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WHEN THE STORMS CAME TO STAY ONLY ONE WAY OUT REMAINED
A speculative fiction based on present events and trends
It’s tough. But we have proven you can get used to anything. Well, almost anything. We eat, we try to sleep. We can still talk, sometimes we even joke. But life is not what it was. It’s tough.
We’re relatively cool here compared to the others but temperatures are steadily rising year on year. It’s getting harder and harder to sleep without the AC being on constantly right through the night. And the sand gets into everything, your food, each household surface and your clothes. It comes flying in from the south on winds that are increasing steadily in strength.
New York is nothing like what it was. We are hunkered down here, just barely surviving these conditions. What was once a thriving street scene has all but died. Not that the people have gone, there are hundreds of thousands more, but for most of the day and night, the whole population tends to keep off the street if they possibly can.
There was no keeping the migrants out when it came to the most extreme conditions being faced by them. Constant temperatures of over 122 °F made life intolerable for them and they came in such numbers and such desperation that there was no stopping them. After every method was used, including mass white-painting of roofs across the warming world, there was no other option but to migrate. Migrate or die.
It wasn’t an easy process for residents of any city or suburb here. The migrants couldn’t be let die and the vast majority were no trouble save they had no English and had no chance in what was already a devastated job market. For years only those with specialised training had had any chance. With their salaries they could isolate themselves to some degree from the problems besetting the rest of us.
The minority who came who had the least ability to find an income were those who kept the streets empty most times of the day and night. They and those who were long-time residents and long unable to achieve any kind of living wage used any method available to them to survive. The social welfare net had collapsed due to the collapse in world trade and the income tax gained from it and those employed in companies now gone bankrupt.
Sometimes you think you’ll reach breaking point, especially when you eat something such as bread and your teeth grate on the sand in it. It feels as if it’s all getting too much to bear. We live on a knife-edge, just barely getting through our days. The things we took for granted have been taken from us and the irritations and discomforts only seem to increase.
It was twenty short years ago that the changes sped up toward the crisis point we now have. Some of us had heard that temperatures were becoming unbearable, especially in the Middle East but the number of us that saw the way things were moving were few and among the politicians, you’d think they were living with blinkers on their eyes and earplugs constantly in their ears.
The deserts began to expand. A searing heat was being experienced more often and across ever more nations. In other regions flash floods became commonplace and vast storms that lasted for days devastated normal life for millions. Economies began to collapse as major corporations moved out retrenching back to the cooler north. This stopgap policy rendered them only temporary relief however as year by year the conditions causing the ruination of the south inexorably came north.
It was the strengthening of the winds that we began to experience that should have warned us and the increase in tornadoes and hurricanes that came with them. Some said these were only temporary phenomena and that these conditions wouldn’t last. Time proved them wrong, however. It is this ever-strengthening wind that brings us our sand delivery each day. It is whipped up into the troposphere and gets deposited on us courtesy of the increasing number of cyclones creating sand storms back home.
In my tiny apartment, I now have a family from Nigeria staying with me. Down the hall, there is another from Kuwait. All through our apartment block there are many, all sheltering here after the unlivable conditions they encountered back where they came from. Kuwait was the very first country declared unfit for habitation when the average temperature reached 55 degrees. Nigeria was well on the way as were most other nations right across the hot spot band which stretched across the world and expanded daily.
Managing to feed everyone is tough, but since there is virtually nothing else to spend the meagre basic income we get from the government on, we get by. All rent has been suspended temporarily by law and will most likely it’s a law never to be repealed.
As far as I know, there is not a single economy worldwide left unaffected. The Sahara was not the only desert to expand, the Gobi also along with the Arabian massively encroaching on every area at their edges. The north was not spared either. Furnace Creek in Death Valley beat its previous record high of 134 °F (56.7 °C) with a reading of 147 °F (63.8 °C) on July 10th 2033, the 110th anniversary of its initial record-breaking count. This time no human took the count, a modified General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper drone from Creech Air Force Base in Nevada.
The Russian economy survived the changes that have beset the rest of us better than most. With the continual warming of Russia’s vast frozen Siberian lands, its minerals became much more profitable to mine and at the same time ever more natural gas fields had been possible to exploit. In addition to these developments, an even greater benefit was that more and more of Siberia’s land became suitable for agriculture. A million Russians have migrated north to take advantage of the increased possibilities for gainful employment. Along with these, a million climate refugees from China and further south were welcomed as two million square miles in Siberia became available for farming and the exploitation of countless mineral deposits along with oil and gas fields.
It seems Russia was blessed all round when it comes to the vagaries of climate change. Meanwhile, as Russia benefited from the changes I’ve just spoken of, water levels everywhere were rising. This again benefited Russia and hurt its chief but fast descending economic competitor, the USA. Russia, having only three major cities on its coastlines, was largely unaffected whereas the USA has ten major cities susceptible to rising water levels. Already trillions of dollars have had to be expended creating defences against rising tides.
By 2033 the Arctic sea ice largely blocking Russian sea navigation for most of the year had gone, the Northern Sea Route became open all year round and Russia became the breadbasket for the world. And not only bread of course. Ninety per cent of all fuel gradually became sourced in Russia while the southern countries who had previously held a large percentage of the market became virtually uninhabitable.
You must excuse me now. I have my nightly Russian language course in a few minutes time. My ambition is to emigrate there as soon as I possibly can. It is clearly going to be the last possible fully habitable nation on the planet with the best possible future for its people and those who seek employment there. And of course, there is the potential to be part of the Moon Migration if Russian citizenship is denied. With China, this has become a major secondary choice with the terraforming technology developed in China now in full swing there.
A new chapter in humankind’s long history has begun. With any luck, we will all have learned well the lessons of the past and the new planets we have identified as habitable will be colonized from Moonbase within the next 15 to 25 years as planned. As the USA, UK and Europe decline, Russia and China are working hard to provide an effective escape route for our species to escape what is estimated to be a death sentence for all life on the planet within the next 50 years. We left the necessary changes to save ourselves too late in the day. The myopic focus on creating ever greater profits meant that politicians turned a blind eye to the disaster awaiting us all. The climate changes now underway have been recognised as unstoppable by all major scientific authorities. Our only hope is the final migration of humankind and the only hope for this lies now not in the West but in Eurasia.
We screwed it up royally this time. Let us pray we have more sense than to do so once again if we are provided with a second chance. We could have done what was needed if only we had been evolved enough to make the right decisions… long before the storms came to stay...