This project is working as expected!

I wrote this to the writers who participated in the HourofWrites contest that has brought so many interesting visions to this project, but it applies to ALL authors, as the best way to learn is to understand a topic through someone else’s eyes.

Dear Writers, Thank you very much for bringing such an amazing range of perspectives and voices to this topic. I enjoyed reading all of your pieces, and it was genuinely difficult to choose the top three. In the end, I choose those that captured the uncertainty and upheaval of Life plus 2m. (If you were not aware, the title refers to a world in which a changed climate means our lives are not the same as they used to be, ie. sea levels are 2 meters higher, storms strike where you’d not expect, people are forced to abandon regions, etc.)

I choose the winner (“The bore is coming“) because of its intimacy and intensity. I also felt the unease and acceptance of the characters as they confronted a new normal that may not work in their favor. For the alternatives, I thought that the punishment story (“The sentencing”) cleverly showed how someone might be literally forced to experience a different (and scary) new perspective. The report from the “semi-arid prairies of West Texas” didn’t jolt you as much as the 2m punishment in the law courts, but its calm perspective forced you to consider the magnitude of change that would put us in an entirely different world in only a few decades. How would we live? Would we enjoy it? That’s as hard to know as how much we’d enjoy living in the world as it was 100 years ago.

I could say similar things about the feelings and images that the other stories created, but I’d prefer to let readers decide for themselves, and I hope these “writes” get a much larger audience. I’m hoping to include many of them on the LifePlus2m website because they really show the range of ways that we can think about – and feel – ourselves, our actions and our humanity.

Thank you again for such an excellent display of talent.

And I’m definitely looking for more authors! Please contribute.


Six feet under in California?

I wrote this for Maven’s notebook, but you can read it here:

Most of us worry about current tasks, problems and choices. We lead complicated lives, negotiate tight spaces at work, and barely have enough time to rest as we go from one task to the next. (Americans don’t just get fewer paid vacation days than most; they don’t even use all their days!)

Given these facts, it’s not exactly easy to think more of the future. Retirement is going to happen. Next year will be different. Why bother to worry about things over which you have no control?

You’ve probably heard a version of “Forewarned, forearmed; to be prepared is half the victory” (Cervantes), which — if you’ve experienced such a situation — is good advice. We don’t often do well when confronted by challenges where we have no time to think about which reaction will work BEST for us. Sometimes we make the wrong choice and have to live with consequences that were — in hindsight — avoidable.

I started the Life plus 2 meters Project to help people think different about life in a climate changed world in which sea levels are 2 m higher, unusual storms are the norm, 1-in100 year floods happen every three years, and so on. (The American version of the name is “six feet under”.) I started the Project because there are good scientific reasons to think that the conventional wisdom on climate change impacts is far too conservative, i.e., that we may get 6-9m of sea level rise by 2100, rather than the IPCC consensus of 2 meters.

It’s hard to underestimate how dramatic those impacts might be on our lives, but it’s also hard to think of all the changes in all the areas we care about. That’s why the Project draws on crowdsourced “visions” — short blog posts by authors of all backgrounds, geographies and perspectives. There is no one right way to see our world today, and there is no right way to see a future world. All we know is that we all experience the world in different ways and will also experience its changes in different ways.

What will happen in California with climate change? The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta will grow more salty and inundate settled areas. Northern California might get more rain, but sinking land due to groundwater use in the Central Valley may fracture the California and CVP Aqueducts, leaving most of the water in Northern California. Los Angeles will, by necessity, rely on local sources for 100% of its water as the Los Angeles Aqueduct dries up from lack of snowmelt. Luckily, wastewater recycling and technology to purify local groundwater of military-industrial pollution makes this possible.  Inland California will see temperatures over 120 degrees during many summer days, leading some people to air condition their garages to make it easier to travel and live in an air conditioned bubble. Agricultural labor will change radically as outdoor work is banned as a violation of human rights and machines harvest crops in greenhouses designed to protect crops from sudden hail or dust storms…

That’s just one string of related possible ideas of how life will change in California, but I invite you to submit yours. This project already has a dozen visions from other authors, but it needs more, since everyone has a useful and interesting idea of how life might be different in a climate changed world.

About David Zetland:  David Zetland was born and raised in California, where he earned his PhD at UC Davis with a dissertation on the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. He has been working on policies to improve water management resilience and adaptation for over 10 years, usually via posts and discussions at Aguanomics. His most recent book is Living with Water Scarcity, which is free to download. This non-commercial Project is therefore the latest in a series of efforts to improve our use of water. David now lives in Amsterdam and works as an assistant professor at Leiden University College in The Hague.