3rd Year of Restoration, 2065, A.G.W.D. *
Recording #568-e from the archived collection of Dr. Melody A. Escobar, Anthropologist
Narrator: Yáahl, an old Storyteller, Age and Tribe Unknown.
Claiming to be from Naadaayi Héen a Tayee, the Village on the River Under the River, an area not locatable by GPS
Tape 3: Frogs in a Kettle
We were like frogs in a kettle of water. We didn’t notice the water heatin’ up, ‘til it was too late to save ourselves.
Old folks talked about the weather actin’ strange. And on the news, people even heard that sea levels were risin’, drownin’ whole island countries and swampin’ coastal cities. But that all seemed far away. At first, it jus’ wasn’t real to people who could actually do somethin’ about it. Nobody wanted to come out an’ call it Climate Change or Global Warming.
Folks jus’ couldn’t wrap their heads ‘round the idea that humans could make a whole planet’s climate go haywire. Anyway, everyone was jus’ too damn busy workin’, makin’ money, takin’ care of their families, tryin’ to get on in the world to spend any time worryin’ ‘bout the oceans rising.
By 2015, when we’d wiped out over half the diversity of life on earth, including most of our large mammals and ninety percent of the big fish in the ocean, only a few people took much notice. Living in cities, people heard about it on TV, but I guess it jus’ didn’t seem real.
Once we’d lost every single one of the elephants, polar bears, and whales, most folks got it, but by then it was too late. See, we triggered too many tipping points. Warming the Atlantic Ocean stirred up Pacific trade winds at a level no one had ever seen before, and that triggered a sudden deadly runaway heat wave. Now, we’ve got a six degree centigrade temperature increase and the temperature’s still risin’. We don’t know if any humans are gonna survive it, or any of the other big animals either. We jus’ hope some small kind of life will endure on Mother Earth that can start over without us.
You wanted to know ’bout tipping points? It goes like this: the Arctic ice sheet, being white, reflected heat back into the atmosphere, which helped keep Earth’s climate steady for millions of years. But when the temperature started to rise ‘cause of our fossil fuel binge, and the polar ice melted, well – the water underneath was dark, and that absorbed even more heat. That’s called a feedback loop. We triggered lots of ’em. Like melting the permafrost, which released underground methane, a more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. The ice caps melted and methane fires burned in the sea, making the atmosphere hotter, which melted more permafrost until it passed a tipping point, and there was no stopping it.
Thing is, it woulda taken four or five planets worth of water and food, forests, fossil fuels, minerals, and fish in the sea to support our hunger and drive for more. Mother Earth jus’ couldn’t carry all seven billion of us. She gave out. Like aphids, we sucked the life outa her.
She got the sweats, crazy storms and floods. In some places, sea level rise happened slowly at first. Seawater pushed into aquifers; we got salt water in wells and agricultural fields. Other places flooded all at once. Coastlines eroded and whole cities drowned. People said these were “hundred year floods”, ’til they couldn’t say nothin’ no more ’cause they were permanently underwater.
In some places, it rained too much, but other places, the rain jus’ stopped fallin’ altogether. They made it worse by cuttin’ down forests. Fertile soils were paved over, or blew or eroded away. So it got hotter and hotter. Drought. Farmers couldn’t depend on a climate they understood no more. On top of that, Mitsinto destroyed our food seeds. The only seeds we had left were genetically modified and couldn’t adapt to the changing climate. Pesticides killed bees and other pollinators. When the pollinators went extinct, thousands of plant species disappeared. Feedback loops. At first, people didn’t notice our food supply winking out, one pollinator at a time. But when crops failed all over the world, competition for food got desperate, and dangerous. Famine broke out everywhere.
At the end, things unraveled fast. Transportation and shipping, electric power, communications, medical care, services of all kinds broke down. Crime, violence, riots and terrorism flared. It was fear and chaos.
The suffering has been indescribable. More than a billion people starved to death in Asia, Africa, and South America. China and the Middle East pretty much annihilated each other in wars over food and water. Extreme militarization at the borders of the U.S. and Northern Europe kept out the millions of starving, terrified refugees, for awhile. But finally, even rich countries couldn’t buy food. Places where crops could still grow, like in the Artic, were under constant attack. Armed soldiers guarded farmers while they harvested. People would do anything for food.
But weapons and military strength couldn’t keep out the diseases. Epidemics and plagues crossed borders and spread like wildfire. Even with mass graves, we were not able to bury all the dead.
Then, with no one lookin’ after the nuclear power plants no more in Asia, the Middle East, Scandinavia, Europe, Australia, South America, the U.S. . . . they all melted down.
Suddenly, all at once, everything in the oceans died. Acidification, they called it. You can’t imagine the horror, or the stench.
There’s only a few of us left now. Could things have been different? Maybe, if people woulda just woke up in time.
* After Global Warming Deluge