I am bringing together a series of essays for a new book project “Our World is Burning.” Essay Two: Rant From The Future sets the tone.
Essay Two: Rant from the Future
New Planet, New World (Manor House 2016) is the final book of the Chronicles of Awakening trilogy. I take characters from Book One: Redemption and Book Two: Trailing Sky Six Feathers, placing them on a new planet in the near future. The adventure allows me to look back on the factors that compromised life on Earth. Here is the opening of Chapter Three.
Dr. Tom Hagen’s blistering speech to an elite forum of political and corporate leaders at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland in 2080 changed the future of humanity. Gathered before him were the power brokers from around the world. He was an astrophysicist, engineer and prolific author. He wrote searing plays about human fragility and books for children to inspire them to care for the Earth. His endeavors, however, did not turn the tide of willful ignorance about drastic climate change. This was despite his creation of detailed scenarios for adapting to climate change and reforming business ethics, both of which imperiled life on Earth. He was also the chef-de-mission of the International Space Agency’s PRIME 3 project to locate a suitable planet, as habitation on Earth became increasingly compromised. The project was outlined in Space Agency folders that each member of the audience had before them.
The International Space Agency had established research stations orbiting Mars and on Jupiter’s largest satellite. Radical advances in space technology made this possible mid-century, through the invention of space elevator nanotubes and revolutionary advances in nuclear fusion engines for spaceships. Station One at Jupiter was the key construction. From there a probe, PRIME 1, was launched into the heliosphere through a wormhole into interstellar space. In a neighboring galaxy it located a planet with two moons in an ecliptic plane with a dozen planets orbiting around a massive sequence star, the sun for this system. The planet had a liquid hydrosphere similar to Earth. A more sophisticated probe, PRIME 2, sent back information identifying distinct zones from tropics to polar with evidence of oceans, forests and mountains. No sign of habitation was revealed. Both probes identified a dense particle field in the upper stratosphere of the planet, similar to a Van Allen belt. The long term plan was for Jupiter One to serve as a way station to ferry pioneers to the new planet. This project required massive financial support that Tom was trying to elicit.
He was standing quietly at the podium in Geneva, readying to speak. He had both good and bad news for his powerful and wealthy audience, deeply hoping that some of them would finance this late opportunity for survival of the human species. Tom looked at his carefully researched notes then put them to one side. This speech, the most significant of his life, had to come directly from his insight and heart. He composed himself, standing still and silent at the podium, six foot three inches of intense focus, dignified and alert. He took his glasses off and placed them on top of his notes. Sian, his wife, sitting off to one side of the podium smiled in relief. His fifteen year old daughter, Catriona, was sitting in the front row, dressed in a fashionable grey pant suit to offset her lustrous red hair tied up in a bun. Her mother had fetched her from her boarding school in Switzerland. She knew Catriona would love to hear her father speak. Tom looked around at his audience, one he did not particularly like, but one he had to convince. He saw Catriona in the front row beaming her smile to him and he relaxed a little. He breathed deeply and waited for that icy steel of reason and vision to ignite his insight.
He began to speak in a calm, clear baritone voice.
“In this very moment what is left of the population in Australia is being evacuated. The sand storms and volcanic eruptions in the interior plus successive coastal tsunamis have brought an end to human occupation there. The inundation of Bangladesh, the Netherlands and coastal regions round the world are a direct consequence of the collapse of the Polar Ice Sheets, which increased sea levels by seven meters. These cryogenic events have dislocated half the global population, ushering in plagues and pestilence that eliminated ninety per cent of other species and directly threaten human survival. These are facts that cannot be refuted. Furthermore we cannot turn away from the reality that our entire planet is overwhelmed with refugee camps and utter desolation.”
Tom paused for several silent moments and made eye contact with the few individuals there who could support him. He glanced towards Catriona who adored him. This helped him to gather his wits. The facts he had just delivered set the tone for what was to come. He knew many of his listeners would be offended. He slowly took a drink of water from the glass in front of him.
“In the early part of the twenty first century it was possible to make the leap to a zero-net-carbon world. Yet the opposite trajectory was chosen with a rapid increase in greenhouse gases because wealthy nations and economic enterprises like yours doubled their production of fossil fuels.”
He then glared at his audience and raised his voice, “Did you not notice that degradation of the Earth’s ecology was the catalyst for radical Climate Change? Did you not see that food crops were destroyed by horrendous heat waves? Did you not realize that food riots and world panic trace back to one cause, the economic agenda of your energy extraction? I know where your collective power was invested. It was in political, social and economic structures that centered on the carbon combustion complex. Did you not discern that this collective agenda was destabilizing world order?”
Several members of the industrial elite stood up and left. There was another pregnant pause, as Tom waited for them to walk out without comment.
“This focus on economic wealth at all costs was stupid. With blindfolds towards the devastation caused, you directly went in the wrong direction. Your brand was, and is, a dysfunctional global financial system lurching from one disaster to another throughout the century, ignoring the welfare of populations and the ecological breakdowns caused by the consequences of your actions. May I remind you that the economy is a mere sub-set of the mother lode of ecology and you have successfully destroyed most ecosystems on Planet Earth. On your watch not only did financial collapses signal dangerous global watersheds, the world food system crashed along with the chaos brought in by climate change. Nobody moved to ask different questions and find different answers, as the anger of the populace turned on the powerful masters of capital and politics. At the extreme end of the violence spectrum this anger boiled over into lynching corporate and political leaders held responsible by eco-militias, the false defenders of the Earth who are basically criminals. The heinous actions of these black clad anarchists are certainly an extreme response to your control, lies and doublespeak. But none of you are safe from their reach.”
That dangerous reality registered like a punch in the stomach with the rich and powerful still present.
Tom said, “Look back over this century and see why such violence emerged. Millions of people have died from thirst, starvation and disease. Death arrived from every pestilence available, some of it created in your counter-intelligence labs. The countless millions who have died do not include the many wars waged over scarce resources, particularly water. The reason for such wars have their origins in your greed for money, control and power leading directly to the cascade of disintegrating eco-systems. Government, industry, banks and financiers grew wealthy while they permitted a systematic breakdown of failing ecosystems on Planet Earth. I have spoken before to gatherings of this nature and provide a warning to all about the course we are headed on. I will try one more time.”
Tom felt exasperation arising within him yet calmly continued along the same track.
“Your willful ignorance of dire warnings served to discredit climate change scientists and oceanographers screaming that eco-systems were disintegrating. You silenced and jailed citizens with the integrity to save the Earth. But it was never about the unanimity of science or free speech. It was about the brand of economics favored by your fossil fuel complex, a collective cabal of extraordinary power that extended its reach to encompass all powerful corporate ventures. You know who you are.”
Tom paused to sternly stare at his audience. “You single mindedly created a powerful culture of denial about climate change and how it has impacted the cryosphere to such deadly effect.” There was an angry tone in Tom’s voice as he stepped away from complicity with diplomacy.
“Social order broke down in mid-century ushering in the overthrow of governments, the establishment of martial law and Nazism. All of which increased the desperation of populations worldwide who took to the streets in mass riots. In the vacuum of social order, opportunist and vicious warlords and militias took over many parts of the world. You have all suffered from the violence of so called eco-militias, which hunt down and string up in the streets those politicians and corporate leaders they hold responsible for the collapse of Earth’s eco-systems. Let me be clear. These eco-militias do not serve the Earth. They are pathological criminals on the loose, yet in many parts of the world they constitute an ever present danger. You and I have lost many friends and colleagues to the murders they have carried out. They are extreme, but you are just as extreme. Somehow you inherited the Nero gene, fiddling with indifference while Rome burned. The entire planet has been allowed to burn on your watch. Perhaps at this late stage you can learn something from Rumi, the Sufi saint. He said, ‘Sit down and be quiet. You are drunk and this is the edge of the roof.’
Tom allowed an entire minute for that to sink in before continuing.
“Your policies and brand of economics have forced humanity off the edge of the roof and you can now see the consequences worldwide. Big Oil and government created incredible propaganda campaigns to promote oil and gas extraction, irrespective of the damage caused to ecosystems and populations. They produced false images of reforestation, utmost safety, deep concern for wildlife, populations and clean water. This played to receptive audiences yet decades later we find rivers and lakes occupying a wasteland. Oil derivatives swiftly poured through interconnected waterways and aboriginal populations world-wide that once augmented their households with fish, game and forest products are no more. They either relocated or died. This effectively torpedoed any form of transition to a sustainable, renewable economy.”
His explosive words were like shards of broken glass and secured the exit of more power holders, though his next words caused a few of them to stop in their tracks.
“The billionaires amongst you have well equipped and tightly defended underground bunkers to escape to, but I have bad news for you. The deep core drilling for oil and gas all over the world, particularly in fragile ocean beds, has compromised the tectonic plates at the center of the Earth. The tectonic plates are now rising closer to the outer crust of Planet Earth. Where they collide precipitates world-wide volcanic eruptions and earthquakes that will first of all destroy your underground bunkers. It is estimated that millions will die from the volcanic explosions and many of those surviving will likely die from poisonous gases and the inevitable tsunamis in every ocean. Seventy years ago seismologists provided the critical evidence that deep core drilling and fracking were directly associated with the rapid increase in global earthquake and volcanic epicenters. Tectonic plates ride on a fluid like core, known as the asthenosphere. The collision of these tectonic plates are now triggering massive earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Repeated warnings from scientists to ban deep core drilling were ignored, bringing the unspeakable into reality.”
Tom paused and took a deep breath before looking around at his depleted audience.
“I ask you at this late stage to do one last noble thing. Take a good luck at the dossier provided by the International Space Agency. Support the PRIME 3 space project to the tune of fifteen billion dollars. That is what it will cost to build a new spaceship and create a viable outpost at Jupiter Station One. The very future of our species is at grave risk and presently lies in your hands. PRIME 3 is the last Hail Mary to begin anew without replicating the structures and policies that have led to the inevitable demise of Planet Earth.”
Tom stopped talking. He was greeted by a cold silence. There was no applause. No-one acknowledged him. He walked steadily to the side of the stage where Sian was standing. A look of sheer admiration lit up her face at his bravery. She embraced him lightly and sweetly. She held his hand as they left the podium. Catriona stood up and took her father’s arm and joined him and her mother as they walked up the center of the UN forum. She was so proud of her father but noticed that no-one would meet his eye. He strode purposefully as the rich, powerful and greedy studiously ignored him, or so he thought. Still, Sian sent a smile to everyone who appeared to be in some kind of shock, stasis or agreement. They passed through the security of the UN building and started to walk down the graceful stone steps. Tom let out a long slow breath, as he glanced at Lac Geneva sparkling in the distance. “I sure blew that one Sian and Catriona. Hardly any one of those bastards allowed what I said to sink into their mind. I have no idea where I can turn to ensure the PRIME 3 project gets funded.”
“Perhaps you may be wrong my dear Tom,” Sian softly replied. “Look over there.”
An armored limousine had drawn up in front of them. Heavily armed guards quickly fanned out in a defensive format. One guard opened the side door of the armored vehicle. Out stepped Seymour Hansen, the president of the biggest bank in America. He was a tall, commanding figure. His greying hair was offset by deep flinty blue eyes that he now fixed upon Tom.
“Dr. Hagen, you do know who I am?”
“I listened to your powerful speech. You may be surprised to learn that it impacted me deeply. I have sent a line of credit to the International Space Agency for the fifteen billion dollars required for your project. I am not buying a seat for myself on your space craft, as I doubt that I possess the necessary credentials. I have lined up a consortium of technologically sophisticated corporations. They will provide whatever technology and systems you need. They will deliver, as they are in my thrall.”
Tom was stunned, yet asked, “Why are you doing this?”
Seymour Hansen replied with a wry smile, choosing his words carefully, “Your speech stung everyone, some more deeply than you realize. I admired your courage as well as your vision and precision. As far as I am concerned I would not trust anyone else with this space project. I may not be alive to see its fruition and neither will those who just listened to you. There are no strings to my offer. Just get it done.”
Tom stood dumbfounded at hearing this from the most powerful oligarch in the world. He had no words or grace in that moment. Thankfully, Sian was endowed with both. She gracefully stepped forward to their benefactor and gently kissed him on the cheek, simply expressing their gratitude.
Hansen smiled, his flinty eyes softening, “It’s good he has you Mrs. Hagen for the necessary graces.” He held his hand out to Tom, who shook it firmly and gratefully, “Dr. Hagen, get it done.”
Tom nodded, as his heart expanded with relief and determination.
Sian was delighted that Tom’s vision had been supported. Catriona was jumping up and down with glee, laughing at the bewildered look in her father’s face. Sian had to shake him by the shoulders to ensure it had sunk in.