Tony’s Story continued

I’m back one week later with a continuation of Tony’s Story. Well, more a revisiting, a realization that in posting something I worked on for one week went against years of writing, rereading, revising, rewriting, editing, rewriting, etc.

When I reread last weeks submission and showed it to a few others, I realized I’d overdone my attempt to make Tony appear like a jaded and aged academic. I’ve now cut out most of the history lesson I started with, and added the beginning to his observations on what they could discover in the days after the chaos that was the focus of Environmental Armageddon.

So, Tony’s Story is now a work in progress, with the previous version revised and some new content added.

Tony’s Story (unfinished version 1.1)

My name is Tony Atherton. The story of my life as a scientist and climate change crusader began 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 system for controlling chemicals added to a large aquarium in the oceanography building.

Jacinta Lopez was the first to use my system. She made an important discovery in May 2022. Phytoplankton productivity in the low pH ocean climate change would produce was far greater than productivity in our current one. Her simple observation inspired my twenty-seven-year career as an oceanographer.

In a strange way, Jacinta’s discovery brought Beth Manville and I together. She became the love of my life, mother of my children, and a dedicated environmentalist. Over the years, she reinvigorated my interest when it flagged and led our fight to convince everyone we 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.

Millions died. The survivors found themselves transported to an earlier time. We struggled without the technical infrastructure we’d become so reliant on.

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. Some would call him, thinking man.

Our thinking ability served us well for millennia. Great discoveries were made and cultural achievements recorded. Longevity and the quality of life improved. In recent centuries, our expanding industrial capacity overwhelmed the natural environment. We became technological marauders, bending nature to our will.

We became obsessed with making anything we could, seldom considering our need for it or our ability to build and use it without destroying our environment. ‘Do it and ignore the consequences’ became consumer man’s mantra. That, I would contend, led to civilization’s demise.

And how did it end? How did civilization come crashing to a halt in the spring of 2049?

We know almost nothing. The conflagration that hit North America on May twenty-second, 2049 spread around the globe within a few days. Electronic communication ceased, and we were left groping for answers.

We learned the world was in serious trouble. On the twenty-fourth, nuclear explosions ripped through America’s largest cities. The powerful devices were hidden in buildings and triggered in quick succession. Initial damage was massive, and heat from the explosions produced fires that spread rapidly from the cities to the surrounding countryside. The Americans blamed Brazil, a rogue state, tormenting America for years with China’s support.

They launched massive missile strikes that allowed no time for diplomacy. That didn’t generate retaliatory strikes from China or Russia. Brazil was abandoned to its fate, and presumably, little remained of its major cities.

We also learned that a more limited number of seemingly similar explosions occurred in European capitals. On the other side of the globe, incoherent reports described attacks by China on several southeast Asian neighbours.

When communication channels disintegrated, we found ourselves dependent on old-fashioned technologies like short wave radio. The overriding message for North America was the realization that the whole east coast, including eastern Canada, was on fire with millions of people fleeing from the encroaching flames. Montreal and Toronto joined the list of American cities targeted by the nuclear-bomb-wielding terrorists.

Our daughter Hannah and her baby were home with me in Vancouver when the chaos erupted. Beth was in Ottawa, and our son Michael and his wife and family were at their home in the Pemberton valley, nestled in the coast mountains one hundred and fifty kilometres to the north.

No nuclear blasts occurred in Vancouver, but it wouldn’t escape the effects. Fires emanating from nearby Seattle, an American city that was targeted, were spreading north and approaching the international border. They were also jumping through the San Juan Islands toward Victoria and southern Vancouver Island. Refugees fleeing ahead of the fires were streaming across the border.

My thoughts were fragmented. I worried about the relentless fires. Massive efforts were being made to inhibit their progress, but no one appeared confident anything could halt their spread. I worried about the university, and efforts we’d made to establish early warning networks. Those well-meaning efforts seemed pointless, a hopelessly inadequate response to the disaster we’d encountered. More than anything else, I worried about Beth. She was closer to the epicentre than we were and faced tribulations we may never understand.

*****

That’s it for this week as I slouch along The Road to Environmental Armageddon.

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