Eco History Exam 2052
by Les W Kuzyk
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Published by Les W Kuzyk at Shakespir. All rights reserved.
Copyright 2016 Les W Kuzyk
Table of Contents
Eco History Exam 2052
She double checks the name of the essay final exam – Global Environmental History 302, complete with her student ID number and the date, 23 May 2052. Deciding to use voice and gesture interface for input and edit, she feels ready. She thinks OK, Shazi, just keep it organized. Think chronologically and prioritize events by importance. She knows it was a series of crises and sometimes chaotic attempts at resolution, at times accompanied by the influence of previously initiated trends and general circumstance. She watches the time on the screen switch the last minute to 11:00 hours and she takes a deep breath. The entry screen changes color and the exam voice invites her to begin.
The first decade and before: Before the economically pivotal year of 2008, global citizens had gradually become aware of sustainability, but they and their governments had taken very little significant action. The primary global environmental predicament was climate change which overlapped with population, biodiversity loss, the soil nitrogen cycle and a host of other issues. Various measurements of sustainability had been developed in the late 20th century, including the ecological footprint (EF) published in 1996, with the carbon footprint as one subcomponent. Back calculated EF data showed that while only half a planet worth of resources was used in 1960, the significant one planet mark of resource use was crossed by the early 1980’s and resource use was up to a completely unsustainable 1.52 planets by 2012 according to the World Wildlife Fund’s report. That report showed an ongoing upward trend into the future highlighting and summarizing the global environmental crisis at that time. With one student interest theme in human geography, her favourite sustainability measure is the EF as it can be measured in global hectares as well as planet earths, hectares lending themselves well to display on a map and both units intuitively understood by people in general. She recalls the paper she wrote profiling the footprint, but she knows she needs to stick to the broader picture for this exam. Primary contributors to the dilemma included some cultural; running beliefs in unending increases in material living standards on a finite planet and consumerism viewed as the basis of cultural status and success, some economic; a traditional outlook supporting a growth economy with a finite resource base, a market driven influence over the general populace based on advertizing and controlled media as well as support for corporations as the basis of employment creation and some political; traditional partisan political systems in democracies based on mutual criticism and faultfinding and the major problem of a focus on short-term goals.
The second decade: The downturn in traditional economic terms of 2008 was only the beginning of what has historically come to be known as the social/economic rollercoaster of the next decade. Traditional players in the global economy made ongoing attempts to kick start the economy as it had been defined for centuries, the growth model. But previously predicted peak oil, now known to have actually arrived in 2017, as well as the obvious situation of peak planet (the EF measure is so right there) contributed to the ongoing economic crisis. Each time the economy was able to begin to “recover”, speculative investment would begin, petroleum prices would leap again as they had in 2008 and the economy would “crash” again. In parallel with peak petroleum, the global economy was becoming more and more directly impacted by the effects of climate change, droughts, floods, wild fires and major weather events. The resulting drastically increased food price market signals led to social unrest including repeated food riots in developing countries which also contributed to the increasingly unstable global economy. One positive outcome of this circumstance in developed countries, fueled largely by the price at the pumps, was a strong movement towards finding cheaper sources of energy than hydrocarbons. There was a significant move beginning in Europe towards the deserts, where the algae lipids source of biofuel, grown in the sunshine of the Sahara became a rapidly increasing source of liquid energy and extensive solar arrays in the African deserts were also connected to the European power grid. The same pattern developed later in the southern deserts of North American, along with parallel development of geothermal heat sourcing at an industrial level. The destruction of rainforest for palm oil tree plantations ended when European tax incentives were adjusted to significantly reduce the use of any biofuel based on a forest or food crop source. This decade is referred to by many sources as the first transition, the social/economic transition.
The third decade: Then in the late summer of 2023, the North Pole became briefly ice free for the first time. Hollywood environmental activist film stars travelled there for a swimming photo op – images of some in dry or wet suits and some not appeared across magazine covers and screens around the globe. This event, symbolic and noteworthy for political activists, triggered considerable popular dialogue that would continue throughout the 20’s. In the same years, frustrated by the lack of action by the countries most responsible for carbon pollution and the resulting climate change, a group of countries came together to form High Impact Climate Change Countries (HICCC), those concerned and effected most by desertification, rising sea levels and major weather events. Bangladesh was hit by storm surges from two cyclones in 2024 and the Maldives was forced to initiate moves to abandon several islands the next year. When in 2027, HICCC disclosed its plan to carry out a geoengineering project that would reduce the global temperature by their estimate of 2 degrees C by releasing sulfur dioxide into the upper atmosphere, the global reaction was calamitous. Though China was not officially an HICCC member nation, the advance of the Gobi desert was seen by some to have motivated their silence. Her mom sometimes talks about all the fear at the time, like the cold war of the twentieth century, but also about all the global awareness it helped bring about. The popular community was aware by then through a very well known set of drama movies of the dangers of such a onetime attempt to adjust a system as complex as the earth’s climate. This was referred to as the political crisis and sometimes as the second transition happening mostly in the 20’s.
Throughout the teens and 20’s, two trends were having noteworthy impacts; the inclination towards Green party power in democracies and an increase in the sway of women in politics. As democratically elected governments grew in number worldwide, with increasing youth support, they one by one voted in Green parties as majorities or as parts of coalitions to include their policy drives for a Green economy. Some political leaders still came to power through coups or were democratically elected based on radical right platforms and several regional military conflicts broke out. In spite of this, many Green party members were able to educate populations on the benefits of a reduced economy. By the late 20’s, reduce became the logo word from the token expression of the four R’s – reduce, reuse, recycle and recover. After a grass roots campaign to randomly sticker label any gas guzzling vehicle in North America, bans were put in place on all recreational vehicles; the image of the Rambo man in his bush crashing truck and the high profile SUV driving consumer became an image of the past. Biodiversity was seen as protected by images of threatened species beside those of small efficient personal transportation units. Major efforts to sequester carbon back in to soils and forests, partially in response to the HICCC threat and partially due to popular demand, were financially supported by carbon taxes and cap and trade policies that were by then in wide use globally. Another North American grass roots campaign began to encourage reduction in animal protein consumption, looking towards Asian traditions where meat is often consumed as a condiment. The ecological footprint, which easily shows personal reduction of animal protein consumption results in a significant reduction in footprint, made the news at that time. She laughs at one of the jokes that came out about the dog tax then, when the animal protein tax on pet food made it clear how much the have-a-large-pet lifestyle was contributing to the demise of the pet owner’s family future.
For almost two years overlapping 2027 and 2028, three countries out of the G8 had simultaneous women heads of state who came to be known as the W3 and were sometimes compared to Ghandi, Mandela and Martin Luther King and then in 2029, the long term global trend of women getting involved in politics reached the 50% mark in spite of major regional variation. This was seen to have had an important influence on the positive negotiations between HICCC and the G8 and OECD. As well, with this equal gender representation came educational campaigns speaking to the benefits to all of equity in education, income, health care and a recognized voice on care of the common biosphere and children’s future. The ecological footprint had become a standard measure by then, known to each European and North American household through real estate transactions as well as property tax forms and to each individual through income tax returns from national statistics departments. Also, there was a major shift to redistribution of paid work hours and a reduction in formally recognized weekly work hours. Her mother had served three terms on their regional council and is now sitting on several committees. The human population was mined globally for human capital searching for naturally occurring intelligence, leadership potential, traditional beliefs on sustainability and traditional methods of conflict resolution. A drastic reduction in spending on the military was carried out, recognizing this huge resource waste when acknowledging that security comes from the ability to cooperate with and help out neighbours. Many female political figures and especially the W3 spoke out about and financed global education of girls and planned parenthood. This was also the beginning of the G8 cultural exchange program, first voluntary but now mandatory, where the selection of places available for exchange included Kerala in India, Costa Rica, Bhutan, Tuvalu, Maldives as well as Iceland, New Zealand, Norway, Samso island in Denmark and British Columbia in Canada.
The fourth decade: By the early 30’s, the class action lawsuits against the major oil companies for their record of advertising and contribution to the climate crisis were in full swing. Many precedents had been set in previous lawsuits including those against tobacco companies, many by Canadian provincial governments responsible for health care. In 2034, the case of five western American states vs. Exxon Mobil was the classic, bringing forward everything from crop losses, wildfire damage, rising sea level surge tide damage and flash floods damage due to the now common heavy precipitation events. The carbon footprint had been used extensively as measurement evidence in this case. Mention was even made of Standard Oil’s historical purchase of streetcar systems with the business objective of promoting travel by automobile. This was referred to as the third transition, the legal crisis. But this time period was also known as the decade of peaks. The ecological footprint was first to peak having reached 1.84 planets by 2032.Then in 2038, the important global population peaked at 8.73 billion, lower than projected and highly influenced by women in political positions. Finally, in 2039, the carbon pollution in the atmosphere was shown to have peaked for the first time at 465 ppm C02e. Global concern over potential climate change tipping points being reached were still a serious item of discussion and debate. The global focus on cleaning up the problems created in the past came to prevail as a global awareness came to be clearly focused on the self interest for all in maintaining a healthy biosphere.
The fifth decade: By the 2040’s post partisan democracy was coming into play where democratic governments were becoming much more local and the idea of council and consensus decision making was rapidly replacing that of president or one person making decisions for any community. This system was found to work naturally especially for women council members. A council of nine became typical, though initially still including a sub-council of three with extra executive power including a secretary who could override council decisions or take on single person decisions at his or her own risk. Over the late 40s’ and the first year and a half of the 50’s, the use of the executive decision making by the secretary had been decreasing, going the way of the monarchies and dictatorships of the distant past. Local governments made most community decisions while the far off federal body was responsible for global security cooperation, national services and management of the currency. The global EF is now almost down to the one planet mark again, but still with significant regional variation.
She is reminded by voice she has 5 minutes remaining, and reads the essay over quickly, correcting a couple minor discrepancies. When the screen fades back to its original color, she acknowledges the submission request, sending her exam in for grading. She has a good feeling about this exam, quite confident it will keep in line with her honors level grades.
She relaxes and thinks about this afternoon when she will schedule her six month community engagement term, mandatory yet flexible. Her choice is to directly experience, observe and learn in an alternate cultural and sustainability outlook setting – everything from studying how their local council makes decisions, cultural traditions that have been determined to be valuable and their societal outlook on the earth’s biosphere and its value to current and future human generations. She really looks forward to attending regional council meetings to observe how they come to resolution, another primary interest of hers. Through previous research, she has chosen Costa Rica, for its advanced methods developed over decades being the first nation state globally to attain a carbon neutral status, its influence in assisting neighbouring Central American countries to achieve carbon neutrality, as well as its progressive positive cultural model. Two days on the Pan American bullet train will get her there. Her evaluation and written thesis on the benefits of the learned lifestyle and their application in her home country will be credited towards her education and will also be seen as on her c.v. as highly beneficial towards her future career.
Discover other Writings by Les W Kuzyk
If you like Storm Punchers, consider reading and my soon to be published novel Pinatubo II following oil field engineer Vince when he meets that other engineer Brad in Niger, Africa. There they design geoengineering for the HICCC and seek out a political climate change solution. Or have a look at for another climate change political story.
My soon to be published novel follows youth in a speculative science fiction novel. The new adult characters in 2029 struggle with the social justice issue of the wealthy, of who owns the wealth and what wealth should really be used for. They had their needs met by the first woman president, but with her assassination each had their social world degraded in this near future urban setting.
My short fiction, speaks to a global scenario of near future climate change as a new adult looks back on our next few decades and writes her university history exam in the year 2052.
Thank you for reading Storm Punchers. If you took something away from this story, please take a moment to leave a review at your favourite retailer.
Les W Kuzyk
About Les W Kuzyk
Testing the waters of writing through a graduate university Anthropology and Religious Studies study, Les composed a thesis themed on a morals-based world order. Having thus learned of his passion for words and after publishing several non-fiction writings, he now focuses his writing voice on fiction. He has life experience with various cultures including the pura vida lifestyle of Costa Rica and the Polynesian culture of the South Pacific island nations. He lives with his Eastern European wife and daughter in Calgary.
Connect with Les W Kuzyk
Keeping her fave measure at the forefront—the ecological footprint in planets consumed—Shazi describes the economic transition after 2008 influenced by oil and food prices and a move by Europe and North America to the deserts for solar energy capture. The news stories of the 20’s are captivated by both Hollywood activists swimming at the ice-free North Pole each year and a consortium of highly climate affected countries and their global geoengineering project. Two trends through the 20’s and 30’s create positive influence; those of women’s political influence and a surge in green speaking politicians being elected to power. The 2030’s include a class action lawsuit by several American states against big oil for direct damages caused by climate change. Several peaks get reached that decade, topping the list with global population, ecological footprint and ppm of carbon in the atmosphere. The decade before her exam involves a transition in government type, a gradual experiment with a post partisan system and council consensus decision making. Finishing her exam satisfied Shazi turns to arrange her summer exchange with another culture, focused on learning what works socially, environmentally and politically for adaptation back home.