Tony’s Story

It’s the Ides of March and cold as midwinter today, but I don’t think any soothsayer has been suggesting I shouldn’t venture forth. But before I do, I want to finish and post my report on this week’s progress in my writing journey.

New idea I’m inaugurating today is a look back at how events unfolded at the end of my Environmental Armageddon story. I hope this little freebie will generate interest in my multi-volume saga as I make way to publication of volume one – The Souring Seas. I’ll start today with Tony Atherton’s story as he looks back in the mid 2050s at Environmental Armageddon’s dramatic conclusion in 2049. This little snippet is just the start of his reminiscences, I’ll add segments in the coming weeks. If you want to read the first chapters of The Souring Seas, you can check out these earlier posts – Chapter One, and Chapter Two.

Tony’s Story

I’m wasting valuable time gazing behind us. I should focus on survival and the future, but my aging and overstressed brain keeps returning to the question of how we ruined everything.

I’m not considering the big bang or a more recent time when Earth, a molten mass of igneous rock with a newly formed crust, first revolved around the sun.

It had an atmosphere, mostly nitrogen, carbon dioxide, and water, with some hydrogen and unknown amounts of oxygen. As Earth cooled, water condensed, fell to the ground, and collected in depressions, forming the oceans.

The hydrologic cycle evaporated water from the oceans. In the atmosphere, it condensed, forming clouds, and fell on the land. The precipitation eroded the rock and carried simple inorganic molecules, ions, and small particles to the ocean.

During billions of revolutions around the sun, these processes shaped and reshaped Earth’s surface. Lightning, heat, and solar radiation triggered chemical reactions that formed simple organic compounds. Eventually, something amazing happened. Those organic chemicals, now in larger numbers with greater structural diversity, gained the ability to reproduce themselves.

They evolved into the plants and animals we took for granted. Interesting subjects for theologians, philosophers, and gentlemen of leisure. I have more pressing issues to consider.

My interest begins between 300,000 and 500,000 years ago when modern man evolved from early hominids. How did one species amongst millions develop the ability to ponder the unknown and modify the natural world?

Carl Linnaeus, the father of the modern system of nomenclature for organisms, gave our species the name Homo sapiens. This Latin term translates as wise or discerning man. I prefer to call him thinking man.

Thoughtfulness may have been an appropriate primary characteristic until the mid-seventeen-hundreds. More recently, doing man became a more appropriate appellation.

In the past two hundred years of industrial and technological development, we became obsessed with making anything we could. We seldom consider our need for it, or our ability to build and use it without destroying our environment.

So, this is where I am as we struggle to survive in our post-apocalyptic world. I’m thinking about the exploits of doing man. ‘Do it and ignore the consequences’ became his mantra. That, I would contend, led to civilization’s demise.

I’m not here to describe ancient history. I’m here to talk about my life and how we arrived at our present predicament. A predicament that has us spend nearly all our waking hours struggling to survive.

My name is Tony Atherton. I begin the story of my life as a scientist and climate change crusader in 2019 when I arrived in Halifax to begin work on my Master’s degree in engineering. My timing was poor. The infamous coronavirus pandemic of 2020 hit us six months after I arrived. It delayed the completion of my degree, but brought with it a distinct benefit. The research project I’d chosen became unachievable, and I fell back on my second choice. I designed and constructed an automated chemical control system for a large aquarium in the oceanography building.

My first ‘customer’ was Jacinta Lopez Martinez, a PhD student in oceanography. Her study of the biological effects of reduced pH in a more acidic ocean inspired my interest in oceanography and climate change. She made an important discovery in May 2022, in the short period between the completion of my Master’s degree and the formal start of work on my PhD in oceanography. Phytoplankton productivity in the low pH ocean climate change would bring us was far greater than productivity in our current one. Her simple observation inspired my twenty-seven-year career as an oceanographer.

I met Beth Manville, the love of my life, mother of my children, and dedicated environmentalist during that four-month hiatus between my Master’s and PhD studies. Over the years, she reinvigorated my interest when it flagged and led the fight to convince industry, governments, and the public they must take the climate change threat seriously.

Our efforts, and those of thousands of other crusaders, came to naught in 2049. Our blighted planet spiralled into chaos caused by our inability to control climate change.

That’s all I have for now. In the coming weeks, I’ll continue Tony’s story.

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