Books have always spoken about zombie apocalypses, alien invasions and a million other fantastical threats.
But the climate apocalypse? Did people even know it was actually much closer than they thought? I didn't think so.
In 2080, you didn’t pass a minute without hearing something about the climate crisis, about the way things were going for a toss, and how in less than twenty years, earth was going to become uninhabitable. We tried our best with the latest technology, but technology could only do so much.
We should have prepared for it earlier. And by earlier, I meant decades ago, back in 2020, when it all began with the CoronaVirus pandemic.
"Life before CoronaVirus was completely different." My grandfather would say, "You could go out without wearing masks or fearing your life. You went to buildings called 'schools' where you'd do lessons live."
"Wow, really?" Five-year-old me would say, because to a person born after the Pandemic hit, things like being able to roam outside without masks or thermal temperature checks seemed like a distant dream, "Didn't you have to study online?"
I would give another enthralled gasp, my mind running with wild fantasies. I would ask him for more, because I knew although I would never be able to experience that kind of life, I could at least imagine it.
* * *
"Carvin, there's a thunderstorm approaching!" My wife, Carla, called out from the living room, "Switch everything off and hurry to the pod!"
"In a minute, " I immediately abandoned my breakfast and rushed to the safety pod downstairs as fast as my legs could carry me. Carla was already crouched in it, her face rippling with worry.
As soon as I slipped in, the doors of the pod slid close. It had been hardly a few minutes since Carla had given me the alert, but we could hear the storm approach, till it was nearly over our heads. Trying to ignore the whistling of wind from outside, I lit the pod lights, my hands trembling.
Lately, even houses weren't safe from the intensity of these storms. Only a couple of years ago, the international agency had mandated safety pods to be installed in each house. Whenever the skies went dark, we had to desert everything we were doing, hop into our pod, and stay until the storm passed. Weather alerts didn't help a bit - the climate was as arbitrary as it liked.
The winds outside picked up faster, howling, making me grimace. Huge droplets of acidic water pelted the countryside, burning holes where they fell. Far away, we could hear thunder rumble. I pictured flashes of white-hot lightning descending from the skies. I could feel our house strain against the gale, struggling to hold up.
"Storms were never like this." My voice was barely audible, "They didn't threaten your life every time they came."
Carla looked into my eyes, "It's been that way ever since the apocalypse."
As the terror lashed around us outside the pod, and the thunder crackled, its sound reverberating all around, I took myself back to the past again, back to the year people began noticing the shifts in climatic patterns and started conducting research on it.
* * *
It was 2030, and I was ten years old. I was too young to understand everything, but I knew something was wrong in the way it poured outdoors without warning and summers had turned unbearably warm. People barely ever went out either, and. I had spent my entire childhood stuck at home.
They said the ice caps were now truly melting. They'd been melting since the start of the 21st century, but they said it was all going away faster now. The Arctic was completely ice free during summers, and the government had issued a decree for people living in small islands and coastal areas to move since they would be submerged soon.
During the day, deathly gray smog swallowed cities, the sun shining with unbeatable radiance. It would become impossible to go out without UV protection. We turned the coolers on full blast so it was bearable, but once when I stepped out, the sun burned a hole in my shoe.
During the nights, it would rain without fail every single day, and there'd be a power outage in the smaller towns. Then there was always thunder and lightning; I couldn't remember living a day without fearing the electric storms. Because these weren't the thunderstorms that happened long ago in the 2020s. These were more powerful, dangerous, and they lasted longer.
I wish I'd known how the world was before the apocalypse.
In the present, in 2080, I closed my eyes again, my memories unraveling from a time over 50 years ago, and returning to something that was almost that far, but more clear.
I was sure I'd always remember that year.
2041 was when things finally went out of control.
The Year of the Great Fire.
It was my university graduation, and we were assembled virtually, waiting for the event to get started.
"It's been unnaturally warm this year." My friend told me, "Even winter feels like summer."
"Mm-hm," I wasn't paying attention; the new 3D effects that came with the meeting fascinated me more, "must be global warming, that's all."
"That's 'all’?" She looked horrified, "It's terrible!"
I only laughed at her that day, but I wish I'd known she was absolutely right.
From the corner of my eyes, I saw the smog thick smoke from the city floating towards our neighborhood and swallowing houses, making me shiver. There was no sign of sunlight through the clouds that crowded the gray skies. Light drizzle fell on our roof, slow and calculating.
"Attention, students of batch 20." A voice from my monitor made me jump. A holographic image of our headmaster appeared in front of all the students, lifelike till the roots of his hair. He looked grave, which was unusual.
"Due to unexpected circumstances today, the graduation event will be postponed and the ceremony shifted to a further date." He said, "We're really sorry for this sudden decision, but it has been taken under consideration for your safety."
The instant his image rippled and disappeared, a babble broke out among the students.
"Why did they have to do this?"
"I've been waiting for this day the past year!"
It was only later that I realized the event had been canceled because the largest rainforest in the world, Amazon, had been razed by vicious fires. People living along the edges of the forest were ordered to move away.
No one knew how the fire had started. The reporters at the international channel revealed that the rising global temperatures had given rise to the flames. And it wasn't only the Amazon. Several smaller forests had been plagued by similar fires.
A few days later, they said that the Amazon had been burnt almost completely, and the mighty rainforest that had once covered several countries was now reduced to a sparse of dry savanna with no life. They showed pictures and recordings of it on the news, and I imagined the forest ablaze, animals scurrying to safety, and some of the most diverse species of fauna and flora set alight, never to appear ever again.
The next time I met my friend from Brazil, Miguel, online, he told me that hundreds of people had lost their lives, and places all the way from Brazil to Venezuela had been enveloped with murky smoke, soot and ash.
The government said it was trying its best, but I knew that no government could bring back a rainforest that had taken 55 million years to grow.
“With the latest climatic influx,” said the international reporter one smoggy evening, “places along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea will grow warmer, and countries like India, Canada, and Russia are expected to become wetter. Animal and wildlife populations are projected to fall over the next decades, and if we don’t take serious action, Barrier Reefs all over the world will wilt and die”
Nothing had stirred in me such deep fear before this news broadcast. My face lost all color and the world spun around me.
* * *
"The world is going for a toss. Full stop." Said one of my colleagues as we met holographically for work that afternoon in 2080.
The storm had ceased after six hours. It wasn't really long by our standards; we were lucky our house hadn't been blown away from the brutality of the gale.
When we were alerted that it was safe to step out again, I had to hurry to my job and here I was.
"We're trying our best, all us government officials." Said Miguel, now a man in his late fifties like me, "Things haven't been the same here in Brazil since the Amazon burned down."
I didn't utter a word. I was an all powerful government official, but I felt pretty useless. A group of workers like us met a couple of times every week, to discuss Earthly matters (a useful pun) and make appropriate decisions based on the data our artificially controlled computers gathered. But everyday, we could only stare at sheets and sheets of depressing virtual data and shake our heads, our eyes lowered:
Millions rendered homeless
80% of all wildlife predicted to go extinct by 2100
Government shelter capacity exceeded
Barrier Reefs dying and seas becoming empty wastelands
Sixth mass extinction expected by 2100
Government is helpless
Our lists to tackle consisted of topics like these. We'd arrive to work high- spirited and determined to get cracking, but once we were reminded of the condition Earth was in, our spirits would fall into an abyss. It wasn't the mere fact of facing reality, but instead, it was knowing that it had been preventable, but we hadn't done enough to sustain.
"Sometimes it feels like the government is the only one putting some effort in." Said another colleague, "I hope that space mission succeeds. They really need to find a new planet before it's too late."
My muscles tightened, "I'd stick to our own planet."
"You mean this ruined place? Did you see the list?" The colleague's hologram waved the digital sheet of miseries in front of my face, "It's hopeless!"
"We still have a little while left." I tried to ignore the unnaturally fierce sun which continued to bake the lands outside, "To make things right. That's our job as a part of the government."
The colleague murmured something and layed back in his hovering chair. None of the others seemed interested, either. They'd all given hope, just like everyone else. Just like all the common people.
* * *
I remembered all the picture books I used to read online when I was a kid. Ones that showed the Earth thriving with life. I'd scrolled through pictures of lush green rainforests, majestic glaciers, sloping mountains, and the undersea marine life. I'd always 'oohed' and 'aahed' whenever I saw those pictures, even though I'd seen them dozens of times before, because to me, they looked like heaven.
But what was left now? Dry, lifeless lands, acid rain flinging destruction and the worst things possible?
Earth was never meant to be like this.
We weren't supposed to be losing hope.
"We need to do something." I said, usurping the silence, leaning forward on my seat, "We can't just sit by and watch while our home decays into nothing."
"What can we do?" Asked someone, "We've tried all we can, and everything failed."
I paused, "Remember the revolutions in history? They worked wonders during times when people thought everything was lost. They fueled masses and brought change." The others looked bored, but I continued, "Change is what we need. It's the only way for things to work out. We need to show an example to people. We need to introduce stricter reforms and guarantee surer help. We need to educate everyone we can. This is already being done, but we need to be more serious about it, before it becomes unchangeable."
The solution didn't lie in finding a new planet. It lay in bringing back our own.
One of the others rose, his face gripped with willpower, "I daresay you're right, Carvin. We've been lying still too long for our good. We need to do something about this."
"That's right." I smothered a smile, "Beginning today."
All my drifting memories had vanished. Replacing them instead, was a voice that started out small but grew louder and more powerful.
We will do it and succeed.
We will bring Earth back.
We are the revolution.