What’s it like being green in the year 2029?

By / 27th January, 2010 / Environment / No Comments

 The year is 2029. The Russians just saved Earth by redirecting the path of the great comet; the one the scientists back in 2010 told us was coming. Earth was spared, but life on earth is still precarious. That’s because we ignored so many other warnings from the scientists. We let our leaders off the hook, permitting them to side-step the tough green choices needed to protect Earth. Now look at the mess we are in.

Those who recall life back in 2010 tell us how much harder it is today. Because we lack so many basic resources.

They speak of the turn of the decade as a time of water abundance. If the family car was dirty, you took it to a car wash. People bathed daily and some had whirlpool baths and even swimming pools. Our history videos show pictures of green, well maintained lawns, though we know today that those very lawns contributed to our water shortage. The petroleum-based fertilizer that killed crab grass simultaneously poisoned our aquifers. Lawns today are just a memory. For example, the few who still golf play on abandoned concrete.

Baths and showers are also a thing of the past, but we keep clean with a washcloth and cold sink water. Who can afford a fifteen minute shower that adds $95 to our utility bill? Water and energy cost more than food these days. Even if you have the money, it’s a rare day when the town’s water tower signal is lit green, meaning water for showers is allowed.

Food is a bicycle ride away. There are no grocery chains like Kroger’s, Safeway, or Food Lion. They closed with the mega-malls. Without cars, you couldn’t get to them. We shop at the nearby farmer’s market, planning meals based on what’s locally grown and in season.

We’re vegetarians but not by choice. The water requirement is exponentially greater the higher up the food chain you go, so raising meat just isn’t done anymore. Oranges, mangos or bananas? Except for those who live in the tropics, we haven’t seen those fruits in years. They’ve gone the way of New Zealand Lamb and French wines. Our grandparents reminisce about them.

Our elders tell us that back in the day, they had to be encouraged to buy locally. We don’t have a choice today. Regular interstate shipments of groceries ended when oil reached $242 a barrel. The history books say the scientists warned for years that we were on the downside of the oil supply bell curve.

We use gas cars for storage sheds, and only the ultra rich have one of the few remaining electric cars. It takes petroleum to manufacture an automobile, and oil is unavailable. The good news is that nobody has to commute anymore since we all work within bicycle distance of home.

Even the oil held in strategic reserve to manufacture drugs is almost gone.

Grandparents talk of “packaged goods”, another thing of the past. Vegetables don’t come in plastic bags, tuna doesn’t come in a tin, and pickles aren’t canned in bottles. Cardboard boxes no longer hold cereals, crackers or flour. Packaged products disappeared when the cost of dumping a bag of trash at the local landfill reached $60. Even if you had a way to transport trash, the world has no dump space left. Today it’s mandatory by law that we carry food from the market in reusable containers.

The average age of a home is much older now, and few new ones are built. Those that are build rely on locally obtained wood, or refurbished wood or wood planks from pressed sawdust. Builders reuse insulation, copper wiring and plastic plumbing when they can find these resources. There is no concrete for foundations but sometimes they can build on an old foundation.

Individuals who installed solar panels, windmills or geothermal systems back in the day, still have electricity. Often they make their living by selling it to the local utility. You can’t get new solar panels. People want them of course, but the panels themselves can’t be manufactured without petroleum. They say we could have prolonged the availability of electricity at least a century if only we had built those more efficient grids.

You’ve just opened a time capsule from the world of 2029. It’s not meant to be a downer. It’s meant to put our legislators on notice. We can’t avoid the hard choices indefinitely.

Actions have consequences. Inaction has them too.

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