The following story is the first (public) draft for my entry for the 2016 climate fiction contest. At the same time it is part of the developing background of Sal's and Hektor's story. Feedback like comments on readability, typos and overall quality is highly welcome.
Water. Most of the recent history revolves around water. In the coastal regions for example, there was too much of it. The Netherlands were flooded. And some other countries. Islands, you know, practically consist of nothing but coastal regions. Very few people actually drowned in the floods because the change was gradually and foreseeable, but it got crowded on the hills and as so often in times of peril, humanity showed its nasty side. With the land, resources and supplies became scarce. Industrial centers near big ports became marshes, cut off from transportation. Production stalled, commerce as the driver of the world economy as well. Millions were on the move and not especially welcome where they went.
And then there were other, older problems. Malaria and other diseases that were considered history, returned to central Europe and the States. So even without drowning people died by the millions. The Dutch actually had the advantage of having a long tradition of fortifying coasts and building dykes which made them the only refugees that were highly regarded wherever one of them showed up. Having mastered the art of industrial crop production also helped. Almost everybody else was considered a drain of resources.
Then there was the UK. They had their own case of ‘too much water’. With it steep coasts it mostly got spared by the rising sea levels. London was of course swamped by the Thames delta but the city had been considered uninhabitable by most long before the water came, so this doesn’t count. No, the British Islands got hit by a decade of so called ‘century storms’ and due to deforestation lost most of their topsoil. Agriculture was dead and the Britons that survived the floods and the mud slides mostly starved. The highlands are now again inhabited by semi nomadic clans. They’re said to be welcoming people as long you can make yourself useful and aren’t part of a large group (More than four people).
Scandinavia is a different kind of beast. With their reliance on renewable energy sources and populated by people that were used to living in adverse conditions they suffered some minor famines and came out on top. Then they isolated themselves. Denmark had been turned into unnegotiable marshlands by the flooding and so only Finland remained as potential entry point. The second Winter War hasn’t really ended until now. It’s just that there is nobody left with the military power to face the Finns.
In other places it was the lack of water that killed. Raging desertification turned the plains near the tropics into uninhabitable badlands. A lot of farmers kept hoping for rain until they were to weak to flee. These areas suffered from mass starvation and the ones that tried to get out found crowded hostile societies. With closed and fortified borders. ‘The west’ had just barely survived the flooding water and was now deathly afraid of the coming flood of people. Scared humans are the worst. It was more a slaughter than a war. Justified by the old trope ‘If we don’t kill them, everybody will die!’. Who knows, letting them in, sharing the resources and see who makes it, might have been a better solution. Central Europe would now be much more culturally diverse if they had tried that route. Not that it hadn’t been hit by desertification: Spain, Portugal and southern France are now the home of nomad tribes. They ceased to be functioning nations decades ago and are now just called the European Desert.
Both scenarios didn’t apply to my folks. For us it wasn’t too much or too little water. Sounds good, you say? Well here’s the thing: In our region, the water melted. And just like the land masses, the ice became crowded. Which is bad in a sparse ecosystem like the so called ‘perpetual ice’. With so few natural resources a high population density is deadly per se. But when you share your habitat with polar bears and walruses, crowding is just terrifying. Nobody likes to reconsider one’s place in the food chain. A lot of us got eaten, others went adrift when pieces of the ice floe broke off (and then probably were eaten, or they just drowned when their ice sheet flipped over). Hunger was cruel, just as anywhere else but if you loose enough people on each hunt, the effect levels itself out soon. Homo Sapiens Arcticus was headed for extinction, fast.
We finally found refuge in the last place one would expect. Turned out that floating structures are largely immune to changing sea levels and we now inhabit an offshore oil field. Drilling in the arctic has always been a bad idea, but the remains of this silly endeavor proved invaluable to us. Life on these aging industrial structures isn’t easy by any measure, but at least they’re stable, compared to the ice. We even managed to feed ourselves without getting killed when we succeeded in constructing hydroponic greenhouses on the cargo decks of platform supply vessels. We don’t really hunt or fish much today, even if it looks like the blue whale is returning. We are still figuring out our place in the emerging ecosystems and want to play it safe this time.
Our founders were Inuit, sailors, oil rig workers and some scientists. Sailors with their professional aptitude for problem solving and surviving hostile environments proved to be a great basis for building a society in those times. Also they tend to read a lot. But this setup came with its own inherent problem: The first generation faced a severely skewed gender distribution. Not many women on oil rigs and OSVs, you know? We were lucky when in year three a research vessel docked at our colony. They showed us what a few stray marine biologists and a ship’s doctor with a fully equipped lab could do. That ship was sent from heaven, as the religious among us like to say. I’m pretty sure they just didn’t want to return to what was was left of their former homes.