The Bottleneck Years by H. E. Taylor - Chapter 18

The Bottleneck Years

by H.E. Taylor
Chapter 17 Table of Contents Chapter 19

Chapter 18

Amazon, Sept. 29, 2055

Have you ever wondered what is the logic of your life? Sometimes I feel like a piece of flotsam bouncing on the waves of a river whose depth and currents I cannot fathom, whose path I do not know, whose destination, short of the ocean, is a mystery.

This feeling caught me as I contemplated Olivia. It was equally true of the happy accident that I just happened to notice the odd red-green plant years before when Doc Y and I were on a sampling tour in the B.C. interior. I got my fifteen seconds of fame when I analyzed the genome and discovered a previously unknown photosynthetic mechanism.

Doc Y and I wrote up a short paper that generated a lot of interest. He helped with some of the chemical analysis after I had done the genomic work. I have heard horror stories of advisors literally stealing the work of graduate students, but Doc Y very graciously gave me lead authorship, which helped considerably in my academic career.

That flotsam feeling arose again when Doc Y called me into his office. It was the Monday right after the Carman affair. At first, I thought it was going to be some security thing, but he proceeded to tell me he was having a little problem with his heart --- tachycardia. It was being controlled by pills, but his doctor recommended he not stay out of the country for extended periods. Unbeknownst to me, Dr. Yablonski was on an ecological recovery committee of the Ecological Mandate and he was scheduled to visit Brazil. None of the other senior staff were free to go on such short notice. Would I be interested in a little trip to the Amazon?

I didn't waste any time saying yes. I would be able to do the EM work as well as follow up on my own research. There were new plants whose photosynthesis had to be investigated. I began to plan. I had three days to get a passport and medical clearance. There were a lot of injections.

Olivia was none too pleased that I would be away. I tried to mollify her by saying it would only be 6 weeks, but that didn't cut any ice. She made do with a bad situation by screwing me silly whenever possible.

Come the day, Olivia saw me off at the airport. She was by that point very matter of fact about my leaving. I think she was a little unnerved by the suddenness. I was going to be away for six weeks, that was all there was to it.

I had almost put Carman out of my mind, but as I turned back for one last wave, I noticed him standing just inside the last departure checkpoint. Seeing him definitely put a damper on my feelings.

The next thing I knew, I was boarding a plane to the United States of South America, to what used to be called Brazil. It was the first time I had ever flown in a big airliner. I had taken a little four seater North with dad, but that was only after months of finagling for fuel and finances.

Once upon a time, people used to fly all over the place. Dad used to tell us about those times before the oil crash. Nowadays nobody can afford to to fly unless they work for the government or a big corporation.

I was excited and scared. The plane was cramped and uncomfortable. I didn't like it. I felt like a sardine stuffed into a tube of metal over which I had no control. There was very little other than clouds to see out the window. so I distracted myself by reading up on the Mandate work I had to do.

We were in the air for almost 10 hours.

Landing at Brasilia, I was subjected to extensive checks by the border security. Given the tensions between North and South America, I expected that. Finally, I was allowed to catch my connecting flight -- a rickety old helicopter that looked like it had been through a couple of wars.

Rio Triste lived up to its name. It was 65 people in a dismal collection of makeshift metal huts plagued by insects, reptiles and disease, working in an unbearably hot, drought stricken land where once a rainforest had been. The air was smokey from distant wildfires.
People had thought it would be impossible to seriously affect the rainforest. They had thought it would be impossible to affect the billions of carrier pigeons too. They were wrong.

Rainforests create their own weather, largely by harbouring moisture. As the planet warmed up and the trees were cut down, this cycle was short circuited. A misguided attempt to convert large areas of forest to agricultural land had accelerated the process. Where once uncounted species flourished in a rich web of life, there was now only a dried out swamp --- nearly a desert.

With me in the middle of it.


Excerpted from _The Bottleneck Years_ by H.E. Taylor

For further information see:
A Gentle Introduction.

Last modified December 11, 2012

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