ï»¿from the PREFACE:
The year is 2075 and humanity must survive!
The crown jewel of creation, humanity is the only species on the planet capable of destroying itself and bringing about its own extinction. It doesn’t really matter whether that destruction come through war or pestilence, neglect or invention, genius or stupidity; human beings are the only species that seeks ways to save their environment while inventing new ways to cause its demise.
From his earliest history, man has found ways to pollute the Earth. Clouds of smoke rose from wood-burning communal fires long before the advent of fossil fuel-burning modern machinery, and before factory smokestacks spilled their noxious fumes into the atmosphere. Whaling ships sailed the open seas in search of their elusive prey, each one belching carbon dioxide from their processing fires. Countries bent on growth and commerce mined coal from the Earth, filling fireplaces in homes and factories. Great passenger liners set out to sea, their holds filled with coal to burn, or their tanks full of kerosene to power their great engines. Oil-drilling platforms littered Europe’s North Atlantic, the Bering Sea, and the Gulf of Mexico, draining billions of barrels of crude oil from deep within the Earth. Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Libya, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and members of OPEC such as Argentina, Ecuador, and Venezuela, robbed the Earth of her fossil fuels and provided the refineries of the world with their precious cargo, enabling man to transport and heat himself into oblivion.
Humanity must survive! Or must it?
Global temperatures began to rise in the mid-to-late 20th century due to unprecedented amounts of greenhouse gasses trapped in the upper stratosphere, just a degree or two at first; nothing to worry about. A decade of extreme heat blanketed the United States at the turn of the 21st century causing drought and wildfires, destroying millions of acres of timberland throughout the western, central, and southern United States. Floods ravaged the Midwest and eastern states. Carbon dioxide levels saturated the atmosphere, trapping cold air in the higher elevations and creating blanketing heat waves at ground level. But we didn’t care. Weather fluctuations were nothing new. They happened in the past and would happen again. They always worked themselves out. Humans always adapted.
Politicians prated their rhetoric about environmental concerns and that if their constituents would reelect them; the first thing they’d do is launch a full-scale investigation and vigorously pursue the companies spilling pollutants into the air and waterways.
Automobile manufacturers developed more eco-friendly models, some of them able to produce only half of the carbon dioxide pollutants as their competition. Millions of new cars and trucks flooded the cities, highways, and countryside. A billion cars and other fossil-fuel burning machines filled the Earth in the year 2010 then doubled by the year 2040, each one adding its small amount of pollutants to the fragile atmosphere.
Fossil fuel machinery continued to burn to keep business alive and money flowing to the industrial giants required to keep the world on track for profitability and commerce. Deforestation of great timberlands to make room for man’s ever-increasing need for expansion devastated the Earth’s tree-cover, dangerously depleting the production of oxygen and the forest’s ability to absorb nitrogen from the air.
Cloud cover never before witnessed by mankind reflected valuable sunlight back into space, trapping dangerous amounts of carbon dioxide in the troposphere, causing the Earth to turn into an oven just waiting to overheat.
Seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth century carbon dioxide levels increased from 100 parts per million by volume to 20th-century preindustrial levels of 280 parts per million by volume, then to levels greater than 380 parts per million by volume by the year 2000, increasing by 1.9 a year after that. The scientific community warned politicians and industrial leaders that 350 parts per million by volume was the absolute maximum concentration of carbon dioxide the Earth could handle without overheating.
But they wouldn’t listen. The drilling and mining of fossil fuels continued and the global concentration of carbon dioxide rose at a steady pace, projecting carbon dioxide levels to exceed 1,260 parts per million by volume by the end of the 21st century, three and a half times the Earth’s ability to absorb the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, an increase of 350 percent above the pre-industrial concentration, far exceeding the natural range of carbon dioxide present over the last 650,000 years. Environmental failure was certain.
Slowly, gradually, the temperatures of the Earth began to rise, unnoticed at first by everyone except a select number of scientists who had their eyes looking forward instead of their heads buried in the sands of the past. Sea levels began to rise as the polar caps melted and the Greenland ice sheets broke away from their permanent shelves, only a few inches a year at first then at an alarming rate of twelve, fifteen, twenty feet per year, surging trillions of tons of water into oceans not equipped to handle the vast amounts of fresh water which served to break down the sea’s saline content and its ability to absorb carbon dioxide from the air.
Island nations that stood only a few feet above sea level were affected at first, their coastlines disappearing under a surge of tidal encroachment, eventually to be buried beneath an infringing ocean. England, the Emerald Isle of the North Atlantic fell along with the European coastal countries – France, Holland, Belgium, and eventually the entire western seaboard. The rising tides overpowered coastal barriers and washed away in only a few decades the foundations of empires that had stood for two thousand years, pushing inland over their lush farmlands and countryside, leaving destruction of life and livelihood in its wake. In time, only the craggy high mountaintops of Scotland, Germany, Turkey, and Switzerland testified to the fact that Europe had ever existed. Whole populations were forced to seek shelter by evacuating their homes, surging by the millions northward into Russia and Scandinavia, overcrowding the continents of the world, seeking shelter where they could find it − or take it.
Normal weather patterns expanded. Instead of only a dozen categories 3, 4, and 5 weather systems, nature created hundreds of massive hurricanes every year that devastated Central America and all of the Caribbean island nations. Cuba, Bermuda, the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, the Falklands, and the Leeward Islands washed away under the ravaging onslaught of wind and surf. Millions of men, women, and children, unable to evacuate starved to death, drowned, or killed each other in acts of survival desperation. New Orleans, a city shaped like a below sea level bathtub, could not withstand the constant deluge of storms that pounded her into oblivion. Gulf coast cities washed away, forcing millions of people from Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, Georgia, and Texas to evacuate north, bringing with them the need for food and shelter, over-taxing the already struggling economies of America’s greenbelt that was itself suffering devastating floods, drought, fire, and famine.
Along with the western hemisphere’s adverse weather, the east fared no better. Typhoons in the Pacific and Indian Oceans ravaged Asia, destroying crops and the livelihoods of billions of people. Japan, India, China, Korea, Thailand, and the Philippines suffered flooding that decimated their infrastructure and sent their financial markets into panic. Taiwan, Okinawa, New Zealand, Tasmania, Borneo, and hundreds of lesser islands disappeared under the tidal rise in ocean levels.
The African continent, most of it below sea level, felt the wrath of Mother Nature. Sri Lanka, Guinea, Senegal, Angola, Mozambique, South Africa, Somalia and all of the other low-lying coastal countries were overcome by the rising Atlantic and Indian Oceans, forcing their populations inland to seek refuge in the more mountainous African countries. Madagascar disappeared, leaving in its wake only the memory of a once beautiful island nation.
“It’s only nature,” the politicians said. “There’s nothing to worry about.”
“Global warming is a myth,” protested the skeptics. “I saw a special on TV and it’s all just a bunch of crap! There’s no truth to it.”
The larger nations began to feel the wrath of Earth’s rebellion. Ocean levels continued to rise, overpowering man’s attempt to keep her out. Coastal barriers thought safe were inundated by nature’s call. Australia fell to her wrath since the whole continent is only a few feet above sea level. The Florida Keys withered under the rising waters of the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. Miami sank, followed by the whole Florida peninsula. A thousand times worse than the devastation caused by Hurricane Irene in 2011, New York City took on water, filling her great underground expanses and subway tunnels, shorting out Con-Edison electrical systems to the millions of souls that inhabited the city, bringing the great city to her knees, forcing a migration of people west and north. Manhattan Island sank; the Statue of Liberty toppled from her mighty pedestal. The rising waters of the world continued to move inland, creating new east and west coasts of the United States. Rising seas pushed over California, absorbed the Baja Peninsula, and covered all but the highest regions of Mexico, joining the Gulf of Mexico with the Pacific Ocean. Central America was cut in half at the Panama Canal, a man-made waterway that by this time was an inland sea, not just a convenient passage from one ocean to another.
The American farm belts began to produce less and less crops as the nitrogen levels in the soil rose to such acidic levels that it was no longer able to produce healthy grain. The cancellation of food exports caused widespread panic as nations around the world dependent on American surplus to feed their populations realized their source of sustenance was fading away. Heat waves unlike any ever witnessed in history burned farmlands around the world, overtaxing man’s ability to grow food and other vital necessities. Ice floes in Glacier National Park withered away from over two-hundred natural formations to only twenty-seven by the end of the twentieth century. Scientists in tune with the climate predicted the remaining twenty-seven glaciers would melt to none by the end of the 21st century, sending trillions of tons of water into the heartland of America, burgeoning the nation’s riverbanks and lakes, creating inland seas that overpowered the already suffering environment.
Entire species of wildlife, both in the sea and on land, became extinct in only a few years instead of the million-year increments that usually determine the evolutionary span of living creatures. Pollinating insects such as honey bees and others that nature uses to bring life to oxygen-creating plant life died by the trillions, effectively stopping the Earth’s ability to sustain its environment.
Disease, pestilence, and famine were the natural steps that followed the breakdown of human control. Hunger ruled the day; violence the night. Nature turned against man, and man turned against man in a desperate attempt to survive, killing his neighbor for a morsel of bread or a half acre of farmable land. A worldwide human population that had grown to almost fourteen billion people by the year 2040 had been devastated to less than a half-billion by the year 2075.
Humanity must survive. But how? Where? For how long? Is mankind capable of surviving on a planet that no longer welcomes his presence? What hope can the remnants of humanity offer its children in the face of certain annihilation? Can the descendants of 21st century survivalists living in outdated and pieced-together geodesic polar cities conquer the most northern tundra of Alaska, Canada, and what had once been the Arctic Circle? Would a region of the world that had once been a frozen wonderland but was now a tropical rain-forest, welcome the very species that destroyed its complex beauty and environmental balance?
Can mankind govern itself without destroying our species again? Do we have the will-power and self-control to overcome our own excesses and stop our own extinction? Is the need to pull more fossil fuel from the Earth more important than the survival of our species?
Humanity must survive. Can it? Will it? Must it?