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