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Recuerdos de la anciana sabia*

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


(* Memories of the wise old woman)

I have discovered a recording I made of my great grandmother, la anciana sabia, when she was very old and I was young. This is the one in which she described what the Central Valley of California was like before I was born.

She remembered when the two great north-south highways, one on each side of the valley, lay mostly along the valley floor. That was before flooding became so frequent that it was cheaper to move the freeways up to the foothills to carry people and freight vehicles. Off these main highways, you can still see occasional weathered signs showing the name of the town you were entering, the population, and the old elevation above sea level, before sea level rose one foot after another, and the government stopped updating the signs.

In those days, the Sierra Nevada mountains north to south were covered with trees, and there was snow every winter but less heavy rain. That was in the century when the other side of my family was carried north from Michoacán on a tide of workers to pick fruit and vegetables in the Central Valley. My Anglo and Latino ancestors ended up together near the inverted Delta formed by the San Joaquin and the Sacramento rivers. This land had been reclaimed for farming centuries ago, before rising seas made it cheaper and more sensible to return much of it to the birds and the fish. Now the salmon move most years through a great inland sea.

“When your grandmother was born, in Sacramento in the spring of 1986,” said my great grandmother, “the Sacramento River a mile from our house almost topped its banks. Even then I thought, ‘Why do they allow homes to be built in this flood plain?’” In those days, she said, hardly any dwellings were built on pilings—just a few along the Sacramento river north of the Capitol, where now great river walls protect the parts of the city nearest to the confluence of the Sacramento and American rivers.

In the Delta, too, only a few people lived in dwellings on pilings, people nearest the rivers and on the edge of basins that are used for growing now only in dry years. You can still see the remains of old Delta roads in a very dry year when locals travel along them instead of using their solar boats. The magical architecture of the floodplains, the houses on pilings, was just beginning to evolve. Winter floods would only occasionally fill the Yolo Bypass, the first great bypass for flood water.

In those days, people grew vast areas of crops on the west side of the valley to feed people in California and the rest of the country and the world. As it became too hot to grow food in the ground, except under solar panels, people everywhere in the country and the world began to relearn how to grow their own food, in fields or greenhouses or agridomes, wherever they live, as our family has done, so that food doesn’t have to be moved great distances. But even now, furthest north in the Central Valley, farmers grow rice, grapes for wine, and marijuana.

“Once upon a time,” said my great grandmother, “men thought they could move water to anyplace that people wanted to live and farm.” That was before, one by one, the big dams failed and earthquakes broke the great north-south aqueducts into useless fragments. In those days, she said, farms grew food for people and animals from one end of the valley to the other. Some farmers irrigated those fields to grow alfalfa to feed cattle, and the meat of cows was so cheap that everyone whose faith allowed it ate beef all the time.

But the southern Valley kept getting hotter, and it kept getting harder to grow many crops in the traditional ways, all one crop planted for miles in soil under the desert sun. It has taken decades for people to learn that even in the deserts, it is possible, with permaculture, to surround yourself with green growing things. But that requires growing many different things together.

When we take the hybridcopter and travel to cities in the southern deserts, we see the new dwelling enclaves where artificial intelligence manages systems that control temperature, clean waste water, capture any rainwater that comes through, and pull water out of the air. Near Tulare Lake, they grow agave for syrup and mezcal. Only on the east side of the valley do thirsty nut trees still grow, taking in carbon dioxide and giving shade.

La anciana sabia saw this Valley begin to be transformed in her lifetime. “People used to accumulate more things,” she said, “before all the fires and floods and dislocations. Gradually, we lost the illusion of permanence.”

Hija, it doesn’t do much good to warn people about calamities. We live our lives up close,” she said, drawing so near to me that our noses almost touched. “The BIG picture” spreading her arms wide and then pulling me closer “we mostly miss, the pending events, the unforeseen consequences.”

“ArtIntel takes care of those things,” I said, repeating the argument I had heard so often. “ArtIntel does an error-free job of reasoning everything through, anticipating every possible consequence of every possible choice.”

“Yes,” she agreed, “we programmed it to do that for us. But even without that, human beings would adapt to their own follies, then innovate their way out of any problem their shortsightedness created for them.”

“Every few centuries,” she said, “people all begin to tell each other that they, of all human beings forever, are living at the end of everything, as if they thought they deserved to suffer uniquely, to be punished by gods they do not even believe in.

“They are always mistaken.”


Jane Wagner-Tyack is a writer and former educator who follows water issues for the League of Women Voters of California. She lives in Lodi, California.

The GAO on climate risk to the US

Some branches of the US government continue to function despite Trump’s delusional world view and misguided actions.

Last week, “13 federal agencies unveiled an exhaustive scientific report on Friday that says humans are the dominant cause of the global temperature rise that has created the warmest period in the history of civilization.”

The GAO also published a report “Information on Potential Economic Effects Could Help Guide Federal Efforts to Reduce Fiscal Exposure” that has this figure:

It concludes with “GAO recommends that the appropriate entities within the Executive Office of the President (EOP), including the Office of Science and Technology Policy, use information on potential economic effects to help identify significant climate risks and craft appropriate federal responses. EOP entities and the Environmental Protection Agency did not provide official comments on the report.”

The green turtles

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


The time had come. She could feel a trickle of sand upon her nose, as she broke through from the safety of her spherical home. Clambering on top of her discarded eggshell, she propelled herself to the top of the chamber into the warm night air, where she waited. Suddenly hundreds of tiny heads emerged from their hidden cavity. They looked about nervously. The full moon’s light reflected upon the indigo sea… The air was still and balmy.

‘Let’s go, follow me.’ she said.

The sand was warm, as they scrambled down the dune towards moonlit water. Gentle waves kissed the beach, as they dove headlong into the open sea, leaving the shoreline behind them. The currents grew stronger as they approached deeper water.

‘Wait for me,’ a voice called from behind her. She turned to see one of her brothers, smaller than the rest, paddling as fast as he could against the tide.

‘Come on, keep up, I’m sure it won’t be far,’ although she wasn’t indeed certain of where they were going. but instinct drove her on.

After several hours, with rose-pink dawn upon the water, a large bed of floating seaweed appeared ahead of them, swaying back and forth in the swell of the waves. The horizon, like a stitched line appeared to join both sea and sky together.

‘Come on, we can rest here,’ she called to the little one beside her and turning, she was surprised to see that the rest of the group had disappeared. Seaweed brushed against their bodies and they rested within its benevolent embrace, its fronds aiding them shelter and camouflage from the eyes of predators.

After such a long swim and hunger gnawing at their bellies, they began to tear small pieces of tasty seaweed with their beaks. As they ate, they were unaware of a large slim shape that lurked below them, also intent upon finding a meal for itself.

Suddenly the silver form of an adolescent shark appeared through the crystal waters. She sensed its arrival and signalled to her brother to remain motionless. Its flicking tail passed them, almost close enough to touch, before it headed off into the water’s azure expanse.

‘That was very close,’ she said softly.’ We’d better be more watchful unless we want to become someone’s dinner.’ He shivered.

Days passed into months and the two youngsters were growing larger. Having outgrown their floating home, they desired a more varied diet and decided to swim closer to the shore. In the distance, they could see a large forest of kelp. Like underwater trees, it towered towards the surface. The water was shallower here, with algae covered rocks that jutted from the sea floor.

Amidst this watery canopy a jellyfish poked its glassy bell like head out from a rocky hole and eased itself from its hiding place. She caught sight of its diaphanous form and intrigued, sped towards it, thrusting herself through the ultramarine waters. Potential food, her sawlike beak, pierced its underbelly, instinctively careful to avoid its circling tentacles. Its rubbery body was unlike anything she had encountered, string-like tendrils protruded from her beak, as slowly the new cuisine, was consumed.

Here the sunlight sprinkled waves, with unflexed muscles, crawled smoothly to the shore, where they lapped on to the flax gold sand. Gulls silhouetted against the cloudless sky, wheeled above in the afternoon thermals. The lazy day idled. Summer languished. Time passed.

Some days they would climb on to a rock and enjoy basking in the sunshine. Here they felt relatively safe as they were now too large to fear becoming a hungry seabird’s lunch and far enough from the water to worry about sharks. Life was good. It was one such a day as this, that she noticed that the sea was full of the many limpid forms of jellyfish. From her vantage point on her sun warmed platform, she could see that these floating creatures would prove an easy catch. She chose her prey, slipped into the water and was upon her translucent meal in no time. It didn’t put up much of a fight as it drifted like gossamer in the current. Its white tentacles were tough and somewhat bland, but she swallowed it nonetheless.

‘The sea here is full of jellies,’ she said as they finished eating. Semi-transparent forms floated just below the surface in the rhythmic pulse of the sea. These gelatinous umbrellas pirouetted, caught in the water’s circling embrace.

The sky above them was cloudless, the sun breathed its sultry breath down upon them and they returned to their rocky terrace to bask once more. Listening to the sound of the lapping waves, they watched as slowly the sun changed its colour from orange to muted gold, that spread across the sea’s surface like an amber veneer.

As the temperature dipped, she turned to her brother and was startled at how strangely pale he seemed. He had a faraway look in his eyes. She wondered what had brought about this sudden change. Slipping into the apricot water, she turned and said. ‘I’m going to eat, are you coming?’

‘I don’t want to eat right now’ he said quietly. In fact, as he replied, she realised that she didn’t feel like eating either. It was as though there were lots of tiny bubbles in her stomach and somewhat alarmed, she found it was becoming difficult to keep below the surface.

Neither of them were now hungry and sluggishly they hung around their sea weed forest, occasionally scraping a little algae from the golden rocks. She was concerned that he was so quiet, although she too had little energy. Wedging herself between two small rocks to secure herself from floating upwards, she fell asleep.

When she finally awoke, her brother had disappeared. In desperation she looked around, as she wriggled herself free from the rocks. Once again the bubbles in her belly forced her to rise and before long she found herself drifting on the surface.

A boat’s bow broke the liquid turquoise.

‘Look’ shouted an excited boy with corn coloured hair, his freckled face smiling as he peered over the side into the blue water. ‘It’s a turtle!’ he exclaimed through a mouthful of sandwich, a plastic bag now empty, still in his hand. A girl with a similar number of freckles upon her sun kissed face appeared and leant over the side of the boat to watch a rather sick and bloated green turtle, flounder in the moving tide.

‘It doesn’t look very well does it.’ she said sadly, ‘I wonder what’s wrong.’ The boy tilted himself over slightly further to get a better look, before a sudden gust of wind, detached the plastic bag from his grasp and deposited it into the water below. He watched the receptacle float away on the tide.

Looking up she watched the seabirds circling, as yet another indigestible synthetic jellyfish joined the plastic sea.


Cohl Warren-Howles is an observer of nature, she captures her thoughts in both rhyme and short stories, across a variety of genres, but has a special interest in Eco-Fiction, She was born in Salisbury, England, near enough in the shadows of the ancient stone circle – Stonehenge, where she spent many an hour drawing for her degree in Fine Arts and Graphics. She writes for a number of magazines worldwide, has published a book, is now completing her second and currently lives in Stratford upon Avon with her husband Saul. They have two children. You can visit her blog  and check out her next book here.

The turtle

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


Danielle travelled the waterways of Manhattan. In the years since the waters rose, Manhattan had become the new Venice. Danielle loved the new face of the city. Negotiating the flooded streets was a tranquil experience, in comparison to before.

The majority of the faces she saw were female. The gender revolution had been and gone, after World War Three wiped out 80\% of the male population and only 20\% of women. It had always been tough for a single girl in the city; now even more so. Danielle felt like a green turtle, endlessly searching the deep blue for a mate.

She had other things to worry about, today, though. Real estate was a booming business. Certain industries still thrived, and companies needed viable properties in order to expand. A lot of the most prestigious business areas in Manhattan were now underwater, and it took a creative sales team supply that demand.

The self-driving skimmer slid into a mooring spot on her destination’s short dock. Danielle climbed out and walked down the wooden platform to the building’s main entrance, now on what used to be the second floor.

The receptionist looked up with a bright smile.

“Can I help you?”

Danielle was distracted by the floor to ceiling water tank behind the receptionist’s chair. Brightly coloured fish darted in and out between fronds of coral and tropical plants. In amongst all the activity, a pair of turtles swam slowly together, flippers almost touching.

“Yes, sorry,” Danielle said. “My name is Danielle Saracen. I have a meeting with Sam Deveraux.”

The receptionist checked a schedule on her computer, then looked up with another dazzling smile.

“Fifth floor. Room 502.”

Danielle made her way to the bank of elevators and pushed the button. Her attention was drawn back to the turtles as she waited. They looked content in their enclosed world. Danielle envied them their simple existence; every need catered for, no unknown dangers and no long years of solitude stretching ahead. They might not be free, but they were protected and looked after. It was a seductive concept.

The elevator panel beeped and the doors opened. She stepped inside, trying to focus on the meeting. She had corresponded with Sam Deveraux by email and knew the basic requirements. Small new law firm, seeking a business office that would lend credibility without breaking the bank. It was the kind of request Danielle specialised in, and she had a portfolio of options all prepared.

The elevator reached its destination, and Danielle took a moment to check her teeth in the back-wall mirror before exiting. A plaque on the wall told her which way to turn for Room 502. Danielle knocked.

A deep, male voice called out, “Come in.”

Danielle was completely thrown. At one in five globally, it wasn’t as if men were completely unheard of, but she had assumed Sam Deveraux was a woman. She threw off her surprise, drew her confidence about her like a shield, and opened the door.

As she entered, a man stood up from the table and extended his hand. He gave off an air of professionalism that made it easier for Danielle to forget his gender and focus on her purpose.

She stepped forwards and took his hand.

“Mr Deveraux.”

“Sam, please. And may I call you Danielle?”

“Yes, of course.”.

“Coffee?” He gestured at a sideboard set out with refreshments.

“Lovely, thank you,” Danielle said. “May I freshen your cup?”

There were papers scattered over the table, a plate sporting a few crumbs and a cup containing coffee dregs.

“Yes, thank you,” he replied, handing her the cup.

Once the coffee-making was completed and they were both seated at the table, Danielle laid the leather case she had brought with her between them.

“I’ve read the specification you sent through, and I think I have a few properties that might interest you.”

Sam leant forwards. “One of my friends recommended your agency and said your team came up with some really creative ideas for her company.”

“Well,” Danielle said, turning the portfolio slightly to give him a better view, “this is a good time to be looking. There are some real gems out there, which are priced very reasonably at the moment, but will likely increase in value in a few years. Let me show you.”

Once they had been through the whole of Danielle’s presentation, Sam looked up at her with a smile.

“I see my friend was right. This is very impressive work.”

Danielle felt a rush of professional pride, and smiled back. “Thank you. Do you see something you might want to move forwards with?”

“Absolutely,” Sam said, “but I’ll need to take a couple of days to think it over and reach a decision. May I take this away with me?” He gestured at the portfolio.

“Of course,” Danielle said. “Would you like to meet back here later in the week to work out the details?”

Sam looked calculating. “I was wondering if our next meeting could be at your offices. My new firm will be specialising in property law and I thought I could pitch my services to your agency.”

Danielle smile at his opportunism. “I’ll see if I can set something up and drop you an email to let you know.”

“Excellent. Thank you.” Sam extended his hand again, and Danielle shook it. “I hope this will develop into a very beneficial relationship.”

It was clear he was talking about a reciprocal working relationship, but Danielle thought she saw a glint in his eye that might speak to the possibility of something more. She might have been imagining it, but she couldn’t help thinking about the pair of turtles in the tank downstairs. Had the endless, empty ocean shrunk to the size of this conference room, and brought her lonely turtle days to an end?


Annie Percik lives in London with her husband, Dave, where she is revising her first novel, whilst working as a University Complaints Officer. She writes a blog about writing and posts short fiction on her website. She also publishes a photo-story blog recording the adventures of her teddy bear. He is much more popular online than she is. She likes to run away from zombies in her spare time.

The moon under water

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


‘Our parents didn’t work all their lives to leave us with a shrinking landmass, rampant inflation, no job prospects and utter inequality.’ George slammed his china jug down on the table, forcing the brown liquid to leap for freedom. ‘Something has to change and I can’t do it from here.’

I frowned. It had taken me days to source strawberry-pink china beer mugs and George’s revolutionary zeal was putting them at risk already. He was talking nonsense anyway. ‘Our parents didn’t work all their lives. They had nice long retirements. We’re the ones who have to work until we’re seventy-five.’

George tutted at me. ‘At least your folks left you something.’ He gestured at the Victorian bar. ‘You’ve got a pub on a hill with a large garden. You’ve got a job for life now there are so few pubs left and no more licences. You’re sitting pretty, you are.’

‘Look around you, George. I’ve got an empty pub it took a small fortune to make habitable. I’m only three miles from the sea and it’s getting closer by the hour. The Moon Under Water’s not the only water-logged thing. The village where my customers used to live is submerged. There’s no one left round here. The whole thing is doomed.’

He bent his head to one side and his huge brown eyes reminded me of my childhood Labrador, who used to sit exactly where George was now. ‘So why did you do it Elaine? Why have you given up a city career to come to the back of beyond. What’s all this fantasy George Orwell pub stuff? No music, no live sports, liver-sausage sandwiches for god’s sake. ‘

‘It’s not the back of beyond. We’re only thirty-five miles from London. We’re in the London area.’

‘I know that was one of Orwell’s bizarre criteria but you’ve stretched it a bit too far. We’re not in the London area. We’re not even in the Southend area now it’s gone under. It may have escaped your notice but there’s no large town left here now Leigh’s drowned too.’

The expression on George’s face when he knows he’s right is just so unattractive. He must know I’m worried I’ve made a terrible choice. Why is he rubbing it in? I want him gone. I had imagined us getting stuck in together, making a little utopia on what’s now the end of the earth, building something solid together. Sadly what George is good at is picking holes in what’s been done rather than doing anything himself. What George is good at is making himself feel better by trashing me.

‘Fine.’ I pick his jug up and pour it down the sink behind the bar. It’s a waste but such a little thing in comparison with a desolated country, a planet with a precarious future. ‘I think you should go back to London.’

‘Fine.’ He slides off the bar stool so quickly I know that was what he hoped I’d say. He’s been prodding me to push him away. Five minutes later he’s back downstairs with his bags. ‘Could you give me a lift to the station?’

I hesitate. It’s lunch-time there could be customers. A guy came through yesterday. He seemed to like it here. I can’t really leave the pub but I know it isn’t safe to be out there on your own. Certainly not on foot when you can’t get away from whatever’s roaming near you. Can I really care so little for someone I’ve spent five years with? ‘OK but let’s be quick.’ I find an old chalkboard and write back in twenty minutes before propping it against the door.

George looks relieved. We get in the van in silence but he’s watching me as I drive. ‘Tell me why you really came here, Elaine.’

It can’t hurt now. I don’t have to protect myself against his scorn anymore. ‘I thought I could save a bit of the old world, you know, the one where people looked out for each other. I mean I know any property near water is a nightmare now but I can’t shake off how looking at water makes me feel better.’

He snorts and shakes his head. ‘And the Moon Under Water was your childhood home.’

I nod. ‘Yes but I don’t have a romantic notion of it. I know only too well how hard it was running a pub even back when they were profitable. You had to put up with other people’s vices as much as their warmth. Mum and Dad ran it like a club, they had their rules and it didn’t matter what you did or were outside. You stuck to the rules you were part of the place.’

‘Vices yes. Remember the smoking? But why all this George Orwell stuff?’

‘The Moon Under Water was his vision of the perfect pub. Old-fashioned yes but there was something about his set of rules made me feel I could create that kind of place. I had this silly idea that people would come on daytrips for the charm of it.’

‘But we only get five litres of petrol a week. It’s not like the blokes could come on their own now it’s one car between two families.’

That rule is very precious to George. His job is coordinating the car shares. So many people had to be rehomed that he was forever recalculating who could be matched. He was right though, I hadn’t factored that in. I was running at a breath-taking loss forever coming up with silly promotions that were as much good as Canute raving at the tide. The freezer was packed with the meals I’d made but hadn’t sold.

I stop the car in the station car park. It’s almost empty. ‘Bye then. I guess you won’t be coming down for the weekend again’ I get out of the car as he does and hold out my hand. He clutches me to him, his bag swinging into my leg. We stand there, wavering in each other’s arms. I’m tempted to hold on, to undo the last hour, maybe even the last six months. He kisses the top of my head and lets me go.

‘Good luck to you Elaine. You’re an idiot but I admire you, I really do. I just can’t make myself believe it’s going to be OK.’

It isn’t going to be OK. I know that. I drive back to the pub trying to accept that nothing I do – wasting beer or trying to make a sanctuary – will make the slightest difference. There’s something bigger than us we’ve tormented too long. Now it wants to get rid of us irritants, it wants its world back.

I’m going to keep on fighting back, plant vegetables and get chickens. I can’t go back to my old lifestyle, head buried in the sand of submerged beaches. I pull into the stupidly large car park scattering a group of people huddled around the door. I tense until I recognise my only customer yesterday.

‘Are you open? Are you doing food? I brought my friends.’


As penance for her marketing career, Jacquie Wyatt now writes flash fiction and novels in deepest, darkest Kent, UK. Her poems have been published in Poetry South, Sentinel and Clear amongst many others and nominated for the Forward Prize by Structo. She is an enthusiastic contributor to Hour of Writes, always grateful for a prompt.