Nero, fiddling from orbit as Earth burns

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Six Ideas for the Finish of the Globe
by Steve Beard


Book cover

What takes place when the lights go out, not just for 1 particular person, but all of humanity? Ragnarok, Armageddon, the Hour — humans have extended grappled with the concept that the planet may just up and finish 1 day. Even in the 21st century, we’re no closer to understanding the answering to this basic query.

Of course that hasn’t stopped the world’s existing crop of wealthy business magnates from taking actions to boost their possibilities of survival. Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos have each expressed interest in leaving an increasingly hot, crowded Earth behind and blasting off to reside amongst the stars. But how would that operate for the rest of us? Not extremely properly at all if author Steve Beard’s vision of this future turns out to be accurate. In Six Ideas for the Finish of the Globe, Beard mixes scientific study with experimental fiction to craft dystopian scenarios that make your Black Mirror nightmares appear like Leave It to Beaver reruns.&lt

One particular year following the ratification of the Paris Agreement on climate alter by United Nations members, the Eiffel Tower was bathed in green lights and the hashtag #SmileForThePlanet was flashed about the planet. It was November 2016.

The United States was the very first nation to withdraw from the agreement. Other nations followed suit. China, India, Indonesia and Nigeria had been quickly developing new coal-fired energy plants at the price of 1 a week. Carbon dioxide emissions from smokestack industries climbed swiftly for the duration of the 2020s, trapping substantially sunlight in the Earth’s atmosphere and retaining its heat.

The planet baked. As the oceans steadily evaporated, even additional fogging vapour was trapped in the atmosphere. Plants and trees withered. ‘Runaway climate change’ was a phrase on everyone’s lips.

There had been some visionaries. Baron Rothschild shipped substantially of his banking business into orbit. The Iranians launched manned satellites and prayer rooms into space from their Imam Khomeini Spaceport. The old dotcom billionaire Jeff Bezos fired off thousands of rockets from the Florida Space Coast as he constructed his ‘Las Vegas in the Sky’ in the 2030s. Payloads delivered, the rocket stages dropped into the Atlantic Ocean, to be salvaged and reused.

The Zurich-primarily based insurance coverage giant Swiss Re reported a large spike in storms, floods, droughts and wildfires round the planet in 2039. Men and women started to prepare for the melting of the Earth’s ice caps. There had been finish-of-the-planet parties. The 2040s was the era of the wonderful migrations from the South to the North, the wars involving the East and the West, the pogroms, massacres and regime adjustments. It was also when the world’s elite produced the final move into Earth orbit.

There was a clamour amongst the mass of the world’s left-behind population to be permitted access to the relative security of what was referred to as ‘Skyland’. But the terrific expense of rocket travel meant that only billionaires and government officials could afford it. Shanty towns sprang up about the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Mongolia. Just about every so typically, some of the shanty dwellers had been crushed by a falling rocket.

Cargo cults constructed replica spaceports from tin and cardboard at the Earth’s equator, exactly where it was agreed there was the very best likelihood of working with the planet’s rotational speed to accomplish lift-off. Pirates scoured the shrinking seas hoping to come across jettisoned rocket stages and sell them on the black industry. Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Nairobi installed zero gravity chambers in their public squares, boasting of their worth very first as coaching centres, then as grief-counselling centres.

The rockets burned brightly in the evening sky for a lot of years. Oil and gas had been pumped out of the ground at an astonishing price to fuel the rocket trade. The Middle East oil fields had extended ago burned themselves out in the serial Gulf Wars. Daqing, Texas and Siberia had been now the world’s oil states.

In 2051, the Skylanders placed a total ban on Earth emigration to its orbital palaces and hotels. But they nevertheless wanted soybean, rice and wheat from the planet’s farms. They wanted fish from its oceans, beef from its stockyards and alcohol from its breweries. They ordered up vast quantities of supplies, additional than they could ever will need. And, in return, they rained down on the planet the only issues they had to give – their garbage and their cash.

The warlords who protected the Earth’s oil fields and spaceports grew wealthy from the rocket trade. They spent their wealth on circuses, hunts and games. They failed to reward their scientists and engineers, even though. And so the technological base supporting the rocket economy steadily dwindled. There was an
rising quantity of rocket crashes, spaceport fires and bandit raids on the oil refineries.

The rocket trade ended with the Terrific Space Hilton Fire of 2052. A rocket launched from Florida with a payload of coffee beans exploded when it docked with the cargo port of the orbital hotel. Thousands of Skylanders died. The fire lasted for months.

Following this catastrophe, the Skylanders seceded absolutely from Earth. They stopped all trade, all communications, all travel. The lights went out in their space properties. Earth sent imploring messages to Skyland. But the only response was radio silence. Speculation mounted that the Skylanders had stockpiled meals and drink in orbital reservoirs. It was believed they had been organizing to strike out for new worlds in the large starships they had been secretly developing for years. Or else it was assumed they had retreated into cryo-sleep and had been waiting out the finish of the planet, intending to return only when they believed the planet’s ice caps had replenished themselves.

Dependent on the space markets of Skyland for so a lot of years, the industries of Earth located it tough to restructure themselves. There was a basic decline. The oil rigs of Russia and China rusted, the spaceports decayed. The understanding of how to develop the rockets was lost, buried deep inside broken computer systems or scattered across forgotten deserts. The wonderful equatorial cities became slums, dry with heat and dark with smog. Millions died of hunger, malaria and diarrhoea.

Skyland had often necessary thousands of rocket boosters to keep afloat. Their complete habitat was constructed on resisting the tremendous gravitational pull of the Earth. Following the Space Hilton Fire, even though, the Skylanders lost self-assurance in rocket technologies.

Probably they lost self-assurance in all technologies. Who knows what crazed rites they performed as their casinos and temples slipped from orbit, broke apart and fell to Earth? The fragments from their space properties pelted the tin homes of shanty town dwellers in Paris and New York.

Even now, on a clear evening, the burning remains of the Skylanders can from time to time be noticed showering by means of the atmosphere. It tends to make for a wondrous sight.

Excerpt from Six Ideas for the Finish of the Globe by Steve Beard, © 2019 Goldsmiths Press

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