This is the last chapter.
The Souring Seas
Saturday, August 17, 2024
August seventeenth was Tony and Beth’s fourth anniversary. They’d returned on a hot sunny summer day to Crystal Crescent Beach. It was a perfect replica of the day four years earlier when Tony realized destiny brought him and Beth together. He’d just learned she was pregnant with another man’s child, but he refused to abandon her. Now, she was carrying his child, and they had rambunctious three-year-old Michael to contend with.
He’d seen many changes during those four years. He’d started as a carefree university student who saw his involvement in high profile climate change research as a lark. It was an opportunity to experience his fifteen minutes of fame. Four years later, he was writing his thesis describing his work on an important environmental issue, but the crisis it predicted wasn’t sufficiently imminent to attract much media attention. His work had become something he railed against earlier in his career, an academic study, interesting for its biological and evolutionary insights, not for its immediate impact on society.
Tony and Michael struggled up the beach with watering cans full of water. Michael insisted he could produce a sand sculpture that rivalled those created by a nearby group of youngsters. After studying the other kid efforts, their engineer-to-be enlisted Tony as a drawer of water to produce the wet sand he needed for his project.
“Thesis writing going okay?” Beth asked after Tony deposited his watering cans in the sand plot Michael had picked out.
“All’s well. First draft is done and reviewed by Dr. K. I’ve studied his comments. Nothing I can’t deal with.”
“No time-consuming return to experimental work?”
“Several recalculations and additional background reading, nothing serious. Should have a near final draft in a month. Committee has to review it before I produce a final draft for my thesis defence. Could be done by Christmas.”
“When the baby’s due.”
“Yeah, may be better to drag it out.”
Beth punched his arm. “You want me to postpone the birth of your daughter. Not happening buddy.”
Tony smiled while shaking his head. “The submission of my thesis. I could easily delay it until January or February. Probably happen without me trying.”
“U Vic. Their GCM group has accepted my proposal and has funding to cover it for two years.”
“So, you’ve found a way to stay in Canada for your post-doc. That’ll be a huge boost for our ClimateChange&U efforts and my ambitions.”
Tony sighed as he watched Michael struggle with whatever he was building. “It has to be our best bet.”
“But you’re uncertain. I thought the U Vic general circulation modelling group was top notch.”
“I hope they can maintain their reputation after their leader abandoned science to become a politician.”
“Yeah, he led the BC Green Party to electoral success and significant influence. But that was several years ago. Isn’t the group broad enough to keep the momentum going?”
“Hope so. My timing may not be the best if they’ve lost their spark.”
“But you’re committed?”
Tony nodded. “As you said, it’s the best bet for us. If they’ve lost their edge, it shouldn’t hurt my chances of finding a faculty position.”
Michael dropped his three watering cans beside Tony. “Need more water.”
Beth glanced at Tony. He nodded. “Okay, little fella. One more trip to the shore for water, then a few more minutes making…” He pointed at Michael’s construction site.
“A giant snake.”
Tony stood, collecting the three cans. “Okay. Let’s see if you can finish your snake before Mummy has our lunch ready.”
“Yeah. I’ll help. Let’s go.”
Four hours later, Tony drove them back to Halifax in the car he’d signed out from the local car share service. He was sad when Beth sold her Mazda Miata after Michael was born, but it wasn’t a practical family car. For occasional jaunts to the beach, the Halifax Car Share service was more ecologically responsible and cheaper. But the four-door econobox with child seat lacked the pizzazz of Beth’s tiny two-seater sports car.
Beth waited until the car lulled Michael to sleep. “Victoria should be fun and remaining in Canada makes the website easier to manage. Also good for journalistic prospects I’m working on.”
“Something new in environmental advocacy? I thought you might resurrect your acting career.”
“After two kids and several years on the sidelines, I’d rather focus on our environmental concerns. I’ve been looking into national newspapers or other media outlets that might carry a regular climate change column. Something that allows us to reach a greater audience.”
“Is someone biting?”
She nodded. “We’re at the squabbling about money stage. So, if I’m not too greedy… Victoria works for me, but is it really the best choice for you?”
“ClimateChange&U is also important for me. Your success and our recent efforts to influence the political process shows me I shouldn’t only focus on academic pursuits.”
“What if the government follows the Americans and shuts us down?”
“That’s not happening.”
“You can’t be sure.”
“In the years since Donald Trump became president, the United States had become more inward looking and nativist. They’d abandoned their eighty-year-long reign as leaders of the free world and focused on mostly bilateral trade relationships with strange bedfellows like China. The deals often beggar their long-time friends and allies. Progressive action on climate change is another victim of their self-serving short-range planning approach to material progress.”
“That may be true, but it doesn’t prove our government won’t take a similar shut down the critics approach.”
“Canada’s suffered from US bullying tactics starting in 2018 with massive US tariffs on imports of iron and aluminum that were ostensibly aimed to protect American national security. Restrictions on lumber and oil imports followed. The moves helped US producers of these natural resources, but they were very hard on the Canadian economy. The Americans have ignored long-standing free-trade agreements whenever it suited them and dared us to respond. We’re no longer great buddies with them and following their lead on every issue.”
A lightning strike lit skies darkening since they left the beach. Thunder followed by a sudden downpour indicated how close the strike had been. Visibility dropped to zilch and Tony pulled onto the shoulder.
Beth stared at huge raindrops bouncing off the car’s hood. “Wow. When I was younger, we never got downpours like this.”
Tony snorted. “Common enough in Central Canada and especially the south-central US. One more proof climate change is no far off threat. We’re already living it.”
“Which reminds me of the days when we first met. You were so enthusiastic about ocean acidification and the low pH blooms you were generating. Now you think it’s a non-issue, its impact so far in the future that we don’t need to worry about it. With climate change descending on us so quickly, couldn’t it become an issue sooner than you thought?”
“Worldwide coal consumption is up, and that shortens the time frame for climate change impacts like the one I’ve been studying. But it also moves up the date for other equally traumatic impacts like reductions in deep water formation as temperatures increase. Focusing on how they will affect phytoplankton dynamics remains my best option.”
Beth sighed as the shower ended, and Tony resumed their homeward journey. “Don’t know. I can’t help thinking we haven’t seen the last of your low pH super-plankton. What if we experience the crises you’re describing in your thesis before these other problems hit us?”
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