Written by Sundeep Ahuja, author of ”Haline“
What if we do nothing? When it comes to the topic of climate change, it’s a scary question to ask — but if we look at how little policy makers have been able to accomplish in stemming civilization’s collective contribution to climate change, it’s unfortunately a question we have to ask.
In order to do something, three years ago I started blissmo.com to introduce shoppers to organic, non-toxic and eco-friendly products that are safer and healthier for people and planet (for more than a year, we also powered Care2 Daily Deals). I quickly realized, however, how hard it was to motivate shoppers to think about the consequences of conventional consumption, particularly when it came to something so seemingly far away as climate change.
Then I had an idea: what if I used fiction as a vehicle to educate consumers about climate change by answering the question “what if we do nothing?” 19 months of nights and weekends later, “Haline” is ready for pre-order. The story revolves around an upcoming election in the city-state of Haline, where the charismatic President Gaven Jemmer is seeking an unprecedented third term in a resource-starved world licking its wounds after decades of war and famine following the shutdown of earth’s thermohaline flow.
I’ve included below an exclusive excerpt from the book for the Care2 community. The novel is among the first of its kind in raising awareness around a possible “post climate-change future.”
FROM THE PROLOGUE
24 YEARS BEFORE HALINE
“Soel.” Alis whispered under the evening report she heard in the living room as the door slid shut behind her. Leaning back, she closed her eyes, relaxed her shoulders and indulged in a deep inhale.
It was not the long days of treating poisonous spider bites, acute malaria, advanced typhoid, sun burns, and frail bodies of the famished that she found stressful. “Violence that nature inflicts upon us after a millennia of us inflicting violence upon nature,” she had once said to a nurse as she surveyed the overflowing, pathetic waiting room at Central Hospital.
Her stress was rooted in the twelve minute walk between the Emergency Room at Central and the apartment she shared with her husband, Soel, several blocks away. The stories of mugging and worse were becoming more common as the fighting continued, and so everyday after work she walked home with the shaky confidence that only the gun in her jacket pocket could provide.
Soel desperately wanted to escort Alis safely home each evening, but her independent nature furiously protested. So each afternoon he walked alone, made dinner for them both, and sat in front of the screen, watching and waiting. He too worked at Central Hospital, but at the opposite end of the two-block fortress of a building in the secretive GOD Department – Genetic Officer Development. He had better hours and much better pay, but she got to keep her soul; it was a deal they struck when they were coming out of medical school together. Alis peeled off the door and walked into the living room.
“Hey baby…come here, come look at this.” Not turning his head, Soel stared intently at the screen, eyes moist, lips quivering. “Look what they are doing now.” His face swiveled in her direction and he stretched out a hand. “Sit with me.”
Alis fought a sudden desire to grab the lamp from the table next to Soel, throw it at the screen and then hold her husband with such love that it would carry them to safety far from where they were. Or perhaps just back in time, before the wars. Instead, she gently took her husband’s hand and sat, kissed him on the cheek, then turned her head to see what his eyes saw.
A drenched field reporter stood outside a survival center in front of a line of raincoats and umbrellas that seemed to stretch for miles, his robocam shuddering slightly in the strong wind as it broadcast:
…water levels have reached critical, stressing the levee structures and prompting the President to preemptively declare a Federal Disaster Area. Additionally, Martial Law with an 8 pm curfew for surrounding areas has been imposed. While locals are hopeful this will at least guarantee them desperately needed food and water rations, most expect little in the way of shelter.
The Governor gave a press conference shortly after, seeking to quell fears in the region that Congress would turn its back on the mountain state and let it fall into the hands of militias as happened just last year after similar flooding in the west.
The screen moved from the tired reporter to the tired Governor, a glaze in his eyes betraying the lack of sleep his commanding voice sought to hide.
Engineers are already working to reinforce the levees and as of now we don’t believe an evacuation will be necessary.
His carefully chosen words were read in measured cadence off the screen to the left of the camera, his eyes dashing from the audience to his script and back.
To address the food situation, while it is true that the rains and floods have spoiled a portion of our reserves, we have been preparing for this contingency for some time and there are no expected shortages.
Stressing the word ‘no,’ the Governor paused to look out at his audience, expecting applause or nods of support. Instead, he got nothing.
Finally, our walls, fences and defenses to the north and south are holding, and President Renner has assured me additional troops if needed. What’s most important is that residents know that we will not fail them.
The Governor leaned forward, putting his hands on both sides of the podium for support, and looked directly into the camera: “I repeat. We will not fail you.”
He paused again, an expression of defeat peeking through his makeup. “Let us bow our heads in prayer…”
The news turned to images of people in an affected area where floods had already wreaked havoc: a family of four, a girl on her mother’s shoulders, a son on his father’s, fording a river-street; a couple standing in each other’s arms alone on a rooftop island as water moved debris and bodies around them; a golden retriever delicately balancing on the top of what was once a streetlamp as it was slowly enveloped. The voice of the reporter was drowned out by a disbelief that engulfed Alis. Her brain processed the tragedy and failure, her heart the pain and fear.
Soel motioned the screen off and Alis found her left hand covering an open mouth and her right hand tightly gripping Soel’s arm, whose hand was on her softly protruding belly bump. They sat there in the silence, holding on.