Environmental Studies 219

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Danny’s Short Story

May 22nd, 2010 by Daniel Rosenberg · 1 Comment · Uncategorized

By Daniel Rosenberg

The sun had been up for hours when I finally woke up from my dreamless sleep. Peter and I stayed up all night arguing over whether we should go with Jack to Cleveland the next day, and we must’ve slept through the alarm. I rolled out of my cot, and swung a tired hand over the power button on the radio.
The announcer’s voice filled the room:“…the government estimates the casualties at 10,000. Troops are being deployed…”
Peter woke from the sound of the radio: “That’s bullshit. A megatsunami hits Miami and only 10, 000 are dead? Jack said he read a blog that reported that the waves were 90 feet high. The whole city must be wiped out. He said that no one had heard from anybody in the network in South Florida since the wave hit on Tuesday, and all the websites run by people from that area haven’t had any new postings or updates.”
“That’s probably because the grid got knocked out, how do you know—”
“No” Peter interrupted, “That’s probably ’cause they’re all dead, Sarah.”
I stared silently at the ground in front of me.
“What time is it?” asked Peter.
“Eleven o’clock.”
“Dammit! We need to get over to Jack’s now so that we can help out with the operation…they’re leaving at noon!”
“Operation? Why can you just call it what it is, Peter? We’re going to murder people, and destroy buildings”
“We’re not just murdering people. We’re murdering murders. These institutions are destroying the Earth. We can’t continue living this way. The times of luxury are over, Sarah.”
“Oh yeah? So how do you expect to survive without electricity, and transportation and—”
“It doesn’t matter. We don’t have another choice. It’s either start anew, or keep developing the Earth until we’ve turned it into hell. People used to deny that we could have this kind of effect on the planet, and you’d think that was crazy enough. Now the evidence is right in front of our faces, and we still continue with this capitalist bullshit. Come on, let’s get dressed, we have to hurry.”

We arrived at Jack’s house minutes before the caravan left. Jack looked annoyed, but he still greeted us warmly. “Hey guys, you arrived just in time. Hurry up and grab some packs and jump in the back of car three.” Poor guy. Jack was always walking the line between friend and leader. It must be hard for him. He was never a violent guy, but now he was the regional leader of the Revolution Network in Ohio, and he had to act tough. Still, when he spoke to Peter and me, I felt like an equal.

Peter and I grabbed the packs from the garage of Jack’s house. The house looked different than it used to. It was no longer just a living space, it was a compound where Jack and his team worked tirelessly to organize their projects. A year and a half ago he was just another nonprofit worker working fruitlessly to change the system—now he was a leader in the post-capitalist revolution.

Inside the pack were some makeshift explosives, a lighter, a knife, and a flashlight. They must have spent a lot of time and money on these supplies. Peter brought his pistol that he bought at the pawn shop a few weeks back. Everybody was encouraged to bring a gun if they had one. For all his life, Peter had been against the sale of firearms. Now he was carrying one at his side almost everywhere he went. He said that these were desperate times, with oil and water so expensive, and the weather so erratic.

We jumped in the bed of car three, a large pickup truck where four other people sat waiting in silence. Peter took a seat on the side of the flat bed next to a man who looked to be in his late 20’s. I took a seat opposite of him next to a middle-aged women who had a confused look on her face. Pressed up against the back window of the cab were two teenagers with dark brown hair who looked like they were day dreaming. I was the first one to break the silence, “Hi everyone, I’m Sarah.” Peter followed, “Hi, my name is Peter .” Everybody just nodded, except the woman next to me who looked around and said, “I’m Kate.” The man next to Peter introduced himself as Ralph. The attention was then focused on the two teenagers. Eventually, the slightly bigger of the two said, “I’m Sam, and this is my younger brother Max.” As soon as Sam finished his sentence, Jack yelled,“Fire ‘em up!” and we heard the rumbling of the eleven engines in the caravan being turned on.

For the first few minutes of the ride, we just sat in silence. Half-way through the drive, Kate looked up, “Why are we doing this?”
Peter immediately responded, “Because it’s the only way to save the planet. Scientists say if we don’t cut emissions by 90% in the next few years, the world will go on a path of chaotic decline.”
Sam added, “Yeah, and we’ll bring about the next ice age..”
Mary look frustrated, “I know all that, but there’s got to be another way of doing this.”
“That’s just false hope, Mary,” said Peter. We’ve known about climate change since the 20th century, and no one did anything to stop it. Now we’re taking the power into our own hands.”
Mary didn’t seem satisfied with that answer, but she kept silent anyway.

At about one o’clock we arrived at the checkpoint outside of the city where we met with the other chapters of the Revolution Network that would be participating in the raid. There were about 350 of us, and more were waiting inside the city. We were in a large space that looked like it used to be a campground in a forest, but the trees had long since been cut down. Jack and a few other people were running around splitting people into groups and giving them assignments. Jack told everybody in car two and three that we would be working with a group from Columbus in taking out the Cleveland Public Power Plant. Other missions included raiding government offices, banks, steel mills, and the General Motors factory. Jack handed us a map of the targets in the facility, and told us to use all of our explosives.

With the exception of Mary and I, the twenty-five people in our crew seemed pretty indoctrinated in the cause. We sat around in a circle, introduced ourselves and began discussing strategy and logistics. I paid little attention—I would just be following Peter anyway. I was still going over everything Peter and I had argued about the night before, it was driving me crazy. I had to say something.
As soon as there was a lull in the conversation, I asked, “Why the hell has it come to this? Why did we wait this long?”
Our team leader, a tall, blonde man named Ike from the Columbus group, looked up from the map he was examining, “Because they didn’t believe it was going to get this bad. Humans are arrogant, we have a concept of human destiny that will make us blind to anything that contradicts that concept.”
Peter followed, “It’s not just because we didn’t believe it. It was because we didn’t view it as an ethical issue, as something that would eventually hurt or kill billions of people. It was a unique problem, one that humans had never dealt with before. It wasn’t a sudden disaster, the effects of which were being realized immediately. It was a problem that would pose consequences far in the future, and the first people to suffer would be far away.”
A short woman with dark skin and brown eyes added, “But the effects aren’t far away anymore. We’re experiencing them now, and people still think that we can survive…they believe that “science” and “technology” will solve the problem…”
“Maybe it will” said Max, the teenager who had been silent on the car ride to the checkpoint “I read that they think they might be able to put these high-tech mirrors in space to reflect the sunlight and cool the Earth.”
“Yeah, right,” said Peter, “they’ve been saying that for fifty years. Those things cost half the world’s GDP and they aren’t even remotely sure they can work.”
David, an old man with a tired look on his face started to speak, “I’ll tell you what did us in. It’s our faith in science. When I went to college, people studied all sorts of things. In fact the media would say that we weren’t studying the right things, that there weren’t enough scientists. Now it seems like everybody gets a degree in chemistry or engineering. We’re losing our humanity. When’s the last time you met a youngster who said he wanted to be an artist when he grows up? All this science business has made us too stoic, we don’t care about each other anymore, we don’t think of how we may be affecting each other.”
Ike responded, “Well, I think it’s important to acknowledge that there have been some great things that science has brought us. But in terms of making us think that it can solve all our problems, you’re probably right.”
“Sure science can be problematic,” said Peter, “but the true enemy is greed. Our economic system does make considerations for the environment. Maybe it would be easier to get some action going if the U.N. hadn’t fallen apart.”
Mary, who hadn’t said a word since she introduced herself, spoke loudly,“Why isn’t anybody afraid of dying out there? We’ve seen the news reports of the Revolution raids in other cities, they’re successful, but there are casualties. It’s been two weeks since we started the offensive, I bet the military is real wised up now.”
Peter responded, “The military has never been good at combating guerillas. Besides, they’re too busy with the war in the Middle East. Sure, the police will be after us, and maybe the military will show up. But the police won’t catch us, and we’ll be done before the military can even respond. I’m not saying that everybody is going to survive today, but if we die, at least we’ll be dying for a cause…not because we sat by and let the warming earth consume us. Humans don’t have a destiny, we have a choice. We can either do something to save this planet, or we can sit by and watch the system destroy itself.”
When Peter finished speaking, the conversation was over, and we went back to discussing our plan. I knew they were right, but I was still frustrated, and I didn’t know who to direct my frustration at. Should I blame the coal companies? Should I blame capitalism in general? What about my neighbor who drives an oversized automobile and never recycles? Is it his fault? I didn’t have an answer.

It’s been 8 months since Peter died in the Revolution Network’s raid on Cleveland. The mission was successful, and we practically burned the city down. It turns out that there were thousands of people in Cleveland who jumped at the opportunity to join in the chaos. Our purpose was to save the Earth, but it seemed like a lot of the young people who were throwing Molotov cocktails that day just wanted to destroy things.

The internet had always been a social networking tool, but not to this scale. A website that started out as a forum for environmentalists soon became the hub of the world-famous Revolution Network. We organized raids on almost every major city on Earth, and it seemed like we had succeeded in “bringing down the system” as Peter would say.

When the world’s infrastructure collapsed, we met our goal of reducing emissions. But we fell short of saving the Earth. In their panic, the governments of over a hundred nations met to discuss reducing emissions to appease the revolution, but it quickly became a shouting match. The reasoning of the United States soon became that the best way to cut emissions and appease the revolutionaries was to eliminate nations that produced the most emissions. It was already an era of war, and so this came as no surprise to the public. When the United States launched its nuclear attack on India and China, they were met with equal force. Radiation soon covered the Earth.
The Revolution Network sought to end global warming on Earth, but ironically it led to a different kind of climate change. Nuclear winter had been a theory since the 1970’s, but I suppose the United States didn’t take it too seriously. Global average temperatures have already dropped by twenty degrees. They’re saying that agriculture won’t be possible, that we’ve brought about the next ice age. It almost seems like there is a force that has stopped us from taking care of the planet, as if it was destined to end this way. Maybe people were right…maybe humans do have a destiny.


One Comment

  • Janet Fiskio

    Danny, this is a powerful story that utilizes many of the key motifs of speculative fiction very effectively. Bleak and terrifying.

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