Climate Change, What if we are too late?

               Right now, most scientists predict that 2030 is close to the point of no return, where by then the damage to our polar ice caps and glaciers will be irreversible. The amount of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide and the more damaging methane) are at the highest parts per million in recorded history – though we know Earth had more carbon in earlier stages of development. For an excellent explanation of the effects of greenhouse gasses, here is a paraphrased example from Cosmos. Imagine on a scale of 1-6, the lower number being no greenhouse gases, the planet would be an ice world. At the highest number, Earth would resemble Venus. Either case, life as we know it would not flourish on the world we call home. Right now, Earth was about a 3 on this scale, but we are slowly increasing upwards, a slight increase is probably manageable, but turn the notch up to a 4, 4.5, or 5, who knows dire the effects will really be.

               Currently, there is a good framework offered by the Paris Climate Agreement in cutting back greenhouse gas emissions and generating energy from renewable sources. Under the leadership of one of the most uninformed and curiosity-challenged executives, the United States withdrew from the agreement because it is allegedly hurting America. The argument it is hurting America is bullshit, because climate change will hurt America, it will destabilize other parts of the globe, which will in turn threaten American interests and strain current humanitarian aid, and possibly draw us into more armed conflicts. The point of this writing though isn’t to argue how misguided withdrawing from the Paris Climate Agreement is, it is to ask the question: What if we are too late in in acting to mitigate the direst effects of climate change?

               If we are too late, it doesn’t mean we should cease efforts to further mitigate climate change. If the sea level rises only ten feet, it is better than twenty feet. If sea levels dramatically rise, the coastlines of all the continents will be altered, some greater than others. Asia will suffer the worse, with tens of millions in low-lying areas, especially in Bangladesh. More islands, some have already disappeared, will be claimed by the sea. There is no telling how many humans may lose their lives – and what kind of economic impact it will have on their nations and the world. Highly populated areas tend to have a higher means of production, and the loss of these areas would be devastating. A lot of clothes Americans wear are manufactured in Bangladesh, Vietnam, and Taiwan, which would be greatly devastated by rising sea levels.

               Millions may die and tens of millions being relocated, especially in a short timeframe, would be devastating to areas not directly impacted by rising sea levels. The infrastructure like accommodations, food, drinking water, electricity demands, healthcare, etc. are something that takes a lot of planning to pull off successfully, and on a short notice there will be dire consequences. The mass relocation of people, without proper planning, will cause further strain on systems which are already under strain, and potentially a catastrophe of epic proportions. There is no guarantee that even a disaster of this scale, caused by climate change, will make the numerous deniers change their thinking or ways. Change is not easy but in terms of grappling with climate change, it will be necessary.

               But what if nothing is done, and we cross the threshold, the point of no return. What will need to be done to save our species? What changes will we have to make to ensure Earth remains the primary home of the human species? What about animals, insects, etc.?

               This is something I’ve thought a lot about, because I wrote close to fifty pages of a backstory exploring the world which led up to my novel’s premise 200 years in the future. In Within the Grasp of Ordinary (the book), the events of the backstory are referenced several times to its main character, David Ross, and the actions he took as In the Night They Came. It is best to describe the events as:

               The many nations of the world have strived to meet their greenhouse gas reductions goals, reduction in pollutants, and renewable energy targets, the polar ice caps, and Greenland ice sheet continue to melt, and sea levels rise. Businessman David Ross, a billionaire (really a secret trillionaire), along with a group of like-minded partners have come up with a plan to save the human species from itself. In remote facilities they begin fabrications of humanities new homes, and the implementation of the world’s biggest migration project. After working their way into the halls of power in the world’s most industrious and mighty nations, David Ross and his group launch the world-wide coup.

Slowly reports begin to air on major television news of the murders of prominent climate change deniers. Then an entire broadcast is dedicated to the construction of massive new structures, reaching a mile or higher into the air, called “Sky Cities”. Most of the parts of these structures have been pre-fabricated and then are erected within three months, and have areas dedicated to businesses, schools, hospitals, homes, gardens, etc. These structures, on top of being durable, are constructed with material which acts like a solar panel and has wind turbines. At first, people voluntarily move into these new Sky Cities which are constructed in metropolitan areas.

Soon though, people from smaller cities, towns, and villages are forcibly relocated into the expanding number of skyscrapers. A second revolution begins, as the smaller population areas are relocated, the old places of human habitation are demolished. In some cases, Mother Nature is allowed to reclaim the land. In other cases, the massive hydroponic farms are created to feed the population with fresh produce. In labs, genetically-modified animal fats have been used to create “meat” which tastes, smells, and cooks like meat from an animal. Our dependence on massive number of cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys, etc., which only help exacerbate our greenhouse gases problems (mostly by methane emissions), is eliminated.

The third step in David Ross’s plan is the final relocation of the world’s big cities. Over a twenty-year period, billions of people are relocated from millions of villages, towns, cities, into 200 metropolitans consisting entirely of Sky Cities. There is space between each structure, the ground level serving as areas for recreation, open space, etc. The need for cars has been eliminated with public transportation available from structure to structure and from one metropolitan area to the next. A drastic change in the way humanity lives has occurred, and it wouldn’t be our first. Initially we were all hunter-gathers, slowly coalescing into villages with the development of agriculture. Since the start of the Industrial Revolution, we have formed denser and highly populated cities, most of the world’s population now lives in areas urban areas. David Ross’s vision is fiction but one which while science fiction, may someday become science fact.

The plan I imagined is fictional and I am aware of the very high cost it asks of people, uprooting their lives, often at gun point. Several characters in the story, Within the Grasp of Ordinary, and the in the works sequel, reference the enormous costs and tragic consequences. In this fictional universe, the defenders of Ross’s actions argue the end (humanity saving itself from climate change) justifies the means (brutal relocation, planetary exiles, etc.). In the real world, the result rarely justifies the means and I think we need to act now to prevent the worst possibilities of climate change. The Green New Deal, and Paris Climate Accord may not be enough, but it is better to aim for the stars than not to even try at all.

Father’s Day (Reposted)

There is no perfect father, there are only imperfect fathers trying to be their best. What makes a person a good father is open to people’s interpretation and social norms of the time. I was born in 1986 and both my parents worked, my dad worked two jobs, his civilian job and as Captain in the Army Reserve. I remember my dad working evenings and my younger brother and I, along with our mother, bringing ice cream to him. As young kids we didn’t know the difference between active and reserve Army, and when dad went away for annual training it felt like forever. I vaguely remember bits and pieces of conversations dad had during the 1991 Gulf War. He never got deployed but having that possibility, that feeling of him going away for whose know how long, felt heavy.

My relationship with my father since then has been amicable but strained, we do not see eye to eye on politics (myself being a moderate to progressive, him being conservative). I believe because of his past in the military and the way his step-father is, he was taught to be in control and follow a patriarchal-dominated viewpoint. Years after my parents divorced and I was living on my own, I was digging through my notebooks and stumbled across a journal of his. In the writings I saw how he struggled to come to terms with the divorce but also attempted to manipulate religion to try and not get divorced.

Why am I sharing this? Part of it is because it helps bring additional context to what I’ve written. I grew up in a generation between Star Wars, the Episode 4, 5 and 6 had already been released but Episode 1, 2 and 3 didn’t start coming in 1999 when I was 13 years old. I was always intrigued by the father-son dynamic of Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker and the mystery around it. I would have preferred the backstory of Anakin becoming Vader to be shrouded in mystery because the prequel trilogy sucks and is filled with plot holes and contradictions.

In my teenage years I started what would become Within the Grasp of Ordinary, which really did not explore a father-son dynamic. However, as an adult when I returned to the story’s universe, much had changed and I felt comfortable incorporating and exploring the father-son dynamic and presenting some what ifs in my own life. I’ve always wondered what if my father went active Army instead of Army Reserves – would my parents still have divorced – most probably given the current divorce rate in the military is higher than the civilian population.

There are different father-son relationships than Philip (mostly based off me) and his father Thomas, there is the relationship of Tristan and his recently deceased father. Lastly there is Nathan and his father David who is running to become the next President. By including father-son dynamics, the story morphed away from “pure” science fiction to a coming of age, political thriller set in a science fiction environment.

Though my father and my relationship is strained, he did play an active part in the story (he is more than a character and influencer), he lent me the Babylon 5 DVDs I bought him years prior. He discussed other elements of science fiction and his thoughts on futuristic political environments, planetary colonization, etc. I ended up sharing a copy with him and after he read a few chapters, he asked if he was the “bad guy”.

I answered along the lines that it depends on whose perspective the question is asked from as every character interprets their actions and the actions of others differently.

 

Toxic Nationalism and Patriotism

In the 240-odd years of the Republic of the United States of America, there has never in my opinion been a graver threat than the toxic nationalism and patriotism expressed by Donald Trump and his “America First” mantra. There have been other political parties and movements like the Know Nothings and the 1930s which originally used “America First” as its slogan, but those parties never amounted to anything or achieved much. Trump is a different breed of politician, one which blindly touts a form of toxic nationalism and patriotism which has been widely adopted and brought into by millions of voters.

These types of people do not believe it is okay to question America, where any form of dissent whether it be kneeling during playing of the national anthem, protesting police brutality, or questioning the actions taken by our military, is viewed as unpatriotic. Dissenting about the actions taken by elected officials, the police, and the military is a constitutional right, because if they are not held accountable, then they will abuse their power even more. It is okay to be proud of the country where you are born, however you should never be too blind to see the country you dearly love does harm. It has taken actions and massacred innocent lives in Vietnam. It tortured people in Iraq, Afghanistan, and during the War on Terror. In the same breath, if you cannot acknowledge that America has done some right, there is a problem.

The problem of toxic nationalism and patriotism I believe will continue well into the future. The nationalism of today of being from America, Russia, China, Britain, etc. will most likely morph into a type of planetary origin debate as seen in The Expanse. In the book and television series there is resentment from Earthers towards Mars and Belters (people who live in the Asteroid Belt). The place of origin is a bigger debate because there are also physical differences because of the effects of low gravity – Mars and the spun-up asteroids having 0.3-0.4G compared to Earth’s 1.0G. In the plethora of Star Trek shows, there is little to no nationalism or planetaryism (should really be a word), which I believe an unlikely scenario.

In an ideal world, once humanity leaves this planet and colonizes others, the idea of one nation or its people being superior to others will go into the dustbin of history. However, being realistic I believe nationalism will transform into planetaryism and there will be a whole more galactic level of perceived discrimination. In Within the Grasp of Ordinary, (my novel and series), there are people who have a toxic level of planetaryism where they believe Earth is superior to other planets, and seek to impose a fully Earth-centric government. Other people in the story believe while Earth will always hold a special place in humanity’s heart, Earth cannot treat other planets and their inhabitants as second-class citizens.

Besides toxic nationalism/planetaryism, patriotism is another problem, especially if people believe if one form of patriotism is superior to other displays of patriotism. There are different displays of patriotism but it is paramount not to forget that dissent is patriotic. Wanting one’s country to be better, to not torture people, to display respect towards all human beings regardless of their origin, is patriotic. What is not patriotic is trying to deny other’s their rights to be equal, to live how they want to live, to judge people by the color of skin, their place of origin, their name, their choice of religion or lack thereof.

Toxic nationalism and patriotism is a problem and one we must be better at understanding and addressing.

Father’s Day

There is no perfect father, there are only imperfect fathers trying to be their best. What makes a person a good father is open to people’s interpretation and social norms of the time. I was born in 1986 and both my parents worked, my dad worked two jobs, his civilian job and as Captain in the Army Reserve. I remember my dad working evenings and my younger brother and I, along with our mother, bringing ice cream to him. As young kids we didn’t know the difference between active and reserve Army, and when dad went away for annual training it felt like forever. I vaguely remember bits and pieces of conversations dad had during the 1991 Gulf War. He never got deployed but having that possibility, that feeling of him going away for whose know how long, felt heavy.

My relationship with my father since then has been amicable but strained, we do not see eye to eye on politics (myself being a moderate to progressive, him being conservative). I believe because of his past in the military and the way his step-father is, he was taught to be in control and follow a patriarchal-dominated viewpoint. Years after my parents divorced and I was living on my own, I was digging through my notebooks and stumbled across a journal of his. In the writings I saw how he struggled to come to terms with the divorce but also attempted to manipulate religion to try and not get divorced.

Why am I sharing this? Part of it is because it helps bring additional context to what I’ve written. I grew up in a generation between Star Wars, the Episode 4, 5 and 6 had already been released but Episode 1, 2 and 3 didn’t start coming in 1999 when I was 13 years old. I was always intrigued by the father-son dynamic of Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker and the mystery around it. I would have preferred the backstory of Anakin becoming Vader to be shrouded in mystery because the prequel trilogy sucks and is filled with plot holes and contradictions.

In my teenage years I started what would become Within the Grasp of Ordinary, which really did not explore a father-son dynamic. However, as an adult when I returned to the story’s universe, much had changed and I felt comfortable incorporating and exploring the father-son dynamic and presenting some what ifs in my own life. I’ve always wondered what if my father went active Army instead of Army Reserves – would my parents still have divorced – most probably given the current divorce rate in the military is higher than the civilian population.

There are different father-son relationships than Philip (mostly based off me) and his father Thomas, there is the relationship of Tristan and his recently deceased father. Lastly there is Nathan and his father David who is running to become the next President. By including father-son dynamics, the story morphed away from “pure” science fiction to a coming of age, political thriller set in a science fiction environment.

Though my father and my relationship is strained, he did play an active part in the story (he is more than a character and influencer), he lent me the Babylon 5 DVDs I bought him years prior. He discussed other elements of science fiction and his thoughts on futuristic political environments, planetary colonization, etc. I ended up sharing a copy with him and after he read a few chapters, he asked if he was the “bad guy”.

I answered along the lines that it depends on whose perspective the question is asked from as every character interprets their actions and the actions of others differently.

 

Reform, Centralize, (un)Militarize the Police

            I recently tweeted:

            “Watching Flint Town and I cannot help but think of respect. Respect towards the citizens that law enforcement are sworn to protect and serve. Then respect of citizens toward law enforcement. But respect is not automatic, it has to be earned by both sides.”

            Growing up in today’s age, it is not hard to see civility between public organizations and the private citizens they serve is at or close to an all-time low. The citizens, especially people of color, are rightfully concerned about if their actions will get them killed. The police are rightfully concerned about when going out on patrol if this will be their last patrol. Citizens and police get into heated verbal clashes. There are neighborhoods out there that when the police show up, the first words out of the citizenries’ mouths is “Fuck the police,”.

            There is a systemic problem in how citizens and law enforcement act towards each other, while the first amendment protects free speech like saying “fuck the police,” it will not earn you accolades or respect when dealing with law enforcement. When it appears that people with white pigmentation get treated more fairly by law enforcement, it easy to see why people of different pigmentation act apprehensively when police are around. The culture between law enforcement and citizenry needs to change. I don’t know all the answers and won’t pretend to but here are some ideas.

            The first simple one fairly simple, the amount of training the average US police department receives is 13-16 weeks of “basic” training then the rookie gets partnered with a veteran cop for an average of 21 weeks. Overall, a cop receives less than 1 year of training. This varies by department (local town, city, state). I believe the US police departments need to borrow from a few western European countries which require lengthy training times of the police and offer them specialized training in how to deal with all citizens. I personally believe all police should receive a degree in psychology so they can understand how people react.

            Riding off the coattails of the first idea, I think the number of police departments needs to be drastically trimmed, remove small town and county police departments. I grew up around Fort Calhoun, Nebraska (about 800 people at the time). We did not have a local police department, county sheriff department provided the town’s needs. Where I live now, there is a nearby town about the size of Fort Calhoun, which has 3 full-time officers and 2 part-time officers, on top of county sheriff and state troopers.

            My adolescent years were spent in Omaha, Nebraska’s largest city and largest law enforcement department (bigger than the State Patrol also). Omaha covers most of Douglas County, which still maintains a sheriff’s department that covers what the OPD does not. The state trooper’s still assist. Either way, there is still 3 police departments which operate in Omaha.

            I would suggest a consolidation of departments, closer to the Canadian model where the RCMP is “leased” out by a lot of the provinces to act as the law enforcement – but large cities maintain their own police departments which assist the RCMP in that area. In America, this would be the State Patrol / Troopers as the “primary” police force and large cities maintaining their own police departments. The state and city police would have to maintain equally rigorous training regimen and standards, including how to deal with mental health issues.

            In fiction, the police in my universe of Within the Grasp of Ordinary are a completely federalized service. There are no local or regional police forces, everybody is part of the same organization which is obviously broken down into sub-sections etc. This crafted world is far more ideal, the ordinary law enforcement officer does not carry a gun, rather is well trained in non-lethal means in how to perform crowd control and take down a suspect. The guns are left to a specially trained sub-section, basically SWAT.

            The civilian side of the imagined universe is a lot more respectful towards police, everybody is treated equally but there are instances where the system may be abused – (not spoiling that, must read the book to find out).

            One of the core problems America faces right now, which I think is glossed over in most science fiction environments, is the lack of respect between law enforcement officers and the civilian population they are sworn to protect and serve. There needs to be a bigger discussion about reforming the system, one which will not be changed overnight but through gradual change into how policing is performed. I look forward to a time when all people, regardless of their socioeconomic status, their skin pigmentation, and all other differences, are treated equally before the law and our encounters with the police. No matter our differences, we are all human and deserve to be treated as such.

Political Ideology and Writing

            I best define myself as a person who is center-left, a progressive, a liberal, however my ideology is not a firm hard stop. I have read many different works by authors who have different political beliefs than me and their works and thoughts do influence my thought process – if their arguments are made using facts from reputable sources. My father is a diehard Republican and him and I have had numerous civil discussions. My former step-dad is a moderate Republican, a principled one, which though I have disagreed with, deeply respect. He is challenging of my beliefs and supportive of a wide world view.

            When it comes to writing, I do not favor one political ideology over another. I’ve written a character who works with the Nazis but plots to overthrow them. His own political viewpoint is constitutional monarchy like Great Britain’s. I’ve delved into the inner workings of Hitler’s regime and style of government which was highly fractured and everybody in the inner circle battling to get a bigger slice of the pie. Hitler ruled by a whim, which is no way to run a government efficiently.

            In the Ordinary Universe, major and mid-major characters’ political leanings are slowly revealed through the chapters. There is a General who once believed in democracy but has become disillusioned by it and wants to install a government very similar to Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, where only veterans can vote and run government. A Senator running for President, strongly believes in democracy and believes while it has flaws, it can only be made a better system of government through reform. Meanwhile, the current President (in the story) battles against the limitations of democracy while fighting off a insurgency movement clamoring for planetary independence.

            There are characters who harbor no political leanings, like Nathan, the youngest son of Senator Welch, but is trotted out to help his father attempt to win the Presidency. There is Philip, who is just beginning to develop his own sense of political views before his career military father trots in and attempts to reconnect. There are people who harbor different political ideologies who work together (shocking in this day and ages environment).

            The point I’m trying to make is, it is okay to harbor political leanings – we are entitled to our thoughts and opinions. We can share them and if people want to listen, that is their right. It is their right not to listen. As an author and writer though, when I make a work though, I don’t right from one ideological position because the world is simply far more complex than that. We will never be a species which sees eye to eye on everything and the stories and worlds which we create should reflect that.