Monday, March 02, 2009

FAR Future, Episode 75: Interlude (Pattern Shift)

In one brief episode, I cover nearly as much time as did the previous 74 episodes. To do it effectively, I had to step back from the first-person narrative just this once. I suddenly developed a few qualms about it late last week, after it had been patiently waiting its turn since mid-December, but couldn’t think of any better way to handle the span of time. So we’ll be back to the blog of the moment, when the episode number and my age are both 76…

2023–2035
Interlude: Pattern Shift


From the cosmic to the sub-microscopic, there are patterns to be seen everywhere. The galaxy dances with its partners in the Local Group; the sun orbits the galactic center and the earth orbits the sun. In its orbit, the earth turns on its axis: the universal tarantella. On the other end of the scale, electrons whiz about their nuclei, while sub-atomic particles dance in patterns that science has only partially mapped.

But patterns leave room for free will and chaos. In the vast middle area, weather patterns spin, some clockwise and some counter-clockwise. Biological and geological patterns respond to the weather… and vice versa. Humans continue to pump, mine, and burn fossil fuels, but less than they once did. In some places, people abandon the land and nature begins the dance of succession, reclaiming what has always been hers. The new wild nature differs from the old in some respects: some plants and animals reclaim their old niches; other niches are left empty, until another native species or an adaptable invasive claims it. Sometimes, humans attempt to help nature rebuild what they had destroyed, with varying degrees of success. In other places, they try to build a landscape that suits their needs while using the old nature as a template.

Little by little, the patterns of human civilization begin to shift, adapting to a growing understanding of what’s at stake: the species must either clean its nest or suffocate in its own waste. In the west, a new ethos is born with the speed that only a well-wired populace can comprehend.

The east becomes a laboratory for other ways to cope. Nations with high birth rates attempt to export their excess people, triggering wars and horrors that give the survivors lifetime nightmares. Large cargo ships are outfitted with sails, crammed with people, and cast off to find harbor where they may… or sink. Uncounted numbers of people die on these journeys, and many ships never reach a port. Japan’s elderly become its coast guard, proud to die defending their nation from invading immigrants — for a nation that cannot feed itself is beholden to others. India and Pakistan balkanize along ethnic and sectarian lines, but somehow manage to avoid nuclear war. Dark whispers of cannibalism are heard in both the east and west. Much of Africa returns to its past, thriving and dangerous coastal cities and a mysterious and deadly interior. But not all the news from Africa is bad: changing weather patterns create a new monsoon cycle in the west, and the desert begins to retreat in Mali and Niger.

In many places, human birth rates fall below the replacement level: those people cherish their few children, plant trees, and live as much as possible within the means of the energy nature gives them. Others live in cultures that are essentially incompatible with the new reality; the Four Horsemen ride them down until they learn a new culture. Human population spends a few years on a plateau, then begins to fall. Not quickly, nor uniformly, but one day the media reports that there are half a billion fewer people alive than 30 years ago. It’s a start.

The CO2 level reaches a plateau, but warming continues… thanks to soot from wood fires, a little slower than previously. The poles sweat, while climatologists keep a nervous eye on ocean levels and far-flung weather stations.

The patterns continue, from the cosmic to the sub-atomic. At either extreme, patterns are either static or change so slowly that humans have not detected the changes. In the middle, patterns change — usually gracefully.

But one late August night, a crack and a roar that goes on for days signals a more abrupt pattern shift.

continued…

13 comments:

  1. Nice shift in the story line FAR! That last line is leaving me on the edge of my seat waiting to see what happens next!

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  2. Thanks, Mrs. M. It's on the way…

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  3. Oh..... is the roar coming from the northwestern direction? I won't make any further guesses here.

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  4. This has been an excellent scenario, I hope it never ends! One must pretty much have all their ducks in a row to write a believeable scenario... However, of those that can manage that, leaves little doubt about how truly informed the writer is. Putting it all together, is extremely hard and rare.

    I know it may be annoying to some, but the study of historical patterns might be of some value in making an attempt to projecting the future, whatever that may be. "But patterns leave room for free will and chaos." Well said, Far.

    "...the species must either clean its nest or suffocate in its own waste." Again, I can't agree more.

    There are many who believe that this civilization is "doomed" (hate, that word). Due to global warming (which has happened before) will in part, melt the ice caps of one or both Poles. As that happens methane gas will be released from the perma frost. Also as oceans warm, this too will release this gas, that many believe will do in this civilization, as well as many of earths other inhabitants. Some even go so far to suggest that the earth axis may change at some point during this process...

    Far, I'd be interested in exactly what you're pertaining to by suugesting a new ethos being born in the West?

    As for populations that are highly dense in area such as India, China and some "metropolises", I believe some really horrific nightmares may be realized. Generally speaking, these can become choatic and the collapse of them quite rapid. As for other areas maybe not quickly or as uniformaly...

    Yup, you have me on the edge of my seat, Far! What could be that distant thunder coming from the Northeast?

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  5. exactly what you're pertaining to by suugesting a new ethos being born in the West

    Hi Yooper, Future FARf here. My younger self was engaging in a bit of hyperbole there. The "new ethos" — population control, living within the land's carrying capacity, all the memes opposite to the throwaway society — is hardly new; it's been around in part since the 1960s. But in the last 10 years or so, it reached a critical mass of sorts and became the "normal" way of looking at our role in the world.

    European historians mark 2028 as the demarcation point, when the Pope declared that humanity had fulfilled the commandment to "be fruitful and multiply," lifted the official restrictions on birth control (until the world population falls below 2 billion), and declared that "all should be mindful of what they leave behind them." But they were simply getting in front of an existing parade. It helped a lot south of the border though!

    We're getting along as best as we can. It may not be enough, but we're finally getting our act together and giving it a good try. No axis wobble (yet), and Russia is extracting as much of that methane as they can to sell in their own market and throughout Europe. Again, I don't know if it'll be enough, but everyone knows what's at stake.

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  6. You know what they say, Yooper… all good things must come to an end. "Good" in this case is in the eye of the reader, of course, but the end isn't right away (at a post a week, it might be in August). I might stretch it out a bit with an appendix of sorts, expanding on some of the references that end up getting condensed to a few sentences.

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  7. Sounds like a prelude to...something. And not something good. I can't wait to see where you are going with this Far.

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  8. Hi Boran… it's ugly, all right.

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  9. Northeast from the USA...that's probably the Greenland icecap falling into the sea.

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  10. Raven, welcome to the free-range insane asylum!

    Leave it to a traditional Bad Omen to get this news right…

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  11. Ah Greenlands ice cap...That thing is still around in 2035?

    My guess (wrong though it was) was volcanic eruption at Yellowstone.

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  12. Wooly, that's not a bad idea. It'll happen some time, right? I thought maybe you were thinking of The Big One in California.

    Next episode is ready to go at 7am tomorrow!

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