Your future when dealing with climate collapse
With all the talk around climate breakdown, allow me to give you a very quick glimpse into a future that isn’t simply possible for the UK, but is becoming increasingly likely. The saddest part of all is that this isn’t me being alarmist. Instead, this is a very realistic look at what life in the not very distant future might be like. Even if you manage to escape this future, your kids may not.
Climate change is real, and the implications are terrifying. The story below ignores realities like food shortages due to crop collapses, or forced mass-migration, with millions fleeing from parts of the world that will become too hostile to support human life.
This is our future – your future – unless we urgently take extreme measures to cut greenhouse gases. And yes, that starts with driving less, ideally not at all.
“The fierce storm has finally subsided enough for it to be safe to cycle back from the farmer’s market (a loose term, given how few proper farmers are left). The storms are getting both more frequent, and more ferocious, but then you already knew that.
The delay caused by the storm, combined with the localised flooding and storm debris on the roads it left behind, simply means you will most probably not be able to get home before the siesta, and you nervously start planning on where might be an appropriate place to set up the siesta shelter you always carry on your bike.
Cycling during the siesta is dangerous, and people have died. The siesta is starting earlier, too, and continuing for longer, as the planet continues to warm. This is why you left so early in the morning – you wanted to be home for the siesta, where you can escape to the underground shelter you built, which – though still warm – is insulated enough to allow you to carry on with many other tasks.
The localised flooding leads to more problems than simply forcing you to divert, or at times walk your bike through waist-deep murky water: they become a breeding ground for mosquitos, and malaria is becoming a real problem.
With sweat dripping from you, and the alarm on your temperature probe beeping at you, you finally accept that it’s too hot and humid to continue cycling, so you get off your bike and unload your siesta shelter. Your shelter is just big enough for two people, if they squeezed together a bit, and you’re grateful that you have it all to yourself.
You were desperately hoping to at least make it to the public underground shelter, just a mile along, even though they charge exorbant fees for anyone who needs to shelter against the heat, but with the heat rapidly rising, it may as well have been 50 miles away, and there’s simply no way you can safely reach it now.
Your practiced hands unfold it and within a few minutes it is securely pegged down against the wind that’s still blowing, and you have shelter from the sun to crawl into, with netting all around to keep the mosquitos and other biting insects out, while letting air through. The solar panels on the roof soon get the fans running, creating at least some movement of air over your body, and with your probe already showing the temperature at 43 degrees Celsius (and rising) you know this will be an unusually hot October day.
Of course, the temperature alone isn’t the issue – 43 degrees in the Sahara is more bearable, survivable, because it’s dry. With relative humidity basically at 100%, it means that your body’s only natural means of cooling itself down – evaporation – ceases to cool you down at all. This is called the Wet Bulb effect, and is the reason why the siesta has become an essential survival technique.
Basically, no matter how much you sweat, the air is already too saturated for your sweat to evaporate, and your body’s core temperature continues to rise, despite you sweating profusely. The Wet Bulb threshold is 35 degrees, and by 43 degrees, you’re well into risk-of-death territory, as even mild exercise can easily raise your core temperature by another 3 or 4 degrees.
Fortunately, where you pitched your siesta shelter is shaded by the trunk of a huge old tree, and though it’s only circulating warm air, the solar fans at least have some psychological benefit. As you cover up completely, and crawl inside your sleeping bag (silver foil side out) to protect your body against further core temperature rises from the external heat, you know all you can do is wait the siesta out, and hope you survive.
After all, the human brain effectively starts melting when it hits around 42 degrees internally, and with the volume of sweat your body is producing, dehydration becomes a huge risk. Just the week before, two people died from the heat, not far from where you pitched your siesta shelter, when theirs was ripped away by the wind, leaving them exposed to direct sunlight, with nowhere to go.
At least you don’t have to worry about your bike, nor the few food items you managed to get at the market, as you know anyone suicidal enough to try and steal it, and be actively out and about in this heat, won’t survive long.
All you have to do is stay awake, and stay alive until the evening, when the temperature will drop low enough to allow you to cycle the last three miles home, while desperately hoping there won’t be another storm. As you lie there, you grimace at the memories of how much you used to hate cycling, and would insist on driving everywhere, while dismissing climate change warnings as somehow fake.”