The Great Work, September 7, 2055
In the top centre drawer of the big desk in dad’s library, I found an unmarked envelope containing this document.
The Great Work, March 2040
My time is getting short and I don’t know what more I can do. I am getting old and I don’t have time for bullshit. I don’t want for anything. There is no profit — economic, moral or spiritual — in recording my thoughts, yet I persist. I have raised the boys as best I could since Joan died. They are good, strong lads. I only wish I could do more for them, for the future. Sometimes it seems like nothing will ever be enough.
Collapsing ecosystems defy simple answers. Hidden dependencies, unknown connections make prediction impossible. You never know what will break down next. The oceans are full of jellyfish. The bees are gone. Weeds and pests thrive while useful crops wither. The poor are starving. Drought and flood afflict the land. The oceans keep rising. Strange chemicals warp the minds of our children turning them into automatons. Tropical diseases are moving into the temperate zones. More species disappear every day taking with them a priceless genetic endowment. Men and nations go off half-cocked, killing for no good reason. Millions are dying.
The world will soon be a very different place. The collapse cannot now be prevented. Or in more hopeful terms, another world is not only possible, it is unavoidable. The question is: what will the shape of that new world be?
The future is unknowable in detail, but a few telltale indicators will give you the tune if not the whole score. What is the population? What is the average global temperature? What is the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere? How many days of global grain reserves are there? What percentage of land, sea and air creatures have become extinct since the 1950 baseline? What is the average energy use per person per hour, globally and by nation? Keep your eye on these numbers as we traverse The Bottleneck Years and you will have a good idea what is up.
We know that a pre-industrial solar economy supported a billion people. How many will a 22nd century solar economy support? It depends to a large extent on how thoroughly we trash the biosphere, on unexpected technological developments and on the happening of wars.
We are engaged in a cataclysmic struggle, the likes of which homo sapiens has never before seen. We are struggling to save each other. We are struggling toward a new enlightenment. We are fighting to ensure the long term viability of our species. We are fighting for a human future, for the soul of our species, for what we may yet become.
At some age the growing child learns the reality of death and an irrevocable and profound change takes place deep in the psyche. In a similar way, I am hoping that as the human species learns the ecological facts of life, an irrevocable and profound change will take root globally. An ecological paradigm will guide our actions and inform our mythologies.
We have before us a most grievious ordeal. Failure is not an option. We must learn how to run this Spaceship Earth for the good of all its inhabitants or we shall surely perish. The legacy we bequeath will define human life for thousand of years or it will be our epitaph.
Carefully I put the document back in the envelope. I sat staring out the window over the lake until it got dark.
Excerpted from _The Bottleneck Years_ by H.E. Taylor