During the mid-20th century, our forbears faced a terrible crisis. They never managed to stop burning the coal, and the oil, and the gas, and the Earth warmed faster than they expected. In order to prevent catastrophe, they dimmed the sun, and cooled the Earth. The oceans kept getting more acidic, but disaster was averted. Over time, the technology for controlling climate became more refined and commercialized. They never quite achieved weather control, but they could keep enough of the Arctic ice-free to drill for oil while still keeping Columbia cool enough to grow coffee. The rich who could afford the technology got exactly what they wanted, while the rest of the world survived on externalities – it’s hard to cool yourself down without a bit of the breeze flowing onto your neighbour. No one ever did stop burning the oil, of course. Why bother? If things got hot, they could just turn the thermostat down a little further. Until it started to run out.

Then came The War. The systems that had been built up to keep things cool were easy targets. They quickly fell, and so long as The War raged, there was no point rebuilding. As the systems fell around the world, the heat wave they had been holding back for a hundred years crashed onto us all. It was like a dam, built higher and higher to hold back rising waters, had collapsed. It was as if the systems had never been there at all – except what would have taken more than a century to realize, happened in only a few years. By the time the war was over, it was too late. The world had crossed a tipping point, and no system built by humankind could bring back the way things used to be.

The coastlines retreated. Last I heard news from that far south, Florida was being swallowed by the oceans. Nova Scotia has become a series of islands. Every summer the hurricanes hit us hard, strong enough to whisk a person off of their feet and into the ocean, if they haven’t found shelter. Even the regular rains are heavier than they ever were before. We adapted as best we could. The birds and the beasts, they did what they could, too. They moved north, moved uphill. They went wherever was becoming more like where they used to be. The trees and the shrubs, though, they don’t move so fast. And plenty of those birds and beasts, even if they find a spot that’s just right rain-wise and warmth-wise, they don’t do so well without their favourite trees and shrubs. And the birds and beasts who couldn’t make it without their favourite trees and shrubs, well, other birds and beasts were depending on them, too. The rats and the bugs, they didn’t seem to have much trouble. I guess the things that were eating them didn’t make it. But I figure that soon enough, they won’t be able to find much to eat, either.

Nothing hereabouts seems to grow as well as it should anymore. I don’t know if it’s on account of the heat, the rain, or something left over from The War. I don’t know how it is other places anymore. Between the storms, the rising seas cutting us off from the mainland, and The War, we’ve lost a lot of roads and power lines, and no one’s been by in a long time to do anything about it. Can’t remember the last time we had any power. I guess that folks like us have to take care of ourselves. But then, we’ve always been good at that.

When the Dam Breaks, and the Waters Rise.

rbnstevens ClaytonM Myravist Charmeanie