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
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.