If only they’d listened.
The signs were clear and had been for a long time. The majority of the planet’s people had heeded the warnings and each did what they could, on their own personal level, to minimise the threatened tragedy.
But the majority of the planet’s people didn’t control the money or the resources. More than ninety-nine percent of the planet’s wealth was in the hands of less than one percent of the planet’s population.
There was much fear among the masses, as they witnessed the degradation of their environment. There was much fear because there was much to fear. But the one percent and their acolytes didn’t see it. They only saw that there was still profit to be made from exploiting the planet’s resources and by continuing to pump more gases into the planet’s fragile atmosphere than that atmosphere was capable of absorbing.
The first sign that things were starting to spiral out of control was when the rain stopped. In fact, it didn’t stop, it just left what had been known as the temperate zones, moving north and south into the so-called cold zones. The cold zones gradually became less cold, and the precipitation that should have fallen on the temperate zone as liquid rain started to fall on the cold zones, partly as snow, but mostly as rain. The rise in temperature that allowed the rainfall in those areas also caused a reduction in the ice cover. This loss of surface ice reduced the cold zone’s ability to reflect heat back into the upper atmosphere, amplifying the warming effect and resulting in what science had predicted: a general rise in sea levels. A number of low-lying islands, as well as the erstwhile productive coastal areas of many countries, disappeared under the water.
It didn’t take very many degrees of warming, in absolute terms, to change forever the nature of the planet’s surface. Of course, there were always those who argued, not without some support from vested interests, that half a degree here and there wasn’t worth mentioning. What they failed, or refused, to accept was that the global average hid a range of larger, more local movements.
Geologists, archaeologists and palaeontologists had known for some time that tectonic migration had moved the islands known as Great Britain from the tropics to the northern temperate region over millions of years. The islands’ apparent reverse migration took only a few centuries. The photograph above is a computer simulation, based on imagery taken by satellite at the beginning of the twenty-third century. It shows the place previously known as the Yorkshire Dales. It is startlingly similar to photographs taken in the arid Middle East three centuries earlier. None of the native flora or fauna survived the change. The ‘motor car’, as they were known, that you see in the picture, was made from a mix of products derived from metals and oil. It survived only by virtue of the extreme dryness of the air in the region. Humidity of more than about twenty percent would have resulted in its disintegration in a relatively short time.
The human population remaining when this image was taken eked out a meagre existence from what little scrub was able to grow, their only form of transport being the hardy camels that escaped the devastation of the traditional desert areas. Almost all other animal life on the planet was, by then, extinct. The planet was and is damaged beyond repair.
The wealthy one percent, finally acknowledging the situation they had accelerated into being, chose to abandon the planet in a large fleet of transport craft and look for a new home. There have been no transmissions from Earth for many decades, and it is generally accepted that no viable human population remains. You lucky children are the descendants of one group of those first pioneers. You have a future that was denied to ninety-nine percent of the human race. When we find a habitable planet that we can colonise; and we have to believe that we will find one; it will be your job, or you children’s, or their children’s, to fashion it into a suitable new home for humanity. It is your misfortune that you descended from the greedy, self-serving, irresponsible one percent, and it is my constant hope that the lust for money, power and all that goes with it are learned, not inherited traits.
If you take anything from this lesson, let it be this: when we find a new planet, don’t screw it up like we did last time. Work with it, don’t exploit and rape it. For there is one thing of which you can be sure: if you are good to the planet, the planet will be good to you.
Okay, that’s the bell – off to hydroponics for your next lesson. Tomorrow, we’ll continue our calculations into the likely locations of the rest of the transport fleet.
I wrote this in response to Kreative Kue 124, issued on this site earlier this week. Feel free to join in; just follow the link.