A Few Things Ill Considered

The Bottleneck Years

Chapter 3 Table of Contents Chapter 5

by H.E. Taylor


Chapter 4

Matt, May 18. 2055

When I got home from CCU, Matt was over talking to dad. We sat around the kitchen table catching up. Jon had got the job with the Senator. Matt was predictably down on politicians.

After a while Dad got visibly tired. “I’m sorry boys, but my getup-and-go got up and went.” He pushed himself to his feet and headed slowly down the hall to the bedroom.

Matt watched him go and asked sotto voce, “Does he do that often?”

“What’s that?”

“Just conk out like that. It’s only seven thirty.”

I looked down the hallway where dad had disappeared and shrugged. “Every once in a while. Not often.”

Matt had a sip of coffee and grimaced. I knew he didn’t like ersatz, so I didn’t react to that. Instead I told him Jon’s latest theory about externalities.

“He’s delusional,” Matt laughed. “Corporations are like protoplasmic organisms that engineer their environment to their benefit, at the expense of every other factor — worker health, the environment, you name it. So how does he plan to get around that?”

“He wants to change the nature of the corporation.”

“How?!” Matt scoffed.

“Change the laws.”

“The Committee doesn’t give a shit about laws. They’ll just go ahead and do whatever they want anyway.”

“Perhaps, but Jon’s fundamentally right.”

It was sometimes hard to tell what Matt really thought. He liked to play the devil’s advocate. “An idea is like a suit of clothes,” he once told me. “You have to try it on for size to see if it fits.” This time was no exception. He gave me an impenetrable look.

I plowed on. “There’s a complex of basic legal and economic ideas that controls how a culture interacts with nature. Changing them will change the whole societies’ behaviour.”

“Culture is irrelevant,” he said. “The economic structure is irrelevant. Feudal societies, kingdoms and religious autocracies destroyed ecosystems the same way we have. We’re just that much better at it with modern technology. It’s something more fundamental.”

“So what do we do? Just give up? We have to forge a workable system out of this train wreck or risk falling back to a handful of people subsisting.”

“Oh, we’ll be lucky if we can hold the line at subsistence.”

“You’re talking die off.”

“Yeah.”

“But why? Why not try to prevent it?”

“Because it’s too late. We’ve already seen how many the surge killed. We’ve already pumped gigatons of GHGs into the atmosphere; we’ve killed off most of the animals, let the topsoil wash away, treated the ocean like a sewer. There is no redemption from such folly and now we must pay the price.”

“We can take the carbon out of the atmosphere. We can heal the land using no-till perennial crops and the techniques of permaculture. We can deal with the pollutants. Restore the animals.”

“How?”

“Genetically. Somehow, someday. With more research.”

Matt shook his head.

“So what do you propose to do?”

“I am going to enjoy myself. Nobody has ever seen a global civilization implode before and I intend to have a ringside seat.”

“That’s ridiculous. What makes you think you’re immune?”

“Absolutely nothing. We both know how fragile life is and how temporary. A meteor could strike me down tomorrow, but I’m not going to start a SpaceGuard to prevent it and I’m not going to start an ecological crusade to save the world from itself either.”

“I’ll never understand you.”

“Oh, you understand well enough. You just don’t accept how I feel. You’d rather charge windmills.”

I shook my head without answering and the silence grew. Matt and I regarded each other like wary duelists. It was minutes before he spoke again.

“Why do you care anyway? It’s not like we humans are an especially admirable lot. Greedy, vindictive, murderers and rapists — we are the top predators, the world wreckers. Don’t you want to see those bastards get what’s coming to them — just a little bit?”

“Not if it means I’d go down with them.”

“Ah, but that die was cast long ago.”

“You can’t condemn a whole civilization because you don’t like some of them.”

“Of course I can. People do it all the time.”

“Now you’re being silly.”

“No. I’m merely pointing out that you hold yourself to impossible moral standards. That’s why people think you’re such a stuck up bastard. You refuse to partake. Haven’t you figured out yet that the world runs on emotion, not logic?”

“I would rather deal with the pathology than revel in the disease.”

“Ah. The good doctor.”

“Not yet, but I will be.”

“Well, good luck with that. I’m going to explore other options.”

“What does that mean?”

“I’m not sure. I met this guy on FabNet who has some interesting ideas. I’m trying to talk him into visiting, but he is almost as stubborn as you.”

 


Excerpted from _The Bottleneck Years_ by H.E. Taylor

For further information see:
A Gentle Introduction.

Last modified September 3, 2012

 

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