, one that wasn’t off-limits to us, lower echelons of society, and-’

I cut her off. ‘Can we stop? I’m not in the mood for this game today.’ I never am, but the If game is her favourite. As an optimist, she’s a total dreamer; still believes there’s a happy ending to the crappy way of life we’re forced to live. I don’t. All of those dreams belonged to a different generation, the ones who sit, staring at the water, still in shock at what’s unfolded. At the fact that the warnings were right, all along. Unless they’re lucky enough to live in the Hill Communities.

‘Come on,’ Suze says, pulling me up. ‘Let’s go and cook and get ready for the Lotto.’

At eight, our families arrive. We sit around the Screen and watch the presenters dangle dreams in front of us, tempting us to buy into this façade every week. This week there are two houses up for grabs, two beautiful, enormous dry houses in Beacon Hill Community, worth who knows what.

‘I hope the Robinsons get it,’ I say, letting my bad mood out. Irritation has been gathering in me for the last couple of hours, as the sea has risen; the sound of the waves constant and threatening.

Suze’s mother, Anne, groans. ‘You didn’t give your ticket away again?’ she says.

‘Old Fiona Robinson isn’t going to survive much longer, here. You know that as well as me,’ I snap.

‘We’ve got an extra, this week,’ Suze says, giving me a Look.

‘Sorry, Anne,’ I mutter, staring at the screen, at the hyper-happy presenters, showing off the houses. ‘Just get on with it,’ I say, and they do.

There’s a silence as we all check our numbers.

‘Oh well,’ Suze says. ‘There’s always next week. And remember, when we win we take you all with us – those houses are big enough.’

‘Of course,’ I say. ‘Next week it’ll all change. We can leave this swamp and move to a place we won’t ever fit in because we’ll always be Lotto Residents, everyone knowing where we came from…’ I stomp through to our bedroom.

Much later, Suze climbs in next to me. We hold each other and listen to the sea and the hungry, never-ending water.

There’s a knock at our door. Suze gets up and I follow. She opens the door.

On the landing are the Robinsons. Fiona is in tears, shaking, as she hands Suze a Lotto ticket. Her husband nods at us. ‘She wants you to have it back,’ he says. ‘She told me to say it’s your future, not ours. It never was ours.’

For a second, there is silence, whilst we read the numbers. And then we are yelling, jumping up and down, hugging. The noise we make drowns out everything else, even the roaring water below us.


Emma J Myatt (@EmmaJMyatt) lives in NE Scotland, very close to the sea. She writes fiction of all kinds and thinks that using stories to make people think about their impact on the world and their lives is essential. She lives with her young family and they share with various cats, chickens and fish, all of whom have been ‘interestingly’ named by creative children. After spending time with her family, writing is her favourite thing to do and her stories are often about the sea, which provides the soundtrack to her everyday life. She hopes this story is not a prediction.

Prologue

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


March 13, 4:36 P.M. 2192
Sabratha port
Zawiya District, Libya.

The chaos was glorious. Harsh calls and barking dogs, shrieking children, and the staccato coughing of old and dying automobiles created a cacophony to assault the senses. Heat shimmered off the stone and earthwork construction and the metal roofing shone with the light of a thousand suns. The man was walking through a busy market district towards the red-tinged sea just visible over horizon of people before him. Airships glittered menacingly in the distance as they hovered in place, swaying slowly to a faint breeze. Sails were furled and anchor chains building thin bridges to touch the coastline. From a distance the number of ships at anchor created a spider’s web across the horizon, the ships seeming trapped within it. The algae blooms in the ocean, active in the afternoon sun, reflected red light back into space covering everything in a sickening red hue. The algae was not the only thing catalysed by the sun, he thought, grimacing at the stench of human waste.

It was packed, thousands jostled on the street, few stopped to frequent the small number stalls and reed mats sparsely adorned with pottery and stone carvings. The drought had hit people hardest here, a hyperbolic reflection of the food shortages on the Eurasian continent. The small number of United Nations depos that remained provided water, nutritional supplements and basic medical care. There were never enough for the masses of people arriving each day. Desperate eyes clawing from sunken faces searching for a salvation that wasn’t there, bodies pushing listlessly ever onwards towards the harbour’s port, if it could be called such. Below an elegantly angled brow the man’s obsidian eyes scanned across the crowd, never resting on a single space more than a few seconds. He was tall, his dark skin standing out less among the pale Libyans then it would have before the drought two decades ago, as millions of Africans from the sub Sahara and the North had fled towards the coast of the mediterranean sea.

He gazed glossed passed the masses, most of them were already dead, he thought. It was unthinkable that this many people faced extinction, unthinkable that only two decades ago the region had been in a process of economic and technological recovery at a scale not seen since the renaissance. But then the drought had surprised even the most pessimistic of predictions. Climate change had long since been accepted, mitigation was occurring worldwide. Things had been looking up for the first time in fifty years. Then two decades ago average temperatures soared globally, in the sub-Sahara above what even solar panels and batteries could tolerate. People retreated to their houses coming out at night. Electrical appliances simply could not keep up with ambient temperatures. The cooled greenhouses seen as the savior of a society facing climate change became useless. Global food production dropped by forty six percent in the span of three years. Population growth kept increasing, at least for the first few years. The man grimaced, there was a silver lining to it all of course. People were willing to give up everything to get somewhere – anywhere – with food. The methane-filled airships could travel light and fast at low altitudes avoiding most radar technologies and difficult to spot from even European space surveillance systems. Resilient to damage and relatively safe, he felt comfortable flying them and had been acting as a squadron captain in his own rag tag air force, that happened to transport climate refugees.

Moving with a calm indomitable lope he passed through the crowd easing aside those to slow to move yet never losing pace. Dressed in a black bedouin robe with a white sash he did not stand out, yet he received looks from those he passed, his stride bespoke a calm confidence few could afford or justify in such times of hardship. Exiting the main thoroughfare he moved into the long afternoon shadows of a side street. Walking quickly now he moved past old and crumbling houses, his curved narrow nose turned up to avoid the stench of the open gutters beneath him, which had long ago begun to to be used to dispose all forms of waste, as local infrastructure deteriorated. As sounds from the Sabratha streets began to fade he came finally to his destination.

He stopped at a small seedy bar that looked like any other house in the alley, save the faded plastic chairs and chipped tables. Sitting down he stretched his legs, looking around, waiting. Not ten seconds later a woman emerged from within the dark confines of the interior which consisted of two stools and a table held up by concrete cinder blocks. The quiet hum of a generator, which powered the small fridge in the back, whispered out onto the street as the sandblasted glass door swung open, joining the murmur of the now distant main road.

The door swung shut, the soft clap loud in the ambient stillness. The woman approached him slowly, from his blind spot. “You’re late Akilian,” she said with a soft confidence given away only by a tapping foot. He didn’t look over his shoulder. After a few seconds of tense silence she moved to his side and sat down. He could see her now. She was dressed in full niqab, her cold blue eyes visible through a small slit. She was always dressed like this, Akilian didn’t need or want to know more. Initial attempts he had made to gather information on her origins had led him to a hotel in Tripoli, from where with the help of a few small bribes he learnt her departure to Milan. From there; nothing, so Akilian had resigned himself to operating in the dark. Not that he minded.

Clearing her throat and looking past his shoulder into the alleyway she asked“Why the delay?” Akilian sighed and leaned back, the plastic in his chair creaking in protest. “We have had a lot of casualties, four of my airships took fire and were lost over the Aegean sea. No shipments were recovered” He paused looking back at the latticework of anchor chains and ships visible in the dusking sky, “I thought the new route would be safer, you assured me there would be no patrols.” She shook her head slowly, shoulders taught with concealed anger, “It was never a guarantee, there have been food shortages even in the very north, they are becoming more vigilant.” She leaned forward, blue eyes capturing Akilian in a cold iron vice, “these shipments need to be made or we will have complete devastation here, we need to reroute again, why not South Africa?” He paused slowly at this, in disbelief. South Africa had been shooting ships on sight for the last dozen years, they must really be getting desperate. They had another two hundred million people to get to somewhere with food, and no safe harbor. “If we attempt South Africa we will lose half our ships” he said slowly. “If we attempt a Mediterranean landing we will lose half our ships.” He stood up slowly, “come to me when you find a route that does not kill those we are trying to save” The woman said nothing as he walked away, but reached for her temple and tapped once, stopping the video recording. There would be much to discuss back home, as others of the movement were significantly more ambitious in their plans to solve the Southern Hemisphere Crisis, and far more dangerous.


Robert Hoekman is a Tanzanian grown data journalist and moonlighting wildlife photographer of Italian and Dutch stock, currently living in the Netherlands. He have a strong interest in the creative aspects of content production as well as the analytics-driven methods and strategies that can proliferate it. He currently works as a Data Journalist and Storyteller for the Red Cross, at 510 GLobal as well as moonlighting as a consultant, writer, and photographer on various projects.