Mark A. Carter

WATER world: the sky is falling

World famous Canadian Science Fiction novelist Mark A. Carter rants about the flooded New York Subways, global warming, SuperStorm Sandy, the Doomsday Theme in Science Fiction, 1981, and human nature.

Wake up people. The planet that we all know as home, that is already 70% covered with ocean, is melting. That's right. Global warming is melting glaciers, Greenland, and the poles. And like it or not, our world is fast becoming more of a water world. With that increase in available water comes an uptick in the energy that makes weather. Our world may not be transforming, and may never transform as radically as depicted in Kevin Costner's film Waterworld, 1995; or snap so radically in the other direction into an ice world as in The Day After Tomorrow, 2004; but our weather is changing for the worse. That much is certain. And unless we adapt, we die. Oh, I'm not crying, "The sky is falling. The sky is falling," like that alarmist Henny-penny from a children's folk tale with an origin that goes back twenty-five centuries. But how many signs does it take for Cocky-locky to pay attention? That's you, by the way.

When we were children, we were taught the Three Little Pigs. That fairy tale was passed down, in the verbal tradition, from a time before books, until its eventual publication in The nursery rhymes of England,1886. But it is more than mere fairy tale. It is sage advice told simply and memorably within a tale that was meant to be passed down from generation to generation in a time of adversity before books. See Miller's A Canticle for Leibowitz, 1960. And it was meant to be understood by adults. But the advice, although a sage warning to build our dwellings well to weather the storm, needs to be updated.


A Canticle for Leibowitz

by Walter M. Miller, Jr.

First Edition, 1959

cover by George Sottung

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Strong is no longer enough, although some people have not even heeded that advice. Bricks beats sticks beats straw is no contest when pitted against the damaging force of water. What we need to do in our coastal communities and communities built along rivers and upon flood plains is to move. Were we stupid to start with by building there? Yes. But times were calmer. So, it's understandable. But the times they are a changing and so must we. And if you are adamant about staying, about hunkering down, as so many Americans are fond of saying, then you have to retrofit your house or quite possibly to build a new one in that location. If your dwelling has already been knocked down because of the weather, this is a golden opportunity to build something better.

My suggestion is to build with steel. Pound those piles. Build high. Build the external shell of your house out of welded steel atop steel piles. Decorate it as you wish. But you have to build up. But even building forty feet up may not be enough. Do you realize how many storys that is? In some places, the storm surge from SuperStorm Sandy was already that high. Ouch. And with Greenland melting as we speak, the ocean levels are only getting higher. See Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth, 2006. And, of course, the average American family can ill afford the expense of building let alone of building high and with steel. Can they?

A more practical solution is to get out of Dodge. Simply move to higher ground. Duh? If you think it can't be done, look at what the Chinese did with the Three Gorges Dam project. They moved whole communities out the projected flood region behind the dam before construction began. It can be done and should be done. The only thing required is the determination of our politicians to commit to the project and to see it through. Our communities are old and the infrastructure is bleeding anyway.

To use Detroit as an example, the entire city is leaking from an old and unkempt water system that resembles arteriosclerosis. The electrical grid is defunct and resembles neuropathy. And anyone who has ever driven down Gratiot would be the first to admit that the roads are beyond repair and if that doesn't remind me of arthritis I don't know what does. Isn't it time for a new beginning somewhere else?

When I wrote my Master's thesis so long ago, I talked about the necessity to leave the planet in the face of a Cosmopoetic source of doom like the sun going nova, if we were going to survive. This scenario is now referred to as an "ELE" or "Extinction Level Event" as mentioned in Deep Impact, 1998; and, as also seen in Armageddon, 1998; Knowing, 2009; 2012, 2009; Melancholia, 2011, and in the novel Hephzibah of Heaven, 2007, where the Earth is destroyed by a massive meteor that hits so hard that it turns our planet inside out. The privileged few get to leave the planet and survive. Most can't and don't. And good bye human race.
But rising sea levels, floods, and SuperStorms like Sandy represent another source of doom mentioned in my paper. They are Geopoetic. And they are survivable if we act. My vote is to do something about it. I vote to survive. What about you?

Many years ago, when the climate changed and a region became inhospitable, people left. There was a mass exodus. Nowadays, we seem to have lost our common sense. As Voltaire wrote in Dictionnaire Philosophique, 1764: "Common sense is not too common." Or perhaps our hubris has become too large, particularly in our big cities where the residents think that the city itself makes them impervious to the disasters that inflict the rest of the planet. Live and learn New York. We have to take this climate change seriously. So, contact your politicians and get them doing something about it.

If you have the ability to do something for yourself, be a trend setter. Relocate to someplace smart. Avoid coastal regions and flood plains. Look at a map. Look at the topographical lines indicating elevation. Choose higher elevations. If the nearby rivers meander, the area is too flat and you don't want to live there. Yesterday's thousand year storm and even hundred year storm is fast becoming today's ten year storm and perhaps even multi-year storm. Act before devastation hits once more.

Robert Stephenson Smyth Baden-Powell, 1st Baron Baden-Powell, the founder and Chief Scout of the Scout Movement, coined the motto: Be Prepared. And it's sage advice for us all. One of the first things that also happens when disaster strikes is the power goes out. So, I would also recommend energy self-reliance. Nowadays, each household should have a solar cell system and/or a household windmill. They do in Germany. What do they know that we haven't caught onto? But there are also electrical technologies going back to the late Victorian era that each of us should tap into.

Marjolein Helder, a Ph.D. candidate recently defended her dissertation showing that electricity could be generated from marsh land, Wageningen University and Research Centre. "Electricity from the marshes." ScienceDaily, 23 Nov. 2012. But her idea is a rip off, as far as I'm concerned, of a patent for a "Ground Generator of Electricity" registered on April 18,1893 by Michael Emme. Nicola Tesla also patented a means to extract electricity from the air. But it's not in use because the people who make money selling us electricity saw it as a threat to their earning potential. And so, we string wires on poles that come down in storms rather than generate electricity ourselves in our own homes. Duh? Does that make sense? But why listen to Tesla? Who's Tesla? For those of you who don't yet know who he is, he was a man before his time. And oh, that alternating current that you tap into every day to run everything was invented by Tesla. The generators at Niagara Falls bear his name and are testimony to his genius.

Generator for Electricity

Patented M. Emme, April 18, 1893

So, don't stick your head in the sand. Don't deny that the weather is becoming more severe. It is. And don't wait to see what other people will do. You are responsible for your family, not them. And whether you and yours survives may be up to the decision you make in the bright light of a clear day with blue skies. Make a decision and take action before the skies turn dark and death comes knocking at your door.

That's all fine and good and theoretical. But it isn't practical. Few of us can just up, quit our jobs, relocate, and search for new employment, not in these hard economic times with threats of a fiscal cliff looming in the new year. Also, we are joined at the hip with our communities. We are the community, in many cases born and bred going back generations. Tell the people of the Jersey Shores to up and move to Oregon and see what they think. We are the land. We are where we live for good or bad. It is our home. And so, despite the devastation from Sandy in Breezy Point, the Rockaways, and the Jersey Shores, among so many locales, we are doomed to remain in harm's way until the next disaster hits. We are caught between a rock and a hard place hoping for the best.

"The sky is falling. The sky is falling." Yes, Virginia. The sky is falling indeed. I know what you're thinking. You're thinking that Sandy was a fluke. But consider this: the weather experts are worried.

We remember the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, 2005, and the 1,836 bloated bodies of souls lost in that weather bomb. We honor the memory of the Japan tsunami of 2011 and the 19,000 dead or missing. But here's a question: a whole sub-culture lived in the bowels of the New York City Subway system. Sandy flooded the tunnels up to street level. What of them? These homeless souls must surely be gone too. But the news agencies have not reported their passing. Why? Is it because these homeless people were not pretty? Is it because they smelled bad, talked to themselves, and were unwashed? Is it because our so-called civilization of body beautifuls refused to think of these unfortunate persons as human beings? And so, the passing of these subterranean dwellers can easily be overlooked. From me to you, drowning like a rat is an awful way to die no matter who you are and whatever your station in life. And from me to them: Requiescat in Pace.

Now you know.

from the imagination of Mark A. Carter - novelist

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