Last spring I wrote this very short vignette for the Public’s Radio here in Rhode Island. It aligns well with the spirit of Dear Tomorrow.
Curt Spalding, Professor of the Practice, IBES, Brown University
Several times a week Callie and I turn the corner onto Narragansett Boulevard and head to a park on Stillhouse Cove. The smells from the marsh excite her dog’s brain.
Approaching the Cove I see an old man on a bench. A parent can always recognize their children. Is that Henry?
“What!! Have I collapsed with a heart attack? Is this my death dream?”
“No Dad you’re not dead. It’s time travel. I came back from 2100. It cost a bit but I knew you would want to know how the future turned out. You got so anxious about climate change as we grew older. By coming back, I thought I could help you with that.”
“Well, what happened to Narragansett Bay? I spent my best years saving it.”
“The Bay is much warmer and much higher and full of Redfish and Spotted Trout instead of Flounder and Tautog. The fishing is incredible. People migrated away from the Bay. Thousands of acres of stream, rivers, and marshes re-emerged after the people left.”
“Why did everyone decide to leave the shore?”
“You know that book you read back in 2012, ‘Rising: Dispatches from the American Shore’ by Elizabeth Rush?” She foreshadowed what happened in her chapter about Oakwood Beach on Staten Island after Hurricane Sandy. That whole community decided to recruit a buyout. After several hurricanes hit the Bay, neighborhoods all around the Bay wanted to leave. The water kept rising and the Bay reclaimed the shore. Our technology helped. Super sensor networks and advanced green engineering improved ecological restoration work and the shore was transformed. “
“Where did everyone go?”
“Oh, Dad, the experience changed everything. Notions that we can control nature with massive engineering structures are now absurd. The pandemics and accelerating climate change were hard to deal with, but we now understand what you were talking about when you went on about socio-ecological resilience. Resilience thinking drives how we sustain the economy and communities. Technologies you cannot imagine give us unlimited climate-safe power. With it, we stabilized the climate by extracting carbon and developed an architecture that is continually adaptive by design and use. People wanted to leave what was old and threatened – for what’s new and healthier for themselves and their families.”
“Wow, did dealing with climate change makes the world better?”
“Yes, it did. By valuing resilience a new level of personal security and equity defines life around the Bay and everywhere else. Universal health care, sufficient nutrition, and income were all seen as necessary to build the level of resilience necessary to adapt to rapid climate change.”
“It sounds like the Bay is in good shape.”
“That’s right. With most of the houses gone, it is accessible to everyone for fishing, swimming, and sailing like the Tribes and Rhode Islanders centuries ago. We know how to sustain the Bay and our communities without degrading the quality of one for the other.”
“Henry, this still feels like a death dream.”
“Dad you are not dead! You have to keep working on building resilience.”
“Ok Henry, I will keep at it”
“Times up Dad. I have to go. The Time Travel Authority gives us just a few minutes so we don’t have time to screw up the future.”
“Will I see you again?”
“Probably not. The waitlist for time travel is over ten years.”
“Your visit is a wonderful gift. I love you, Henry.”
“Love you too Dad.”