You’re old enough to remember television, aren’t you? I was in my apartment, on the sofa, we both were, watching the news, and – yes, the city collapsed, suddenly, like an ice shelf, all the glittering skyscrapers, and it was the greatest shock I’ve ever – we just sat – and then in no time at all it was just common knowledge that you didn’t build anything within reach of the sea. We were numb, and then the commentators were all talking about how inevitable it had been, blah, blah, blah, you probably don’t remember journalists, and then, somehow, we were all living in a world where cities weren’t built on the coast.
My apartment? An apartment was a living space in a bigger building, a couple of rooms where you could be private. Bedroom, kitchen – no, the people in the building ate separately, in their own – a sofa was something to sit on, like this log. Anyway.
There was some talk about flood defences, still, even then, and people interviewed who weren’t going to leave their old lives, but the second time it happened, and then the third, it wasn’t news. It was just an inevitable thing. We still talk about the angry sea, right? The storms? There were a lot of people living in the coastal cities back then, and they all packed up their belongings into their cars, one or two at first and then all at once when the panic took hold, and – oh, that was a season. The angry sea. Those waves. Cars jammed on the roads. The survivors – you’re probably too young to remember, but people didn’t used to live in their cars. Cars used to move.
Yes, and look at us now, sitting in this circle around the fire. We’ve scavenged tins for a feast and I’m an old guy talking about the past. No, kid, those are good. They’re beans. They’ve been baked. Very nutritious. That’s – yes, that’s fruit salad; don’t heat it. We’re sitting here, and the sun’s going down, and we’re about to eat – and there’s nobody else between here and those camp fires on the Interstate. Maybe the apocalypse isn’t over, but this is the new normal and it’s good. Oh, those are hot dogs. No, they’re pork. Pig. Mainly. What do you mean, are they edible?
No, you’d have a lock on the door, and the space inside was yours. Several locks. Two people, one, sometimes a family. You’d sleep there, eat there, and – no, we didn’t know the neighbours. Well, it was normal, back then. We didn’t question it.
Look at us now. We’re starting to tell history like we won. We survived. I don’t even know how to explain what happened, what we did, but it wasn’t a fight we won. I just remember that everything changed, too slowly for us to catch up, if that makes sense, and then suddenly it was too late and everything was happening too fast. Change creeps up on you. Then it gets really angry and the rain won’t stop. Here, let me show you. Clamp it on like this, see, so that it cuts in – see that? Then you turn this handle, like this, and see how it cuts round? Careful, the edge is sharp. That’s soup. Looks like – yes, mushroom. Heat it a little and then drink it. I told you; they would have had labels, but they washed off under the water.
No, you can’t come with us tomorrow. Look, we’ve discussed this and I say stick to the decision. Leave it to the old people to go into the city. We know our way around, for one thing, and there are still buildings to collapse, for another. Yes, I like alligator meat too, but I was lucky. It came up under my raft, on the corner of Paradise and Ninth – doesn’t matter where that is. I’d tied up to the top of a streetlight poking out of the water and it had obviously been stalking me. I know hunting’s difficult and gathering’s dull, but these tins won’t last forever. So no, you are not going to hunt for alligator meat on a street corner in the city tomorrow. Why don’t you try for a deer, maybe, or have another go at catching a rabbit? They don’t try to eat you back.
You don’t need us with you, actually, not any more. Those were skills out of books that we were trying to teach you, and if you’re going to hunt for real, you need to work the rest of it out for yourself. Survival skills didn’t really count for much, before, so we’ve taught you all that we know, and more. Yeah, we’re learning too, and yeah, most of these clothes, and the tents, came from a camping store that we liberated. But they won’t last and the future’s yours, really, not ours. We’ve brought you to this devastation, and – what? No, I know it isn’t devastation. More like – well, let’s not go too far, but maybe you could pick me one of those apples? Yes, off that tree over there?
Watch where you put your feet; you never know what’s hiding in the long grass.
What do we do?
More importantly, what do we NOT do?
There’s a pie chart at the EPA website (Environmental Protection Agency; 2017 figures): 29% of greenhouse gases are generated by “transportation”.
We stop driving about. We stop eating food that’s taken a long-distance journey to get to us. Easy enough.
But wait. 28% of greenhouse gases are generated by “electricity”. We should also go to bed at sunset and wake up with the dawn. Turn off the lights and the TV. Easy enough.
Yeah, but another 22% of greenhouse gases are caused by “industry”, and this is where it gets awkward. Industry generates not only greenhouse gases, but also taxes, salaries, pensions, things to buy. We should learn to live without money.
Hmm. And that’s not all. Whatever is meant by “commercial & residential” generates 12% of greenhouse gases, while agriculture generates 9%.
Whatever you’re doing commercially and residentially, stop doing it. Give that cow a charcoal biscuit.
Maybe if we went for carbon neutrality instead? Preserved the status quo, but printed something like “Generate greenhouse gases responsibly” on all our packaging?
I mean, I need my car, obviously, to get around. I need the heating on, thanks to global warming, and I’m pretty sure I’d get bored in the evenings, staring blankly at the corner of the room where the TV used to be.
So if I plant a tree, or perhaps a vegetable seedling [tiny plant, spellcheck], every time I switch on the TV, maybe we’ll all be okay?
Not actually plant a tree, you understand, but pay somebody who promises to plant a tree for me. Tick that box responsibly. Get a job as a compliance officer checking that trees have been planted.
Maybe the climate will stop changing if we all drive only so far to get to work (throwing seeds onto the verges as we go)? Maybe climate change will stop if I pull on another jumper and paint the corner of my room in a more interesting colour (slow-drying paint, several coats)?
And maybe I won’t have to bother, if “transportation” switches to “electricity” rather than fossil fuels, and “electricity” switches to solar power. All we have to do is change, after all.
So not such a big problem. Maybe I'll just write about something else for a while. Tried to get in to see the new Avengers film last night, but it was sold out. Now, that was truly outrageous!