Global Population to Level by 2090
right on having babies, experts say, and it won’t make a difference
to world population. A crazy claim? They have the numbers
to prove it.
food shortages and increasingly unfertile land will likely
have less effect on population than standard of living, says
Berkley think tank on world resources. The standard of living
is expected to increase 15 percent in the developing world
and 64 percent in the western nations. Even this small increase,
claims Berkley demographer Dinni Ker, will lessen population
by 30 percent world-wide even while bringing many more resources
to less people. Economically, the world has never been in
better shape, says Ker, who is a Department of Defence advisor
to the president. In his refreshingly sincere way, he tells
us all we need to do is wait and the apples that remain on
the tree will fall into our lap.
always felt guilty about speeding. “Speed kills,” she would
tell her grade eight students, if she could get them to sit
still long enough to listen to her warnings. She also felt
guilty about being late for work. Today—as was becoming increasingly
common lately—those two warring impulses resulted in Jamie
tearing down the dirt road that led from her new house to
her school. “They can’t start unless I’m there. Actually,”
Jamie said aloud to her complaining car, “I’ll be lucky if
they don’t kill each other by the time I arrive.”
it was because her Ford Mustang was swerving on the recently
graded road, or it was just too damn early to make good observations.
Or perhaps because her husband—”ex,” Jamie yelled as the car
refused to go into third and she was sliding towards the ditch—had
somehow found out the PIN to her bank card, but somehow Jamie
didn’t notice that her world had been sheared off. The only
hint she had that this Monday morning was any different than
any other since she’d started at the new school was a flash
in the rear view mirror and a flickering in her vision as
her car ploughed up the piled debris on the side of the road.
that she’d pushed too hard through the year—even her counsellor
had said as much—and that she must be suffering from stress-related
vision problems, Jamie didn’t swear like she wanted to. The
Mustang was Jamie’s gift to herself after a reluctant divorce.
Brad had been fun and the two years had passed quickly, but
Jamie had seen the end of the relationship when her bank account
began an inexorable and inexplicable decline. Brad’s gambling
problem, which he compounded by his occasional dip into speed,
had doomed them from the start. As much as Jamie hated to
admit it, her mother had been right. The consolation of the
Mustang had followed quickly after the divorce, although Brad
had left her in poor shape to afford it.
still gave her a thrill and it was a thrill she had decided
to enjoy while she could. World oil reserves were rapidly
running out and the only people who predicted a rosy future
worked for the U.S. Geological Survey, an organisation constrained
by political exigency. Cars were another reason to feel guilty.
Although, by the feel of the car when she rocked it between
first and reverse, it was a guilt Jamie would only feel again
if she did some digging.
Global Warming on Mars Points to Non-Human Origin
a breath of fresh air today, the US Geological Survey reported
that NASA’s preliminary report on the melting of the Martian
icecaps is definitive proof that Earth’s global warning may
have nothing to do with human activity.
finding evidence of the same effect on another planet helps
us all breathe a little easier,” says Rfeze Evting. “We have
been hearing so much fear-mongering about our carbon emissions
and consumption of fossil fuels that it’s a relief to have
another player on the field.”
sun is the culprit, says experts. With periodic sunspots having
the potential to raise Earth temperatures as much as several
degrees, they claim the melting of the Antarctic ice shelf
should not be a shock.
Environmentalists, such as Elva Shinner, calls the news a
“thinly veiled attempt to hide the truth.” Citing such studies
as the recent report by the World Climate Watch, Shinner believes
that the Geological Survey’s misinterpretation of NASA’s photos
is more than coincidental. “They are in the employ of the
government, which means they answer to big oil. We can hardly
expect valid science out of them. After all, they’re the ones
that, contrary to all contemporary research, said peak oil
would not come until 2035.”
US Geological Survey has been in hot water since their infamous
statement about peak oil in the same year it was peaking,
but could they be right this time? If they are, then we may
look to the astronomers to tell us when the solar heatwave
is going to end.
Yerxa never claimed to have a direct line to god, nor had
he ever called himself god’s primary servant, but he had judgement
to spare. “He had no business having that woman over with
his wife gone. She wasn’t even of the church.”
right.” Thelma agreed in a desultory fashion and Wendell looked
to make sure she was listening.
going over there. I’m going over there and I’m going to put
him straight. His daughter’s life is at stake. Look what it
did to her.”
bring that up again, Wen. You know what that’ll cause.”
the lord’s judgement. The lord’s judgement and we had better
pay attention. He broke a holy commandment and now he is punished.
God is merciful. He’s lucky not to be struck by lightning.”
know he’s your brother, but remember what the lord said: ‘even
family will not win against the judgement of the lord.’”
glanced at Wendell to see if he actually believed he was quoting
and then turned back to her tea, the only sure thing in her
world. Mint tea that she had picked herself. “We should get
out and pick some mint, Wen. The season will be gone before
we get a chance and we’ll have nothing to trade at the store.”
lord will provide.” Wendell was in full biblical mode now
and Thelma knew she’d have no sense out of him until he had
confronted her brother Douglas.
then. Tell him his daughter’s got gland problems and had to
have brain surgery and almost died because he fooled around.
Tell him that.”
Thel, you know it ain’t like that. But the way of the lord
is the straight and narrow—”
better get over there. Before he goes to work and you have
to tell his daughter yourself.”
New Deposits of Methane Found on Ocean Floor
the energy we need is on the sea bottom, claim scientists,
now all we need to do is go get it. World Energy advisor to
the United Nations, Oly Burn argues that energy loss is a
misnomer. He says “the semantic problem hides the fact that
energy does not get removed from a closed system, such as
the Earth, but merely goes elsewhere.”
elsewhere,” says Burn, “is the bottom of the sea where tiny
bacterium have been storing potential energy since the dawn
of time. We have to get used to the fact that energy is not
a stable source-based equation. Energy is fluid and it is
only our ingenuity in tapping it that is diminishing.”
how the crystallized methane could be brought to the ocean’s
surface without precipitating into a gas, Burn says to look
to the past. “At one time we couldn’t enter a coal mine for
fear of explosion or flooding. We couldn’t pump oil because
it was down some thousands of feet and we had no equipment
that could reach it. If there is a market for the product,
and crystallized methane has it, then the market will find
who has started his own company to investigate the matter,
claims he will own 90 percent of the world’s energy by 2020.
“Only Denmark and Iceland will be left using renewables, and
they will be switching to ocean floor methane when their winds
go away and the magma cools. We’re peddling the world’s energy
felt in his pocket for his Swiss army knife before he locked
the door to his house. Amy called it a shack, and he hated
remembering what Debbie called it. He knew it wasn’t much
to look at, and Amy wasn’t impressed when her new friends
at school asked her about living in the woods, but his shack
was just the beginning. He wasn’t some rabid survivalist,
digging holes and target practicing. Frank was a family man
trying to provide for Amy the best he could in tough times.
Food was getting expensive and already people in the big cities—and
not just the usual suspects—were going hungry. At least on
the land his father had left him, Frank could plant food.
And if the toxins from the mill blew the other way, it might
even be safe enough to eat. Frank already had plans for a
house, and the foundation logs were peeled and sitting on
rocks in the clearing below the shack. “Soon,” he kept telling
Amy, “we’ll have a house better than anyone else’s.”
Frank, this was a promise fraught with emotion. His wife Debbie
had left enough of a vacuum behind her that he couldn’t even
tell if she’d run off with someone else. She didn’t leave
a note, unless leaving Amy behind was meant to signify something
about the finality of their break-up. Frank’s world had crashed
when he’d woken to find Debbie gone and only birdcalls responding
to his yells in the quiet glade. Amy’s presence was a godsend
and he tried to make it up to her that her mother had left.
wasn’t sure she missed her mother, whom she mostly remembered
by sharp ringing sounds of slammed dishes in the kitchen,
or by how she’d pinch Amy’s thin belly. “You’re getting fat.
Fat just like your Aunt Joanie. You’ll have to watch it. You’ll
end up just like her.”
Joanie was famous in the family in terms of her mother’s stories,
and Amy had no reason to doubt her existence, her mother’s
troubling lack of ability to remember Joanie’s age, as well
as her refusal to say who Joanie was the sister of, made Amy
sceptical as she grew old enough to ask questions.
miss her,” Amy would tell her friends, “but only on Saturdays.”
you dead?” Amy used to ask the blank sky, but when no answer
came and a few years went by, she began to forget.
woken from a disturbing dream about Emeroy—who sat beside
her in chemistry and cheated off her at tests—and her mother’s
corpse, Amy left for school without waking her dad. Embarrassingly,
he always wanted to bring her to school in his old truck,
so turning her early rising to good effect, Amy made it nearly
to the big hill.
was just beginning to regret not getting a drive when she
heard his truck behind her. She turned to watch him approach,
her relief mixed with guilt, when she saw the land rise. Behind
her dad’s truck, in a huge fold that took up half the sky,
the land was coming after her dad. Too scared to scream, Amy
could barely whisper, “Watch out, Dad.”
was proud of Amy’s independence, although waking alone in
the empty cabin—which was small enough that the curtain around
her cot was visible and showed that she was gone—was more
of a reminder of her mother than he wanted. Waking inexplicably
fearful, Frank was happy he had to get some nails and roofing,
and had an excuse to spend the drive with Amy. The acid fears
in his stomach were settling into abrupt burps when he saw
Amy at the foot of the big hill, but that momentary comfort
disappeared when he glanced into his rear view mirror and
saw the land rising behind him. “What the fuck,” Frank momentarily
slipped into the profanity he was trying to limit around Amy,
and sped toward his daughter. He was hoping he’d get to her
before whatever was ripping through the world tore them apart
The Hottest Summer on Record: Cars Blamed
summer promises to be the balmiest yet, meteorologists say.
The combination of little precipitation over much of the continental
United States, the ozone’s layer’s rapid deterioration, and
greenhouse emissions has led fearful climatologists to conclude
it’s sunblock time.
greenhouse effect is being accelerated with the growth of
the car industry,” claims NASA climatologist Tumb Verde. “The
combination of carbon monoxides and dioxides are accumulating
faster than expected and their growth points to the recent
policies of the big three automakers. Domestic energy policy
combined with economic changes have led to less restrictions
on auto emissions,” says Verde, “and the result is hotter
days and less cooling at night. The carbon gases act as a
blanket covering us, even if we’re too hot.”
not all bad news, though. The summer rains that annoy the
vacationer in Oregon and Washington state are likely to stay
away, and Maine will see a fifty percent decrease in insect
life. What’s bad for some is good for others.
is the last time,” Drew said to himself as he waved and said
hello to his neighbour who parked beside him. Although its
residents felt it was growing too fast, Grafton was a small
town in eastern Massachusetts. Its size may have been to blame,
or the conservative nature of puritan New England, but whatever
the cause, Drew hadn’t felt welcome since he’d arrived from
Oregon. He’d come for an IT job, writing the tediously complicated
code that remotely controlled tiny satellites. “I’m working
on the solution,” Drew liked to tell people. Micro tech would
change everything. From energy usage to resource extraction
and toxic waste cleanup. Drew hoped his claims were right.
Drew was liked at MIT, he had never fit into Grafton, especially
the townhouse community of Riverview, the only place he’d
been able to afford. “It’s something in the water,” he’d joke
to his friends back in Oregon. But when he told them about
the Wyman Gordon effluent of heavy metals and arsenic in the
local stream, the joke palled. The people were just unfriendly.
When he brought home coworkers he’d met at the lab in Boston,
it became obvious that Graftonites were afraid of anyone who
was different. On his way to the car in the morning, his cheery
hello would be returned by a silent stare until, uncomfortable,
he’d look away. The only person who greeted him was a woman
whose children had disabilities. She lived in the unit across
from his. Perhaps she felt as isolated as him.
a sucker for punishment,” Earl at the lab told him when he
complained about the lack of response to his greetings, and
Drew was starting to agree.
his morning commute Drew had just begun to fantasize about
moving, selling the townhouse and taking a loss, when his
car came to a halt beside the eastbound ramp to the highway.
With the occupants of several other cars and a huge truck,
Drew stood by the sheared off guard-rail and looked at the
blank metal. No one swore about being late for work, or cheered
that the toll booth was gone, but instead, in a creepy silence,
they stood and looked at where the highway had been.
Asteroid Strike Could Increase Species Loss
more than a hundred satellites trained on the distant skies,
NASA scientist Forbes Edwards hopes to prevent a meteor strike
like the one that caused the death of the dinosaurs. “Although
the chances of a meteor strike of that magnitude are quite
slim, more than a 200,000 objects hit the Earth every day.
And it might be thousands of years before one falls that is
significant enough to kill people.”
a big “might,” for those of us waiting on the ground, but
at least NASA, working with Edwards and his satellites, is
trying to do something about it. “We want to even the odds.
If we can detect an object while it’s still distant, we can
possibly destroy it in space,” says NASA spokesperson Leslie
say that a meteor strike is the least of our worries. Elva
Shinner, with Earth Watch, says that “With the sixth extinction
of species already underway, a meteor strike would surely
be redundant. We have more important problems to worry about
than the vague possibility that a rock from space may wipe
out life on Earth. By recent reports, human activity has already
decimated more than sixty percent of species in the last hundred
years. Richard Leakey has quite accurately called our time
that of the sixth extinction. Rather than preparing for the
end, I would suggest we become part of the solution and do
something about it.”
Shinner’s prophecies are as dark as Edwards’, at least the
Earth will be prepared for the infinitesimal chance of being
hit by a rock from space. Now if we can just stop throwing
rocks at each other.
had been thinking about Dave’s proposal ever since he’d made
it. One of the things she liked least about the suburbs was
the stereotype that housewives screwed around all day while
their husbands worked. Even though Donna had no husband, and
didn’t work herself—since her compensation cheque was helping
her recover from an anxiety disorder—she didn’t want to fit
into a stereotype.
a nice enough guy,” she told herself for the fifth time since
she had woken up early with a headache and a rushing sound
in her ears. “Maybe that’s what I need to break out of this
funk.” She made a decision to ask her counsellor about it.
was so proud that she’d made a decision, she almost didn’t
realise how the view out her kitchen window had changed. Usually
she would look at Dave’s house while she poured herself a
cup of coffee, or when the school bus was due, she’d wistfully
watch the kids waiting at the end of the road. Today, as though
god had waxed the neighbourhood and ripped them away, the
houses and kids were gone and only a sheet of burnished metal
greeted her sight.
her coffee in the sink, and pouring water until the tap sputtered
and dried, Donna went onto the step. Her paper was waiting
for her, wrapped in the plastic she had fought both the newspaper
office and the paper boy not to use when they delivered it.
Donna automatically picked it up. I guess I don’t have
to worry about sleeping with him anymore. Donna looked
towards where his house had been. Now that she looked into
the distance, the mountains were missing as well. All that
was left was perhaps a few miles of porous looking metal,
and a few miles away, amongst the hills and forests, were
strangely shaped houses that hadn’t been there the day before.
looked at her neighbour Tammy in amazement, but Tammy went
inside and slammed her door. Twenty minutes later, when Donna
was hesitating over her Xanax and had set it aside, she realised
the change was affecting her. “Something’s happening out there.
This isn’t just the end of the world I was afraid of. Unless
it is. Either way I had better stay with it.” Donna talked
to herself out loud—one of the privileges of living alone—and
her words sounded flat in her tiled bathroom.
Donna’s television nor radio picked up a signal, and when
she tried to call Dave out of an impulse she couldn’t name,
the phone had no dial tone. Digging through the back closet
for camping gear and pulling open the cupboards for what food
that was light to carry, Donna stuffed the pack she’s kept
from her carefree days—as she thought of them—and set off
across the metal towards a setting sun that should have been
rising in the east.
World News: Prayer Against Pesticides
has the potential to heal thousands in the Roundup drenched
waters of the lower 48, world religious leaders claim. If
they’re right, then what the World Health Organisation called
the worst agricultural disaster since the disappearance of
the Nile may soon be history.
Mientras, of Holy Water and Wine Cathedral, in Missing, Wyoming,
told reporters Wednesday that his prayers have healed twenty
of his parishioners already this week. Fighting their way
through the eager crowds of the faithful, our photographers
captured images of Mientras pouring pure mountain water on
the faithful while chanting the lord’s prayer and calling
out for healing.
release of Round-up Fifty-Seven without adequate testing has
ravaged hundreds of thousands of farmers and residents living
in or near the Platte, Mississippi, and Colorado River basins.
Although the death toll has yet to be calculated, says emergency
measures operatives, it is estimated to be in the tens of
Mientras’ faith healing helping those who can travel to Missing,
and with many more on the way as national guard soldiers clear
the roads, Round-up may soon be thanking god as well, for
healing the sick and preventing a bankruptcy.
was still confirmed in his beliefs when he arrived at the
road that went to his brother-in-law’s trailer, but somehow
the sight of the home itself—with its depressing Christmas
decorations still up after six months—made his pause. Is
this indeed what the lord wants me to do?
Julie stepping heavily down the narrow steps of the trailer
strengthened his resolve. She shouldn’t have to live like
this, he said to himself. She was a cute little thing
and look at her now, all because of her father.
She hadn’t starting screwing up his name until after the surgery. Her
dad had a lot to answer for and he’d be answering for it today.
“Morning Julie. Your father home?”
Julie gestured listlessly with one hand, and began the flatfooted
walk that would take her to the bus.
his return Wendell was less convinced of the lord’s path.
His arm was bruised from the door latch where Douglas had
shoved him outside, and most of his message had to be yelled
from the yard, trying to compete with Douglas’ stereo on full
hadn’t quite got around to blaming the lord, but Wendell was
in a foul mood on his drive home. Before he’d gone more than
five kilometres his wheels began to grip like they were in
quicksand. Getting out of the car to see what was happening,
Wendell realised the turn in the road he’d driven a hundred
times no longer led anywhere, and that in front of him was
instead a vast field of grey metal. He looked back at his
car in time to see it melt into the road, its gas tank puffing
into sludge which the gravel soaked up, his wheels and rims
and suspension disappearing as if they were eaten by acid.
to his knees, Wendell closed his eyes and prayed, hoping that
when he opened them again his car would be idling on the side
of the dirt road and the intersection would be back to normal.
between his eyelids as he asked god’s forgiveness for everything
he could think of, Wendell was horrified to see that nothing
remained of his car but a swirl of things he’d kept in the
dash, a flashlight and lighter, some rolling papers and gum,
as well as the miscellaneous wrappers and trash he’d forgotten.
Stumbling over the trash, still not believing that his car
was gone, Wendell picked up the flashlight and lighter and
began the humiliating walk back to Doug’s place, planning
what he was going to say.
Rising Sea Levels Swamp Housing Market
doom laden statements have been made about global warming,
but perhaps none hit the American real-estate market as hard
as recent recommendations from the Department of Land Management.
The DLM suggests that all citizens living within ten feet
of sea level consider moving within the next decade.
are not making prophecies. We merely use our computer models,
and the latest meteorological forecasts that imply that seaside
living may not be viable for some years to come.” Meteorologist
Lat Neer’s statement is not meant to be fear provoking, but
thousands are deserting the popular seaside resorts and cottage
sales are at an all-time low. Just when the so-called real-estate
bubble has already cost billions of dollars in potential revenue,
this latest panic has many realtors worried.
Ned Ugain, from the Federal Reserve, says “the market may
have to be artificially propped up by millions funded from
other budgets. The social welfarists are going to scream as
usual, but in order to promote industrial growth, we have
to give the major corporations tax cuts and decrease spending
on social programs. This is our only choice.”
is not the only one in a bind. Canny investors find that much
of the seafront property, which has been selling for one cent
on the dollar, is now unavailable. “How do they expect a speculator
to make a living if they just go and sew up our chances?”
complains Alymer Burke. “I was hoping to turn the panic into
a million homes with a beautiful view, and provide income
for hundreds of workers.” In a move that has many crying foul,
the Land and Resources Department has confiscated seashore
property and is holding it until such time as it becomes financially
Houston. I am in position. Repeat. Shuttle Atlantis is in
position.” Jim Evards felt more secure now that he had arrived
at his destination. Missions should go as planned and he disliked
they never heard you.” His co-pilot Chester Rimski tended
to belabour the obvious. Even worse, Chester was responsible
for the tiny St. Christopher medal glued below the shuttle
few more missions under your belt and you’ll see. Mission
control hears everything. Even if the ground crew couldn’t
pick up a transmission they—” Jim broke off rather than mention
Atlantis. Shuttle Atlantis. Deploy instruments.”
the confusing barrage of equipment had been released, Jim
and Chester had more time for talk.
all that gear for anyway?”
the Near Earth Orbit system.” Jim was dismissive of the satellites
that the NEO team had put into orbit, but he kept that to
didn’t need to point. Jim knew that he was looking at the
smear of toxic cloud over most of the eastern states. “Yeah.
What are ya going to do?” It was an effort to sound casual.
Jim felt the same desperation as many of the people on Earth.
Cancers were on the rise, asthma almost eighty percent in
new-borns, and sterility more and more common. “At least we’re
shooting blanks now.”
least we’re not bringing more people into this. That’s something
still lots of people having kids. We won’t be stopping that
in a hurry. Not that we’d want to.”
Talk of population control was Firster talk, a bunch of environmental
freaks who’d have people in zoos if they had their choice.
now it’s just a waiting game?” Chester was happy to change
it’s up to the instruments. If they can’t find out what’s
wrong with the NEO satellites, then we might as well go home.”
paid little attention to the concerns of the astronomers who
funded his mission although he knew that Houston was nervous
about satellites going offline. The near object satellite
line had just been completed and the bugs were compounding.
Apparently the network sensed a huge object approaching, too
huge not to have been seen, and moving impossibly fast. Meanwhile,
other sensors, even cameras, saw nothing. Amateur and professional
astronomers alike claimed that close stars appeared riffled,
as though affected by gravitational lensing. NASA listened
enough to send out their last shuttle before they outsourced
the space game to China’s new sub-orbital space plane.
do you think we’re going to find out?”
I have a theory. The infrared finds something, or rather a
bunch of objects. Right?”
astronomers have seen nothing. Nor has the visible light detectors.
I say we’ve got a lot of small meteorites moving fast and
probably broken off from a comet, picking up the heat from
what happens when they hit?” Chester was getting interested
in the scenario.
burn up in the atmosphere. More water in the upper atmosphere.
Everyone wins.” Jim was pleased with the neatness of his prediction.
Atlantis. Do you have a visual confirmation that the instruments
instruments are deployed, Houston.”
Atlantis.” There was a brief pause. “Do you see anything?”
knew better than to ask Houston to define their statements,
so he looked out the forward port and gestured Chester to
do the same. “Houston. The space station is below the horizon.
Our external tank is to starboard nearly—” Jim checked his
instruments “—twenty kilometres away. Nothing else in sight.”
five minutes later, Houston called frantically but neither
Jim nor Chester were paying attention. Far below them, on
the North American continent, a huge gash had opened, dividing
the clouds as if with a knife. As they watched, the knife
cut a slice out of the eastern seaboard.
Jim began. “Houston—”
the hell are you going to tell them about that?” Chester said.
watching the decapitation of clouds and tearing of the Earth
far below them, they both nearly missed the ringing of proximity
alarms. Almost as a reflex Jim yanked on the controller and
saw a flicker, just as Chester yelled, of an immense object
moving rapidly towards him. Throwing his arms up and yelling
to Chester that they were going to crash, Jim nearly missed
the best touchdown of his career.
land in front of them, which reminded him of Earth except
he could still see Earth in his right port, came up towards
them, and then slowed. His shuttle set down on its nose, of
all things, and then gently dropped on its side. Without the
shearing of metal or the shrieking of the wind, somehow the
shuttle had landed undamaged.
looked at Chester, who was pointing out the window as the
land settled beneath them, and then unbuckled his belt. Whatever
happened, at least he wouldn’t be blamed for damaging the
Atlantis, easily the most expensive aircraft in history.