Energy Blog: World of Tomorrow-2073: Some Regions Thrive; Trade Disappears

In a Climate Changed World: Chapter 7 – by Andy Silber
Vancouver BC Cascadia
June 20th, 2073

I can’t believe my parents aren’t here. I know there was no way they could come, but it just doesn’t seem right. A girl, even a girl of 33, wants to be given away by her father at her wedding. She wants her mother to see how happy she is and to be impressed about how handsome the groom looks. A wedding is supposed to be the merger of two families. Ben’s family is all here, but the only person representing my side is the other Emissary, Christopher.

For someone who spent her first 15 years underground and never went more than 100 meters from her home until she was 22, I shouldn’t complain. Most of my friends from the base are still toiling away underground, hoping that someday they can rejoin humanity. I was lucky enough to be selected for the Emissary program, and even luckier to be assigned Cascadia. When it was decided that Christopher and I would stay in Vancouver while the Deuterium/Tritium (also known has heavy hydrogen) facility was being built, I was quietly over joyed. I think if they knew how happy I was, they’d have pulled me off the assignment. Arrangements were made for the two of us to share a two-bedroom apartment in North Vancouver, near the site of the facility. Back at the base I think they were hoping we’d become a couple. That might have even happened, if not for the fact that Christopher was gay. He was having a grand old time in Vancouver. We both agreed that in our reports and rare trips back to Yucca Mountain, we never said anything to dissuade them from their mistaken beliefs. We had a true affection for each other, so it was easy for our bosses to see what they wanted.SONY DSC

[see author’s note at end][read Chapter 6][read Chapter 8]

Once the fuel plant was complete, I was afraid that they would pull us out of Cascadia. By that time I had a serious boyfriend, Ben. He was wise enough not to ask about my past or our future and just enjoy the present. He was a scientist working on the heavy-hydrogen facility and was just my type. I didn’t know I had a type until we met, but once we had I was sure he was it. He was funny, cute and loved introducing me to the myriad of things I had never experienced, like walks in the woods, goat cheese, and sailing.

Luckily for Ben, Christopher and me, back at the base they had designed a new fusion reactor that would double the electricity output and improve the reliability of the generators. Christopher and I returned to be trained in 2070 on the new design so we could support the construction of the new manufacturing plant to build these generators.

One of the interesting things about being on the base was getting news from outside of Cascadia. For instance, as far as I know the Mars colony is all but forgotten everywhere on Earth other than the base. The Martians’ broadcasts slipped from weekly, to monthly, to annually. Not because of any problem, but because no one ever answered. We were listening, but did not respond because of fear of giving our existence and location away. The logic of that escaped me once the Emissaries became public, but I was in no position to raise a fuse.

The most recent broadcast was on December 31st, 2070. They said

martian mining“All is well on Mars. Population 21,436. Average atmospheric pressure is 254 millibar. Oxygenpartial pressure is 12 millibar. Average temperature 5 degrees Celsius. Planetesimal harvesting system at 73% of peak capacity. We will continue to monitor this frequency for broadcasts from Earth and will broadcast an update at this time in one Terran year.”

Other news was not so rosy. At the time of the Awaking the population of the US was about 375 million. Our best estimate is the current population is no more than half that, of which a quarter are refuges from Latin America. Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, LA and Denver are doing ok. Anchorage was doing quite well supporting the peat bog harvest and enjoying their mild winters, which has improved agriculture there. When the peat bog harvest was complete in 2068 things took a turn downward, but Alaskans are used to a boom and bust economy. The resurgence of the KKK and the fighting between well-armed rural Klansman and the urban population of Atlanta has destroyed that city even more completely than General Sherman. No city in the old Confederacy or Texas has escaped these conflicts. After losing several Emissaries in this region, we pulled everyone out and our only intelligence is from drone flights.

Cascadia is without a doubt the bright spot in North America. California from Redding north, Idaho and Montana west of Bozeman have joined. Greater San Francisco is in discussions to join as well. The fuel plant is a very attractive reason to join the country. Seattle script is starting to be accepted for trade outside of Cascadia the same way that US dollar used to be the closest we had to an international currency. Canada is doing fairly well, enjoying the mild winters.

Both of the original North American plants extracting heavy hydrogen from sea water are still functional, but at reduced capacity. The LA plant is producing enough to keep the local grid functional as well as powering San Francisco and Anchorage. Power demands have increased since originally built, due to ever increasing need to de-salinate water and power air conditioning in the ever increasing heat. The Boston plant is also doing OK and has been able to keep the lights on as far away as Chicago.

China Electric gridWe have very little view into what’s happening in the rest of the world. From the little we pick up on shortwave radio and satellite imaging, Europe is doing worse than North America because of the weakened Gulf Stream. Britain and Ireland are actually colder than before, while Eastern Europe is hotter.  There’s no sign of modern civilization in Africa except a few small pockets in South Africa. Western China still has a grid, but that’s about all we can tell. Intercontinental trade and travel has completely stopped.

I loved seeing my parents, but otherwise I loathed every minute at the base. I promised myself that I would never return. I didn’t say anything, but I think my parents sensed something was going on and hugged me extra tight when we said good-bye.

Christopher, Ben and I moved to Beaverton, outside of Portland, to build the factory. Ben and I moved in together and Christopher lived on his own. When I got pregnant we decided to get married. I was against it at first, but Ben is old fashioned. Traditionally you travel to the bride’s hometown, but I can’t imagine much of a party in the caverns of Yucca Mountain.  I haven’t told my family or anyone at base. The only person I invited is Christopher, who was my Dude of Honor. Ben still doesn’t know where I come from, and I don’t have any intention of telling him. But maybe someday the world will change enough that he can meet my parents.

I’m trying something different than my previous blog posts here. Rather than describing current technologies or policy questions or what I think we should do, here I’m delving into speculative fiction: what do I think might be in store for us if we continue on our current path. This is definitely not a best case scenario, but I don’t believe it’s the worst case either. On a scale of 1 (your grandchildren are going to live in a world that resembles “The Road” ) and 10 (Technology will save the day and it’s not too late), I’d probably give this a … now that would be a spoiler. 

I’m writing this in installments in the spirit of Dickens and Bradbury’s “The Martian Chronicles”. Unlike them, I’m not a great writer, so I don’t expect to win a Nobel, Pulitzer, Hugo or a Newbery. But maybe this will be made into a mini-series on SyFy. Also, for fans of classic science fiction, I’ve thrown in some references or out-right theft. 

I hope you enjoy the first piece of fiction that I’ve written that wasn’t assigned in school. – Andy Silber

Get Your Bike Tuned Under WS Bridge Thursday During Evening Commute

bike under ws bridgeBicycle commuters coming home from work this Thursday evening August 7th may find a surprise under the West Seattle Bridge.

The West Seattle Tool Library’s Fixers Collective and DIY Bikes will be doing their monthly workshop under the West Seattle Bridge.

“It’s been a long summer so far and many of our daily bicycle commuters have not found the time to work on their bicycles or take them into a local shop. We are coming to the riders to make ourselves more available,” Stu Hennessey said. Stu is owner of Alki Bike and Board, founder of DIY Bikes, and a Sustainable West Seattle board member.

The West Seattle Tool Library and DIY Bikes are projects of Sustainable West Seattle.

With Summer Here, Birds Need Water

birds in birdbathBirds require water year-round, but as the summer heat is in full force, water can be a magnet for attracting feathered friends to your yard. Not only will a bird bath provide neighborhood birds with a much needed drink, but it can also be a gathering place for them to take a refreshing dip or an instant attraction for insect eating migrants.

Here are five tips for creating a bath that both welcomes and attracts a variety of birds:

  • Keep it shallow.To entice small birds to jump in, a bath should be no more than 3 inches deep.
  • Provide extra footing. To allow birds to get a foothold while bathing, the interior surface should be textured. If you have a container that is a little too deep and slippery, line the bottom with gravel or stones.
  • Set up your bath near shrubs or trees. In order for birds to be attracted to your bird bath, they need a quick escape route if they sense a predator.
  • Clean it regularly. Since mosquitoes’ breeding cycle is a minimum of a week, replacing water every few days will ensure the pests don’t become a problem.
  • Consider running water. The sound of water can be heard by birds from some distance and will draw them in. Try a multiple-tiered bird bath, fountain, bubbler or even a mister.

Energy Blog: World of Tomorrow-2065: Local Economies Arise; Nation States

In a Climate Changed World: Chapter 6 – by Andy Silber
Capitol building (formerly Seattle City Hall)
Seattle, WA
January 20th, 2065

CascadiaCapitolIt’s hard to believe that in one hour I’ll be sworn in as the first Prime Minster of Cascadia. I’m certainly not a revolutionary by temperament and much more likely to be leading a county than a country. When I was elected King County Executive I thought I had the perfect job and would have been happy to retire from that position after serving for many years, but the high-levels of CO2 also forced a change in the political climate. When the great awaking of 2023 happened after the Southern Greenland ice shelf collapsed, Seattle, where I live and work, had a moment of “I told you so”. We had created climate action plans going back to the 2000s (and even followed up with some action); our electric utility boasted about emitting zero greenhouse gases (GHG) since 2005; hybrid cars sold well here, until they were replaced by electric cars; in 2023 our GHG emission per capita was less than half of the national average and on a downward trend even as our economy boomed.

[see author’s note at end][read Chapter 5][read Chapter 7]

But the “I told you so” moment was short. We realized that even in the Evergreen State we had a lot of work to do. I had recently been elected to the state legislature with the slogan, “No one is greener than me.” It played on my political inexperience (I had just graduated from the University of Washington with a master’s degree in Urban Planning) and desire to deal with climate change forcefully. Once the awakening happened, everyone wanted to get on the climate bandwagon. Since I had run on a green platform and the Port of Seattle was in my precinct, I got a seat at the table. We worked on further reductions of our GHG emissions and I got money for the Port to make the changes necessary to remain functional as the sea level increased. Our plan, unlike many other ports, assumed that the Greenland ice sheet would all flow into the sea, which seemed like the worst case at the time.

SeaLevelRiseExplorer

Twelve years later I successfully ran for the position of Executive for King County. My platform was to greatly increase local food production. This was something that many groups, like Seattle Tilth and Sustainable Seattle, had been working towards for decades. It was already clear that the food system was highly stressed and we needed to move towards self-sufficiency. We set up programs to help local farmers get their goods into grocery stores more efficiently so they could focus on farming, not retail. Lawns were turned into gardens across the county and chicken coups were in most backyards. We even arranged to be one of the ports that received the northern bog fertilizer when that started. There were other places that needed it more, but we were closer and had a good port. If the ships couldn’t keep up with the peat harvest, the quick turn-around made it worth stopping in Seattle rather than heading all of the way to Africa. We also worked with the MariFu Company to set up kelp farms to supply a factory here. I’m particularly proud of the effort I led with local chefs and the company to improve the flavor and texture of MariFu and create a cookbook of palatable recipes. My personal favorite was stir-fried Chard and MariFu with garlic and black bean sauce.

Then the refuges stated coming. At first, most of those who came had friends and family who helped them get settled. Since the refugees were coming from the southeast, especially Florida and Louisiana, they usually found a place to call home before they got here. Even still, more came than we could easily handle, so we built camps in North Bend to house those who needed a place. We just couldn’t build proper housing fast enough. The camps had food, water, basic sanitation, medical clinics and schools. As bad as it was, the residents there told us it was better than “out there.” Requests for help from the federal government went nowhere. We were told that our situation was much better than elsewhere and to keep doing what we were doing.

We did two critical things at this time and hoped that would be sufficient. Our regional transit agency, Sound Transit, was expanding our rail system at a rate of about two miles a year. We tripled that. In addition we relaxed the zoning laws, removing any height restrictions and all parking requirements for buildings within 500 meters of a rail station. Our plan was to look more like Hong Kong, with islands of high density around rail stops and people living car free. It’s not how we envisioned Seattle when I was young, but it beat the model of Cape Town, South Africa; a beautiful city surrounded by the squalor of the Cape Flats.

LakeMeadLevel

Elevation of Lake Mead, the water source of Las Vegas

When Vegas collapsed due to the lack of water, many from there headed to Seattle and Portland. Word had gotten around that we were doing relatively well and hadn’t taken our share of refuges. By then the construction boom we had unleashed started showing results and the camps didn’t get much worse. They didn’t empty out, which was our intention. All of these years later, the camps are still open and occupied. So we ended up with the density of Hong Kong plus the squalor of the Cape Flats.

Then the Great Reset happened. The dollar collapsed, the stock market closed and the federal government did nothing. We militarized the sheriff’s department to protect our borders. To enter the county, you now needed paperwork. Refuges were sent to the camp initially for processing. If they had family or friends who were willing to sponsor them or critical skills like medical or construction then their entry was expedited. If not, then there was a lottery to allow people in as space was available.

When we set up the border control, I’m guessing we had ceded from the USA in some sense. In retrospect, refusing entry to American citizens was a revolutionary act, but that wasn’t our intent. No one in DC complained and I don’t know if they even knew. Anyone caught inside without permission was ineligible for the lottery or accommodations in the camps. Given what life was like elsewhere, that was a pretty strong impetus to play by our rules. Literally, no one made a Federal case out of it (not much of a risk, since the Federal Court in Seattle didn’t meet).

At first refuges not allowed entry to King County headed south to Tacoma in Pierce County or north to Everett in Snohomish County. Very shortly both counties wanted to join us with common borders and entry requirements. We organized a common defense and refugee camp structure and easy passage and trade across the three county region. In many ways society was reminiscent of feudal Europe, with castles (Seattle, Everett, and Tacoma) guarding and supporting the surrounding rural areas.

We also started to issue our own money, which was nicknamed Seattle Script. It was basically a debit card with heavy encryption. At first it was only accepted in King County, but almost immediately it grew to be accepted across the region.

Soon after the formation of the tri-county confederation I was visited by The Emissaries. No one knows how they got on my schedule as “Bob and Jane Doe.” They wouldn’t say where they were from, but they looked and sounded American. Clearly bright and articulate and about 25-years old, but if they had a sense of humor they kept it to themselves. They looked sharp, though extraordinarily pale, in their matching uniforms. In the meeting they presented gifts. The first was a new flu vaccine, including directions on how to make more and the science behind it. The scientists at the University of Washington studied it and said that it was at least a decade ahead of state-of-the-art. Given that the flu had killed over a thousand people the previous year, this was very much appreciated. They also provided me with a radio and said that in time of crisis I could call on them for help. They said that what we were doing was critical and they wanted to help and that they would be back.

As the power in Olympia and Washington DC declined, more counties wanted to join us. We created more arrangements and we expanded the influence of the Seattle-based government. Within a year, the capitol of Washington State had moved to Seattle. The new state government was more a confederation of counties with the state supporting transportation, security and dealing with refuges. I was elected Governor by a wide margin. Refuges continued to be settled in camps until there was space for them in the urban areas. Farmers and ranchers in rural areas were supported as best we could, though there were still many raids on outlying towns.

We were pretty happy with the status quo, but then just like other counties approached King county, other states approached Washington. Following their own paths, Oregon and British Columbia had ended up in a similar place. They were more interested in ties to the local Washington than to the distant and failing one on the other side of the continent.

CascadiaSealFirst conceived of in the 19th century, it took a totally collapse of the US government and a near collapse of the government in Ottawa to make the nation of Cascadia a reality. The Emissaries returned and helped negotiate a constitution for the new country. It combines the federal concept of the US constitution with the parliamentary approach familiar to Canadians. Of course, there’s no King or Queen. We’re keeping the Pomp and Circumstance to a minimum, which is fine by me.

Tomorrow I have my first official duty as Head of State. I’m going to Vancouver for the ground-breaking of a new Deuterium/Tritium fuel extraction facility. Our last shipment from the LA facility took 6 months of negotiations and a freighter full of MariFu to get 18 months’ worth of fuel. The new extraction facility design is from The Emissaries, who are having their first public appearance as representatives of “the company” that created the design. In exchange for their design and support, they get 5% of the fuel. If their projections hold out and this plant produces twice the fuel as the LA plant does, that’s very cheap. We’ll be exporting fuel to the surrounding states and provinces, which should increase our wealth and influence.

The next day I’m back in Seattle for another event. I’ll be the first official passenger of the West Seattle to Ballard monorail.

I’m trying something different than my previous blog posts here. Rather than describing current technologies or policy questions or what I think we should do, here I’m delving into speculative fiction: what do I think might be in store for us if we continue on our current path. This is definitely not a best case scenario, but I don’t believe it’s the worst case either. On a scale of 1 (your grandchildren are going to live in a world that resembles “The Road” ) and 10 (Technology will save the day and it’s not too late), I’d probably give this a … now that would be a spoiler. 

I’m writing this in installments in the spirit of Dickens and Bradbury’s “The Martian Chronicles”. Unlike them, I’m not a great writer, so I don’t expect to win a Nobel, Pulitzer, Hugo or a Newbery. But maybe this will be made into a mini-series on SyFy. Also, for fans of classic science fiction, I’ve thrown in some references or out-right theft. 

I hope you enjoy the first piece of fiction that I’ve written that wasn’t assigned in school. – Andy Silber

Energy Blog: World of Tomorrow-2055: World Economies Collapse, Island Escape

In a Climate Changed World: Chapter 5 –  by Andy Silber
Isla del Buitre
August 14th, 2055

islandNice to not have the ground moving. Just because I own a 54-meter fusion powered yacht and I lived on it for a year, doesn’t mean I like being on a boat. In prep school the jocks rowed crew or sailed, but that just wasn’t my thing. It cut into my drinking and partying time. Especially crew with their 5 am practices. Who does that without a court order?
I’ve always been able to time my exits well, whether it was a relationship that was getting too serious or an investment that had been wrung of all of its value. But my timing on leaving America a year ago today will go down in history (if there’s anyone around to write it) as the most perfect of all. I saw the writing on the wall and decided to pull a John Galt. Inflation was 25% in 2023 and when I left in August of 2054 it had already increased to 4% in just that month. The high rate of counterfeiting guaranteed that there was no way to keep inflation in check. It was only a matter of time, probably months, until the US dollar collapsed. That’s the thing about a fiat currency, it only has value because people believe it has value. Once confidence is lost, it’s just paper. So I decided it was time to dump the investment my family had in the US for 5 generations.

The tool company that my great-grandfather had founded and had been the foundation of our family’s wealth, had just signed a contract to supply a critical part for the latest fusion generator design. I let the board of directors know that I was going to retire and, rather than hand off the company to Jerry, my only son who’s worth a pile of wet spit, I wanted to sell it. My son was upset; he had worked at every job in the company, from mailroom to VP of Development. He had an engineering degree and an MBA and led the team that won the fusion contract. He felt he was entitled to inherit the company and was an honorable man, so I didn’t trust him with the truth. He’ll forgive me, I hope. I would have preferred to sell to some private equity firm, but they were all doing what I was, getting out of Dodge. So I sold it to the employees, who thought they were getting a good deal in light of their years of service. Suckers.
In addition to selling the company, I took out loans that were secured by assets of the company. I guess I should have disclosed that before the deal went through, but I’m now on an Island that I own and I’m not going to extradite myself. As I boarded the yacht, I liquidated all of my US assets, so they have nothing to go after through the US courts. Even if they find me, there’s not a damn thing they can do about it. Another nice trick I pulled is that I arranged pay my capital gains tax at the end of the year. Of course, I have no intention of doing that. All of my assets went into buying this yacht, the island and building a compound on the island that can house 250 people indefinitely. It’s stocked with food, medicine, weapons, gold, gems. We have solar, wind and fusion power. The water supply is more than enough and the wild boar and fresh fruit will be a nice supplement to our pantry.

island homeIn the time between when I left America and today, things have gotten much worse. Inflation grew to 8% a month after I left. Within 3 months the barter economy was bigger than the cash economy. Credit card companies started charging interest from the date of purchase and it’s not a fixed amount, but the rate of inflation + 2% per month.   Wages are renegotiated on a monthly basis and strikes are becoming common. Why work when the purchasing power of your pay isn’t enough to get you to the office? Retirees saw their life savings become worthless. The stock market was fluctuating wildly, because no one had any idea what a company is worth. Within 6 months the economy collapsed. I don’t mean Great Depression, I mean collapsed. It’s not that people didn’t have enough money: there was no money. It’s not that stocks dropped in value: the stock market closed. And it’s not just the US. Across Europe, Canada, Japan Korea and China the industrial world has ground to a halt.

Hiring staff has been tricky. They have to be loyal. My biggest concern is that some Gilligan will realize there’s no reason to continue to take orders from Thurston Howell III.  Everyone will be here with their families, so they have an impetus to keep things working and not rock the boat. All of the natives were removed when I bought the island, so everyone here owes their safety to me. Hopefully that’s enough.

Three months after I left, my children and their families all received a gift of an all expense paid trip to Venezuela. They thought it was a vacation, but when I met them there they learned that there’s no turning back. There’s nothing left for them back home. I even invited the mother of my children to join us. Her response was that she’d rather starve to death than be stuck on an island with me and my “trophy wife”. I suspect she may get that wish. All alimony payments have stopped and inflation has devalued whatever savings she might have had.

Time for us to start our life away from the chaos of a world falling apart. Maybe someday we’ll be able to rejoin the world. Maybe Jerry will help rebuild it when the time comes. Maybe it will be one of Jerry’s kids. I doubt I’ll ever leave this island, but there are worse places to live out your days. At the moment, it’s hard to imagine any better.

I’m trying something different than my previous blog posts here. Rather than describing current technologies or policy questions or what I think we should do, here I’m delving into speculative fiction: what do I think might be in store for us if we continue on our current path. This is definitely not a best case scenario, but I don’t believe it’s the worst case either. On a scale of 1 (your grandchildren are going to live in a world that resembles “The Road” ) and 10 (Technology will save the day and it’s not too late), I’d probably give this a … now that would be a spoiler. 

I’m writing this in installments in the spirit of Dickens and Bradbury’s “The Martian Chronicles”. Unlike them, I’m not a great writer, so I don’t expect to win a Nobel, Pulitzer, Hugo or a Newbery. But maybe this will be made into a mini-series on SyFy. Also, for fans of classic science fiction, I’ve thrown in some references or out-right theft. 

I hope you enjoy the first piece of fiction that I’ve written that wasn’t assigned in school. – Andy Silber

Delridge Grocery Coop Launches Fresh Fruits & Vegetables Farmstand

DelridgeGroceryWebLogoThe Delridge Grocery Coop has exciting news to announce: The Friday Farmstand launches this week!

Finally – fresh, local, sustainable fruits and vegetables in Delridge.

Come by every Friday all summer from 4:30 pm to 7:30 pm at 5435 Delridge Way SW.  This is two doors south of the library, and across the street from Delridge Grocery Coop’s future full-service grocery location.

Celebrate the launch this Friday, July 18th, with free lemonade at the farmstand, and a fun comedy event afterwards from 8-12 at the Skylark Cafe.

  • Want to be more involved? 
  • Volunteer and take home free produce!

Help run the produce stand and take home some leftovers! It’s easy and fun, and we’ll provide training.

Sign up for volunteer shifts online

Join the Canning Club!

Do you like canning pickles and jams to save for the winter? Join Friday Farmstand Canning Club and get first crack and discount prices on bulk quantities of leftover produce!

To sign up, email Farmstand Manager Ariana at taylorstanley@gmail.com with your name and phone number. You must be available to pick-up produce after the farmstand, at 7:30 pm on Fridays.

Need a lesson in canning? Check out offerings from Seattle Tilth or Delridge’s own Little Red Hen Project.

Help the Delridge Grocery Coop Spread the word!

They need lots of word-of-mouth marketing to make this farmstand a success! How you can help:

For more information contact Ariana Taylor-Stanley, Farmstand Manager, at 206-660-8958, or by email at

taylorstanley@gmail.com.

Energy Blog: World of Tomorrow-2055: Distressed Earth, A New Mars

In a Climate Changed World: Chapter 4 – by Andy Silber
March 4th, 2055
Yucca Mountain, Nevada

I love when it’s my turn to do security detail, especially when my shift falls at night. I get to come outside; see the stars and the mountains silhouetted against the moonlight, breath the fresh mountain air. There are always three security guards up here, as befitting an abandoned federal facility, it’s just not always the same three people. Not that there’s anyone to watch us, except maybe a Chinese satellite. We’re surrounded by a hundred miles of desert in every direction. Even the nearest city, Las Vegas, is a shell of its former self. I guess everyone finally realized a city with no access to water just wasn’t a great idea, though there still is a market for “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas”, maybe even more than when that slogan was created before I was born.

[see author’s note at end][read Chapter 3][Read Chapter 5]

Yucca Mtn

We had volunteered for the MEP, and we knew that meant living in caves for the foreseeable future, but there’s something different about living underground on another planet (an adventure) and living underground in Nevada in holes meant for nuclear waste (a drag). In retrospect, I wish I had never learned that part of the MEP mission was to hide the development of this base; recruitment and procurement were folded into the MEP not to raise suspicions. Bill and I were doing great in the training for Mars and they loved his engineering background. I thought my background, a PhD in political science and history, was pretty lame. When halfway through the training we were called into an office we had never seen to talk to people we had never met, we thought we had washed out. In fact, they loved my background and the fact that we were both only children and our parents had passed on (fewer people to ask questions when we disappeared). I suspect that we were slotted for this program before we even were accepted into the MEP. We were only told that it was a critically important mission, very secret and if we went forward with it, then it was for life with no way out. So we bit and we were whisked off to a new site to continue our training.Inside Yucca

Putting the base at Yucca Mountain was a flash of brilliance. There was already all of infrastructure here, just waiting to be used. By design, it was a place far from habitation, allowing the base to remain secret. The biggest concern is that there would be a change of heart about storing nuclear waste here as the fission reactors were mothballed, having been made obsolete by the fusion reactors. A group was funded to push for dry cask storage at the site of the decommissioned power plants or regionally, the argument being that most of the risk was during transportation and that dry cask storage is a fully developed technology and allows us to mine the nuclear waste for valuable isotopes at a later date if so desired. Everyone now has bigger fish to fry, but I do worry that some of this waste will be mishandled and end up creating an enormous mess as things fall apart.

Containment VesselWe’ve been here for 20 years, and I’m still not entirely sure what our mission is. Are we one of those monasteries at the edge of Europe that protected the books and knowledge of classical Greece and Rome during the dark ages? Are we mission control? If so, what’s the mission we’re controlling and to whom are we giving orders? We’re connected to all of the major fiber connections, but they’re becoming less reliable due to almost non-existent maintenance. What communication that remains is either satellite or more likely AM or shortwave radio. Ham radio geeks are suddenly in big demand. We monitor all of these channels with receivers across the country to understand what’s going on. There are a few people who come and go and bring back first hand reports, but I expect that most of us will spend the rest of our lives here. In a way, we’re even more isolated than the Martians.

I’m part of a large team that pours over all of those feeds and tries to understand what the political status of the USA is. Where is the power, who has control of what territory, where is the government weak and where is it strong. The Greenland ice sheet only lasted four years after the ICE3 project shutdown, less time than anyone expected. With seas now 10 meters higher than mean sea level in 2000, every coastal city was at risk. When hurricane Rodolfo hit DC at high tide and overwhelmed the sea walls in 2051, the federal government nearly collapsed. The importance of states and especially the cities has been growing in that vacuum. Most of the rural areas in the southeast are in anarchy, ruled by mobs and malaria. The country has become a weak confederation of city-states. I think back 40 years to the Tea Party; that this is their ideal, with everyone more self-reliant (or dead) and no fear that the government is going to take away their guns. No one is complaining about federal taxes, since they aren’t able to collect. The federal government still has some income fromRacks of Containment Vessels leases and fees, but it’s about as close to bankrupt as could be, without filling any paperwork. And who could they file with anyway. Grover Norquist’s dream to be able to drown the federal government in a bathtub has been realized. I just hope they have a chance to decommission all of the nuclear weapons before that actually happens.

All of this chaos out there, does make me glad to be here, safe and sound, in our underground prison. Bill is busy creating an encrypted, high-efficiency, long-distance radio. I believe the signal skips of the ionosphere, or something like that. Our daughter Cecily just turned 15 and is your normal teenage girl. She’s moody and wants to rebel, but life here is so regimented that there’s very little space for that. She’s never known a life other than the base, and for that I feel constantly guilty. But when I read the reports from elsewhere, I’m not sure we didn’t do the right thing. She’s smart, but artsy (I have no idea where that came from) in a world with very little beauty. I think she feels it’s her job to paint an ironic bird on everything. Doubly ironic, since she’s never seen a bird.

The reports from Mars make me very jealous for those who got to go. Life is hard there, but they now have a thin oxygen environment. Not enough to go without a rebreather for more than a few minutes, but it is amazing progress in just over 20 years. The population is growing and there’s talk of relaxing the one-child policy, but that probably won’t happen until the atmosphere is thick enough to live on the surface full time. Even then they’ll need solar-storm cellars, since the lack of a planetary magnetic field will always make Mars a dangerous place to live, even with a thick atmosphere.

My shift is almost over. I take as deep a breath as I can. I’ve already requested to do my next shift, in three months, with Cecily. It will be her first time above ground. She’s seen photos and movies, but her eyes have never focused on infinity. I can’t imagine what that will be like for her, but I want to be there and see the world through her eyes. She pretends to be blasé about it, but I know she can’t wait. There’s a whole big, scary world out there for her and I can’t imagine what the future has in store for her. In the meantime, I go back down into my hole to pour through radio transcripts and satellite feeds.

I’m trying something different than my previous blog posts here. Rather than describing current technologies or policy questions or what I think we should do, here I’m delving into speculative fiction: what do I think might be in store for us if we continue on our current path. This is definitely not a best case scenario, but I don’t believe it’s the worst case either. On a scale of 1 (your grandchildren are going to live in a world that resembles “The Road” ) and 10 (Technology will save the day and it’s not too late), I’d probably give this a … now that would be a spoiler. 

I’m writing this in installments in the spirit of Dickens and Bradbury’s “The Martian Chronicles”. Unlike them, I’m not a great writer, so I don’t expect to win a Nobel, Pulitzer, Hugo or a Newbery. But maybe this will be made into a mini-series on SyFy. Also, for fans of classic science fiction, I’ve thrown in some references or out-right theft. 

I hope you enjoy the first piece of fiction that I’ve written that wasn’t assigned in school. – Andy Silber

Family-Friendly Bike Ride: Mini STP (Seattle to Portland) Wind Up @ GreenLife

Join your neighbors and family on Sunday, July 13, for the West Seattle STP bike ride.
You’ll bike wind up back at the West Seattle SummerFest GreenLife area.  Riders should assemble at 9:45 am to sign in for a 10:00 am ride start. Meet at Hamilton View Point Park, 1351 California Way SW – this is right at the end of California Avenue SW in the North Admiral neighborhood.

This family friendly ride is sponsored by West Seattle Bike Connections and West Seattle Spokespeople. Ride from Seattle to Portland and back in just two hours!

The ride is a 9.5 mile easy pace ride via low traffic streets from SW Seattle Street in the Admiral Neighborhood to SW Portland Street in the Fauntlee Crest Neighborhood.

Experienced, certified ride leader Stu Hennessey will keep the group together and ride at a social pace. No one left behind. Ride continues on from SW Portland to California and Alaska (the West Seattle Junction, that is) to join the West Seattle SummerFest and Greenlife. Social pace, families welcome, group stays together and no one gets left behind.

Free! No fee, no t-shirt, no medal, and no bagels with peanut butter, but we stop at a fabulous festival with street food vendors, live bands, arts and crafts! And we have stickers!

Helmets required. This is a Cascade Bicycle Club registered ride. Riders under 18 years of age must have a parental consent release form, riders under 15 years of age must be accompanied by a parent and riders under 8 years must be on an assisted vehicle, trail-a-bike, cargo bike or in a bike trailer.
 
http://westseattlebikeconnections.org/2014/06/23/2014-west-seattle-stp-ride/

Interested in Solar Power: Solarize Seattle Hosting Summer-long Workshops

NW SeedSolarize Seattle is hosting a Summer-long series of workshops and webinars for those interested in solar power in the Southwest quadrant of the Seattle area.

If you live in southwest Seattle, Burien, North Highline, or Tukwila, and have been thinking about installing a solar system on your home or small business, this program is for you! Solarize Southwest offers an exciting solar group purchase program for residents south of Downtown, west of I-5, and north of the Seattle City Light service boundary.

Neighborhoods invited to participate in this program include:Admiral, Alki, Arbor Heights, Burien, Cottage Grove, Delridge, Fairmount, Fauntleroy, Gatewood, Genesee-Schmitz, Georgetown, Highland Park, Highline, High Point, Morgan Junction, North Tukwila, Pigeon Point, Puget Ridge, Roxhill, Seaview, South Park, Sunrise, West Seattle Junction, Westwood, White Center, Youngstown

To launch the program, Northwest SEED has teamed up with Seattle City Light and a coalition of local community groups, including Sustainable West Seattle and Sustainable Burien. Solarize has selected the installation team for their West Seattle, Burien, Tukwilla, focus this year. Puget Sound Solar and Artisan Electric have been selected. Sustainable West Seattle has worked closely and collaboratively with Artisan Electric. The best part — the program is easy to understand and easy to participate in. Here’s how it works:

There is a summer-long series of workshops planned for community:
  • Workshop #1: Saturday, July 19th, 10:30 am to 12:00 PM; Burien Library, 400 SW 152nd St, Burien, WA 98166
  • Workshop #2: Thursday, July 24th, 6:30 pm to 8:00 PM, Dakota Place Park Building, 4304 SW Dakota St, Seattle, WA 98116
  • Workshop #3: Saturday, August 9th, 10:00 am to 11:30 am, White Center Salvation Army Community Center, 9050 16th Ave SW, Seattle, WA 98106
  • Webinar #1: Tuesday, August 26th, 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm, Online
  • Workshop #4: Wednesday, September 10th, 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm, South Park Community Center, 8319 8th Ave S, Seattle, WA 98108
  • Webinar #2: Wednesday, September 17th, 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm, Online
  • Workshop #5: Saturday, October 4th, 10:00 am to 11:30 am, High Point Community Center, 6920 34th Ave SW, Seattle, WA 98126