In a Climate Changed World: Chapter 8 – by Andy Silber
Tokyo Harbor, Japan
September 15th, 2085
I’m so glad there’s a sign of life, of society, of civilization on the shores of Tokyo harbor. Forty of us sailed across the Pacific in the fusion powered hydrofoil Kobayashi Maru and it looks like we’re going to be met by someone. It’s been about twenty years since anyone from North America visited Japan. Our crew includes linguists, anthropologists and two Japanese, one Korean and three Chinese born and raised team members. This voyage was years in the planning, training and building, but only took six days to actually reach our first destination. We’re the third of the “Voyages of Rediscovery:” the first headed north to reconnect with the Russians, the second headed south to reconnect with Latin America. Both of those voyages plan to circumnavigate the Americas or possibly cross the Atlantic to connect with Europe and Africa. While both of those voyages are staying close to land, this was the mission these ships were designed for. As far as we know, these are the first ocean going ships built in decades. The team at the shipyard did an amazing job. Cruising speed of 50 knots, range unlimited. We’re stocked with communications gear, sensors, and a medical bay. Our navigation gear is old school – sextants, charts, and astronomical tables – since the GPS satellites stopped working long ago.
The voyage north met up with an outpost of Russian, Mongolia and Chinese who had settled in Siberia to harvest the peat bog. When the freighters and trains stopped coming they took advantage of the warmer weather, thawed land and copious amounts of peat to begin a farming community. The voyageurs were the first outsiders they had seen in almost ten years. None of them had seen a doctor in a dozen years, so they were happy for the portable clinic we setup for the week of our visit. In exchange we were given fresh food and a farewell party that is already the stuff of legend among the Corp. The fabled Northwest Passage is wide open, with nary a polar bear in sight. The Inuit villages are gone. There were some ghost towns that were setup by prospectors before the Great Reset. No money makes investment in mines a challenge. They’re now in New England taking their time along the Maine coast. The fish stocks have recovered enough for subsistence fishing to supplement farming.
The voyage south has been even sadder. Hurricanes have battered the Pacific coast from San Diego to Panama, their current location. The remaining villages are small and the buildings are little more than lean-tos made out of palm fronds and bamboo that can easily be reconstructed after a storm. A team traveled inland to Managua, a city of over a million people before The Awakening, and found maybe 10,000 people living amidst the rubble in Iron Age splendor. The locks of the Panama Canal are either stuck open or closed, but in any case the canal is impassable. They’ll continue south, but don’t expect to see much until they round Cape Horn and head up the Atlantic Coast to Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro.
This project is a testament to how Cascadia has grown. It now reaches south to the old US-Mexico border, north to the artic ocean, and east to Chicago. Texas and the southeast show no interest in joining, but I suspect New England will be part of the country before my return. The rules to joining are simple: you must be contiguous with our current border; have a functional democratic government; accept our constitution; and conduct a locally run plebiscite monitored by the Cascadian government. After that, if your citizens want in, you’re in. We have a unicameral Parliament. The size and shape of each riding is decided every ten years after a census based upon three constraints: the number of ridings equals 400 (so that Parliament doesn’t get unmanageably large); the number of people in each riding is the same; and the total perimeter of all of the ridings combined is minimized. This gives each MP (Member of Parliament) good reason to think about people in neighboring ridings, since they may be in his riding at the next election. Elections are conducted by instant runoff voting, where voters state their preferences and all votes are counted eliminating the candidate with the fewest votes until one candidate achieves 50%. This form of election favors moderates, which is what we need to rebuild our country. States and provinces still exist, but are totally ignored at the national level. We are all Cascadians.
Rather than taxes, the federal government has a monopoly on certain industries, mainly the manufacture, sales and distribution of heavy-hydrogen fuel. This provides an easy source of income without the hassle of taxes. They’ve done a good job supplying what’s needed to this point with no evidence of corruption, so no one is complaining. In general, corruption and crime are rare, in part because every financial transaction is recorded. There are privacy concerns, but no one can access the information without a subpoena. We all remember what it was like when we had no money at all, so this doesn’t seem unreasonable.
A major effort has been to rebuild schools, from preschool to Universities. The University of Washington is one of the few that survived the Great Reset. Depending on where you lived and when you were born, you might have never gone to school. Finding qualified teachers is a challenge, but a critical one if we’re going to rebuild civilization.
In addition to reconnecting with the rest of the world, we’ve reconnected with the Mars colony. The Emissaries let us know what frequency the Martians were monitoring, so we gave them a call. Boy, were they glad to hear from us. They could tell based on telescopic observations that there were still cities and electricity, but they couldn’t tell much more than that. Their population has continued to grow, along with the oxygen levels. They actually need nitrogen more than water or oxygen now, so the planetesimal harvesting system is focused on gathering ammonia ice. It was always among the desired molecules, as it’s also a greenhouse gas, it’s just that water was preferred. They’ve also established contact with the Ark. The on-board systems have continued to maintain the transfer orbit between Earth and Mars and all systems continue to be operational. It’s possible for someone to meet it as it flies by Earth or Mars and catch a ride. They do have a wish list from Earth, including seeds and a couple of new fusion generators. As the colony is growing, they are having trouble meeting the demands for power. They have built a few generators as well as a fuel extraction facility, but they can’t keep up with demand. Until we build a spaceship to get into orbit, it’s all academic. The Emissaries have let us know that they do have the designs from before and are happy to share them if we decide to try and return to Mars.
Time to board the skiff and see how things have been in Japan.
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