The reader certainly heard of the Food Chain.
At the base stand the Producers: the green plants. They pick up carbon dioxide from the air, water and minerals from the soil, energy from the sun and create complex sugars by the wonderful photosynthetic process. Some of the sugars compose the buildings (cellulose), others the reserve warehouses (starch). They use also bacteria-fixed Nitrogen to transform some of the sugars into useful proteins.
Then come the Primary Consumers: the herbivore animals. They cannot produce the food by themselves, so they graze the grass and eat the plants to get the energy-rich sugars and part of the proteins they need. Since plants do not produce Hemoglobin and Collagen, though, they make most proteins by themselves, starting from the building blocks (amino acids) and using the energy stored in the sugars the eat. They also need some more compounds essential for life (vitamins), found in small quantities in the plants.
Herbivores are not very efficient in processing the food. They must eat huge quantities of it, and use a lot of energy to convert vegetal biomass into animal biomass.
Most of the plants eaten are returned to the environment as… fertilizer.
At the top of the pyramid there are the Secondary Consumers: the carnivore predators.
They found a more efficient way to process the food: they eat… the herbivores. A good steak once in a while and they can manage to take over. Most of the food they need is already… ready, on condition that there is some prey around. The difference between herbivores and carnivores is not so clear-cut. Some animals are omnivores (all-eaters). They eat animals and plants as well. Their diet is more varied and less bound to a particular food source, giving them some evolutionary advantage. The human species is omnivore.
The reader never heard of the Exploitation Food Chain. I invented it.
At the top of the pyramid stand the refined High-technology Producers. They produce fast supercomputers, modern cars, tall skyscrapers, sophisticated composite-material alloys and so on. These products have a high added value (remember the VAT tax?). It means that they are worth much more than the value of the starting components: raw materials and labor force taken together. The offer-and-demand market of course, dictates the high price of the high technology products, so the high-technology producers had to invent some virtual additional component to justify the price. It is true that to reach a high technology level they must spend much time, energy and money, but nobody can measure whether these components are real or virtual. How can we measure how much is the R&D cost for one single PC? Perhaps it is half its price? Perhaps is just one percent of it? The high-technology producers sell their products to others of their kind, receiving similar products (or the money equivalent) in exchange, or to…
… The second layer: the Low-technology Producers. This layer lacks the virtual component represented by the added value. They have only raw material and labor force to offer in payment for the high-technology products they want to buy. Since the upper layer has something they don’t have, it can exploit them as far as they have goods worth enough. Do they have oil? Lets take it in change of brand-new cars!
I am not naïve. Of course the benefit is reciprocal: both parts are interested in the trade: Give me a brand-new car and I will make your car moving! Won’t you give me a tank? Your car’s tank will be dry!
In the interaction between the two layers sometimes something goes wrong. It happens when the lower layer cannot offer enough goods. Although the upper layer has the choice to refuse giving its high technology products, de facto it prefers to give less sophisticate (and less expensive) second-grade products in exchange for less priced raw materials. Or it gives the products on delayed credit. The Low-technology Producers so find themselves with a growing overdraft in their account. When a private citizen has an overdraft he takes a mortgage. If he cannot pay his debt, the bank takes his home from him. When a company cannot pay its debt, it goes bankrupt, and the bank takes the stock and the machinery left. But when a Low-technology nation cannot pay, there is a limit to the capability of the creditors to collect the debts: after all they cannot cut a piece of the territory and stick it to their country. They also cannot force the debtors to work gratis at their will. Slavery is already dead… or isn’t it?
The exploitation has many shades of gray: the producing corporations based in the rich, powerful high-technological countries found a few ways to get their money back. Sometimes they try to influence their governments to dictate their will to the low-technology countries. It’s a remote-control exploitation. Some of them found that it’s better to transfer the producing factories in loco, where they can get cheap labor force: the sole richness those people can give. It’s abundant and, because of this, low-priced. You can give them a piece of bread (or a fistful of rice or manioc flour) and get plentiful of hard work…
The poor people are not very pleased with the exploitation. Sometimes they make trouble: riots, revolutions. The more daring ones make terrorism. What ingratitude! After all if they weren’t working, they were starving.
You gave your little boy a lollypop; after that, you say to him he doesn’t deserve it, because he didn’t make his homework. He doesn’t give it back to you. You explain to him that you bought it with the money you earn working… that you have a work because you learnt a profession… and that you have a profession because you studied and made your homework when you were his age. He does not understand you: you gave him the lollypop! …You take it by force. He cries and, if he feels angry and strong enough, he kicks you… you know where. It hurts. You give him a smack. It hurts too. ‘Lets see who is stronger and more stubborn’.
You made the error in the first place: you had to explain to him the importance of homework before you gave him the lollypop in reward. But you gave it for free… what did you expect?
Another way to exploit the cheap manpower is to bring them to your home. You need their cheap work and you can control them, because they are a minority in your country. You can limit their numbers and rights by appropriate immigration lows. De facto they like to be in your country. They volunteer to be the new slaves, because they earn much more, make a better living than in their country of birth and, most of all, they know that, although they are strangers and lesser residents, at least their offspring, born in there, will be an integral part of the High-technology society. They are the new Kunta-Kinte taking roots into the upper layer. Many rich countries, after they opened the door, found that legal and illegal immigration plus high natural birth rate brought the minorities out of control. Where will the road lead? There is no way to go into reverse: unwanted overpopulation of foreign minorities is a very old problem: even the Pharaoh Ramses II failed to solve it with the Children of Israel…
So far I said nothing new: it looks very much as a curious and original description of the Neo-capitalistic answer to Karl Marx. But the neo-capitalistic economic theory deals only with the human interactions between the two upper layers…
There is the third lowest layer, basically identical to the parallel layer in the traditional Food Chain: Mother Earth.
Most of the world’s population resides in developing poor regions. Only a small part of them find their way to the rich western nations. Although their numbers in the developed countries is growing steadily, and will continue to grow in the future, the majority still live in their motherland, and their number is growing too, thank to some good presents given by the developed countries, namely antibiotics, basic machinery, chemical fertilizers and so on. They have a hard living; nevertheless most of them do not make trouble as revolutions or terrorism. They just work hard and manage to survive, exploiting what they have at hand (an doesn’t make objections): the natural resources of their land. Do they have forests? Is the timber worth money? They cut the forest. Sugar, coffee and tea plantation are more lucrative then tall trees? They cut the forest. Chemical fertilizers help the sugar-cane plantations? They use them without discrimination, choking the rivers and the lakes with the surplus. Are the tall trees just a nuisance to the more lucrative crops? They burn the forest. Who cares if the freed carbon dioxide is raising the global temperature? When their major problem is how to eat today, they cannot care less of the ‘Global greenhouse effect’. They do not even understand what you, the ‘Developed’, are talking about!
Who is taking the responsibility? …Yes, Developed, whether you like it or you don’t, it’s… YOU!
The Human Species as a whole is exploiting Mother Earth and devastating her ecology. When the Earth’s temperature increases to unbearable levels, when the seas are full of poison, when people is dying because of some uncontrolled disease, nobody will ask if all or just part of the humans were responsible for that. They will only ask why those who could do it, and knew how to do it, did not try to avoid the catastrophe.
The developed and rich countries (the top layer) can. They know how. They have the responsibility and they must do it before its too late!
But, of course they will not do it, unless… they are ready to pay now the high price, which is still cheaper than the price our grandchildren will have to pay.
The reader will now say “O.K., smart-aleck, enough with sermons. Can you tell us how much is that price you are fooling around with? Speak clearly. What are we supposed to do? Enough with abstract philosophy: give us concrete suggestions!
First of all the ‘Developed’ must assimilate the essence of the problem: the incoming ecological catastrophe is real and impending. Many of ours, unfortunately are not convinced, although the writing is on the wall. So the first priority, for those who understand, is to teach the others: ‘La Noblesse oblige’. Speaking of priorities, the time is come to change their order, to ‘switch diskette’ as someone says.
Most developed countries plan their economy. Every year the government presents the State Budget to the parliament and requests its ratification. The budget has mostly fixed clauses, because the departments’ assignments do not vary over the years. Since to accomplish some projects a longer time is required, the departments have also five-years plans. The allocation of funds for every clause varies according to the policy of the current administration, to the public needs and (hopefully) to the money the country has. The validity of any budget is limited in time, the last term being… the next Election Day. Longer planning is not possible, unless we… ‘switch diskette’.
We must plan the Global Economy thinking not of a few years from now, but of…2084.
Like every submitted law is subjected (in democratic countries) to the Constitution, every clause of the State Budget must first of all answer the basic question: “It is good or bad for the future state of health of Mother Earth?” If it’s bad it will get no public money. If it’s good it can even receive encouragement grants. For the strong-economy states (G-8) this rationale must comprehend the economic links with other countries. Lets give concrete suggestions for some departments:
Half of the department budget must be devoted to the development of alternative, environment-friendly sources of power: without reducing fossil fuel use there is no hope to reduce the greenhouse effect and the global warming.
Just double or triple the department budget. They are doing a wonderful job.
It’s not matter of budget, but of reorganization. Less lessons on past war’s heroes, more teaching on endangered fishes and flowers.
No matter of budget either. Their job is to organize the international cooperation needed to reach the goal. The main task will be to convince the related foreign countries to follow the same directives.
Industry & Commerce:
No way for compromises: any producing factory must be encouraged to reduce pollution. If necessary, it must be shot down. No license must be granted to any commercial activity, if it is clearly demonstrated that it is endangering the public health…
…I could continue the list, but it is clear to me that any administration implementing the above suggestions will not survive the next Election Day. The industries will make strong pressure; they will ‘ricochet’ with broad unemployment, bankrupt and exploitation of the gullible officials. Unemployed and tax-loaded citizens will vote for the Opposition Party and the game will be over before it begins. So we must think of a more practical and effective policy. Do we have one?
My modest opinion is that there is no point fighting against the system but, at the same time, I wish to make it clear that I am not taking any ‘political’ position. My personal point of view is that Neo-capitalism is a kind of ‘social evolution’ much alike the classical Darwinian evolution. It is not better or worse than Socialism, Colonialism or Feudalism. It is just what we have right now at hands, at the turn of the XXI century, and it is, apparently, the ’fittest’ system, as far as economic wealth is concerned. May be in the future we will have a better and ‘more just’ system, but, unfortunately, we have no time for waiting, as far as the ecological disaster is concerned. We must harness the Neo-capitalistic system for the purpose. It will be not an easy game, because we need to bridle a recalcitrant horse: the mighty multinational corporations. I suggest using the club-and-carrot approach to make them join the club. May be we don’t need to whet the spades to convince those poker faces to give us their hearts, if they understand they have a hand of diamonds. Must we change the rule of the game? Not necessarily: something new is already happening on the green table, and it is not just the color of the money.
The sensitivity for a healthier environment sprouted and blossomed in recent years, mostly in the developed countries. “Die Grünen”, “Greenpeace” and other similar groupings are making their voice heard in the streets as well as in the parliaments of Europe. They are also rolling up their green sleeves wherever there is a need, all around the globe.
Perhaps they are ‘the pillar of fire by night, from before the people’, but most people do not like to came too close to fire, they are afraid of burns and they keep a safe distance. They will take it only when it becomes less fierce. It will take some time although, meanwhile, time is running out.
The mighty international corporations have already started to learn the lesson. In recent years we see frequently endeavors to please the sensitive consumers. The industries found out that fulfilling the feelings is worth not less than satisfying the pocket of the potential clients. We see more and more the three curved arrows logo of ‘recyclable’ on packing, the writings ‘environmental friendly’ on spray bottles, ‘according to… standard’ on electric household appliances and ‘no artificial…added’ on soft-drink and food cans.
The big companies began to understand that they could make good money in the long range, if they are ready to reduce their immediate profits, addressing more efforts and money towards ‘ecological’ products. I do not care if the driving force is the fear losing a lucrative market: what counts is the result.
The new attitude is the swallow announcing the spring, but there are still many rain clouds in the sky.
The big companies are subjected to another kind of pressure: competition by the less sturdy producers, frequently based in the developing countries. The competitors can reduce their revenues for equivalent products with comparable performance, but they cannot finance R&D, so they copy the final products using cheaper (and frequently not environment-friendly) components. They can do it, because their clients care more of the price and much less of the influence on the surroundings.
The big companies are not saints too. To keep the prices low they produce health-hazardous products far away from the eyes of the environment-sensitive client, dumping and concealing the dangerous waste in the developing regions. Many previously untouched natural areas became the Developed World’s Dustbin.
Think of the following picture: you keep your own apartment very clean, dumping the garbage by the window, down in the street. The dustman never comes. How long it will take, until you feel the stench and until the flies come by the same window? O.K. you can bolt it, but… can you dump your garbage at the same time?
A wiser behavior is to seal your waste in hermetic (environment-friendly!) bags and make sure that the dustman takes them every day to the municipal garbage heap.
I could continue more, but I will conclude here, suggesting that we must find a way to accelerate a process already in the happening: the sensitization of Neo-capitalism to the environmental needs of Mother Earth. Ecological Neo-capitalism.
We have got a serious global problem. We need a global effort to solve it. Can we do it? … Wrong question! The right question is: Do we have the will? The answer: if we would… we could!
Unfortunately there are seemingly insurmountable obstacles to achieve the goal.
A global effort means international cooperation over the national interests. The problem is, of course, that every nation has domestic priorities, which in most cases do not fit the priorities of the world as a whole.
Lets’ consider the controversy between the rich, developed, temperate-zone countries and the developing tropical nations, regarding the greenhouse effect caused by the burning and destruction of the rain forest.
It is quite a few years that the developed countries, conscious of the contribute of the atmospheric CO2 on the global warming, are doing serious efforts to reduce the car emission and the industrial output of the greenhouse gas, but they feel that the developing countries are putting a spoke in their wheel, burning the tropical forest intensively and making their efforts hopeless: the forest fires produce more CO2 than all the vehicles do. The sin is double: less tropical forest means also less trapping of the atmospheric carbon dioxide. On the other hand Brazil, Indonesia and the other great tropical nations are not destroying the forest for fun. They just found an easy way to feed their huge population. The tropical forest is luxuriant thanks to the incessant precipitations and a thin layer of humus, produced by the rotting leaves fallen from the canopy and the shredding bark. Once people cut and burn the tall trees, they can grow abundant crops on the cleared land, though the Eldorado is short lived: the rain, leaving a barren unproductive land, rapidly washes out the fertile humus. The solution is, of course to nibble another piece of the never-ending forest…
Infrared satellite images taken in recent years show that the damage to the ‘Earth’s Lung’ is immense: if the destruction proceeds at the same pace a couple of decades more, there will no rain forest left.
Do the developing countries have another choice? It depends on the developed nations. People will stop destroying the forest when they have a better way to make a living. They need equipment for a more rational agriculture, industries, and remunerative commerce. But they are poor; they cannot afford the high price of rapid development. Some reach countries, though, try to help, mainly by devoting a small part of their richness trough the international institutions, but it is like an offering to silent their conscience. They ought to do much more to raise the economic level of the indigent countries: give a fish to a pauper and he will eat today. Teach him fishing and he (and his children) will make a living of it. The solution is plain. Why cannot we implement it? Because.
Saving Earth from ecological destruction is a common mission. We all have to do it together. We are in the same boat but, as in a convoy sailing home, some ships are swift destroyers, other slow cargos, and the overall velocity is the speed of the most sluggish steamer. The speedy battleships are rapidly losing eye contact with the explosive-laden cargos. When, at last, the U-boats come, it will be too late.
Enough with WWII literary expressions… I do not believe in the utopia of guardian angel rich countries leading the poor nation in Paradise. Too many particular interests are involved: who will buy second-quality television sets, if everybody can build excellent ones by himself?
We need a way to save the Amazons at the Andes’ feet.
If it depended on me I'd rather be a forest than a street. Yes I would, if I could, I surely would.
What are leaders for? To lead, of course. Whether great kings, evil dictators or democratically elected Prime Ministers, they fulfill a precise role in the society: whenever a lot of people gather together, there is a need for someone who tells the others what to do. Anarchy, the absence of leadership, is a beautiful utopia, but it doesn’t work. Social living needs order: every one has to give up something for the common welfare. Everybody understands that there must be rules; although often he doesn’t like to follow them, for every individual has rules of his own, not necessarily equal to the rules of somebody else (In this context the human species is a degradation, with respect to other animal societies, where everyone knows the rules and follows them, otherwise is expelled from and by the society within which he lives).
People choose their leaders between the best persons they can get, according to the society’s needs: the wise, the old, the strong, the handsome, sometimes just … the popular. In small societies the leaders accomplish the job alone; in greater ones other people help them: the Civil Servants.
Being part of the leadership gives great power within the society, and many people try to get ‘The Job’. They get also names according to their success: those who succeed so-so are called ‘Politicians’, those who demonstrate to be the best are remembered in the books of history as ‘Statesmen’.
Managing the society is like driving a car. Drivers must have the skill, follow the traffic rules and, mostly, be concentrated in the task. Clumsiness, defiance and daydreaming might result in a car crash and be fatal to the passengers. Politicians, leaders and even statesmen are (or… think they are) very good drivers; they hold firmly the wheel and look at the zigzagging road before them. They do not think of the panorama beyond the next hill. Drivers, as you know, ‘feel’ the car as a part of their own physical body, almost forgetting that it is, after all, a mechanical device subject to failures. No skilled driver can ‘feel’ an empting tank or an overheating engine, so on the dashboard there are those red tiny warning lights to tell him that something is going wrong. He can completely ignore them for the moment, if he wishes, but he knows that the car has a problem.
Societies have their warning lights too: people who send out their warning for free. I am not speaking about the ‘consultants’ frequently asked for advice. The society and the leaders want to hear their opinions and, sometimes, even take them seriously. Because they influence the public decisions they are, in a sense, an integral part of the leadership. I am speaking about people to whom the others do not listen. Their power resides in the fact that they have no power at all to influence the ongoing of the present society, but they are sensitive to the changing trends more than the common people and the leaders. They see ‘beyond the hill’. In the course of history they took various forms. They were sometimes the court’s fool, the only person that could say to the King “You are an idiot!” without being beheaded. The king booted him on the behind, (before the entire court), but, when alone in his bed, he could think: “If that idiot said to me that I’m an idiot, maybe I am, after all… I have certainly done something wrong, and nobody has the guts to tell me…”. Sometimes the warning lights are serious persons, even too serious: the Prophets of Doom. The Greek mythology had Cassandra; the Bible had Ezekiel and others. The truth of their prophecies is never accepted in their times, but is discovered much later, when the society has already changed and … is regretting that things could have be done better, if they only were listening…
Concluding, four types of ‘Public Persons’ manage our society:
The Politician, who says to others what to do, because he thinks he is right.
The Leader; the others do what he says, because they think he is right.
The Statesman, who is right in what he is doing, even if others think he is not.
And finally the Prophet of Doom, who is right in what he is saying, but of course, all the others do…their way.
Many of us are far from being convinced that we have a real survival problem on Earth, because it’s quite natural to hide our heads in the sand. Others do understand, but they do not take any action because they think that the problem is too big for them. How could a single person possibly fight against the global threat to our environment? They are excusable, though they are wrong: even the Long March began with that famous first step…
When common people cannot cope with big problems, the Leaders must do it.
After all… what are leaders good for?
But the leaders are very busy managing the present. How can they possibly find time and energy to manage the future?
Leaders speak a lot about the future, of course, especially in election times: promises, intentions, dreams, but nobody take their words seriously. Nobody really expects them to fulfill their long-term undertakes. Common people are very sensitive about the immediate future, but they do not really care what will happen to the next generation. If a leader decides to think and act seriously for the welfare of our grandchildren, nobody will give him/her vote at the next elections.
In most nations, a citizen must be at less 18 year old to vote.
Pity that the only people who will take actions to save our planet from the Ecological Doom are … still more than 18 years away from being born…
NOTE: This paragraph was written before the "Google Earth Era", so it's actually obsolete already.
If some good soul adds a few timelines and databases to Google Earth, TIME will be already on our granchildrens' desktop, without the need to travel to Manhattan.
Does it means that our granchildren have grown already?
Before I give some concrete examples of what could be done to save Mother Earth and the human species from Ecological Catastrophe, allow me to set fantasy free for a brief moment.
How wonderful would it be to get advice from the future generations! Just think what we would have said to our grandparents, who lived before WW II: “Look at the results. Is this the Future you dreamt for us?
We dream of a wonderful world for our grand-grand-children. They will live in the world that we will leave them. We don’t know how it will look like. We will not be there, then. We will not receive this letter, written by one of them:
Yesterday I went with Mom, Daddy and little sister Kathy to visit Manhattan, just 20 minutes by maglev from home, near Washington. I like to travel at 300 mph, but sister Kathy got sick, when the train slowed down, approaching Wall Bridge. I tried to imagine how Manhattan looked like in your times, before they built the wall all around. Daddy said that the sea level was 3 m lower.
We went out at Central Park Station, and walked trough the underground tunnel to the Dome of Remembrance. Men, it’s huge! Mom forced us to put on a hat and polarized sunglasses, but Daddy said that there was no danger of U.V. irradiation under the transparent Dome. “It’s made of glass and, besides, the Ozone hole is shrinking in the past ten years”. Of course he did not convince Mom, who smeared sister Kathy and me with 200% screen oil, all over our face and hands.
Children under 14 were not allowed to go outside of the Dome (even with the mask), to visit the Botanic Gardens. “The toxic gas level is too high for youngsters, today” said the doorman.
The Dome of Remembrance, as every child knows, besides little sister Kathy, is a museum to honor the memory of all the victims of the Ecological Catastrophe. Every country in the world has one, but ours is the biggest.
At the entrance they put a record on my ID. I have to show it to the principal, to prove him I was there. Every second grader must pay a visit and make a report of his impressions. What a bureaucracy! Grandpa calls it ‘The pilgrimage’ (it must be some obsolete bad world).
We descended to the Honeycomb. It is a labyrinth of hexagonal halls, each one of them dedicated to a different event. You must pass them all, before you proceed to the upper floor. We walked from hall to hall, passing rapidly Chernobyl Hall and Bhopal Hall and we entered Nevada Hall. Daddy became suddenly silent. Mom put a finger across her lips, looking at sister Kathy, and pinched me on the arm, signing to me to remain quiet. Daddy was with the NRF (National Rescue Forces) during the Las Vegas Evacuation. He goes every month to the hospital for a check up for lung cancer, but he is O.K. They said that there is still no need for genetic transfusion. He speaks seldom of the Nevada Catastrophe, but our teacher told us the whole story, as preparation for the visit to the Dome:
It all began when an un-forecast earthquake (8 Richter scale) shook Yucca Mountain. The radioactive waste spilled out of the disposal facility, polluting Central Nevada and the now called ‘Twice-Death Valley’. Although the entire area was declared ‘Interdict’, there were few causalities, because it is mostly desert… but why am I telling this for? You were alive, then, and you certainly remember! Twenty years later (you were already dead) we had the worst ‘Manitou’ of the century. The Manitou, called after the ‘Indian Spirit’ is a recent climatic event. The scientists also use the acronym NNN (North-American New Niño). Because of the global warming the poles are slowly melting. At the edges of the Northern Polar cap the water vapor cannot freeze anymore and accumulates. Once in five years or so a great ‘blob’ of it detach itself as strong cold wind blowing southward. Most of the times it goes over the Atlantic, but when it is discharged over Canada, it meets the warm pacific wind, causing floods and hurricanes in the southwest regions. Fortunately the meteorologists predicted the ‘Manitou’ two years in advance and calculated that the airborne radioactive waste would strike Las Vegas. It was the first time we had to abandon a big city, and many people at the beginning refused to do it. They were finally convinced when they saw the first signs of radioactive intoxication. The city was evacuated eventually at the last moment by the NRF (and Daddy), at great risk of their lives. Most of the waste ended into the Colorado River. Grandpa says that we shouldn’t have paid such a high indemnity to the Mexicans for the ecological destruction of the Gulf of California.
Up in the second floor we visited the Cormorant Hall, a remembrance of 34 oil spilling. They made it very simple: a 3D hologram of the dying bird and the names of ships and places. ‘Exxon Valdes’, ‘Amco Cadiz’, ‘Prestige’ and... ‘Krakatoil’, the last one. It happened fifteen years ago, when a tsunami caused the collision between the ‘Jahre Viking’ and the ‘Nissei Maru’ in the Malacca Straits. The spilled oil polluted the coast of Malaya, Sumatra, Java and Borneo. The forest fires exacerbated the situation, hampering the cleaning operations. They nicknamed the catastrophe after an ancient volcanic eruption.
I enjoyed the most the last part of the visit: TIME – the Three-dimensional Interactive Model of Earth. It occupies the center of the transparent dome and it can be seen from outside. TIME is a colorful hologram of Earth in ‘c’ scale (1:300,000), about 40 m in diameter, as seen from outer space, with mountains, oceans, clouds and all the rest. The hologram is not just a model, but a scaled reproduction of the planet as it actually is, the very moment you look at it. I saw a great spiral cloud over Cuba, and that meant that a real hurricane was passing over the Caribbean. A member of the staff gave us G-G (Glass and Glove. I will explain to it, ‘cause I think that in yours times only the aircraft pilots had a primitive version of it. Now every child knows how to use it. G-G is the basic Virtual Reality equipment. The glasses are technically called VVV – Virtual Voice & Vision. When you put them on, you see a panoramic screen with a few keywords on it. You can execute the commands saying one of them to the microphone or ‘touching’ an icon with your finger, which is actually inserted in the Glove, called also VTD – Virtual Touch Device. When I put the G-G on, I still saw TIME as before, then I switched to ‘grid’ and I saw the Earth as it is on the Atlas, with meridians, parallels and the names of states and big cities. I said ‘spots’ and an entirely different picture came out: now the Earth was covered with a myriad of tiny multicolor dots and larger spots, each one with a different meaning: red dots for quakes and volcanoes, orange dots for forest fires, yellow spots for radioactive-waste ‘interdict’ areas, violet spots for fatal-epidemics contaminated regions and so on. I zoomed in, ‘touching’ the yellow spot around Las Vegas and I saw an aerial view of the city and the present date, 20510423, in a corner of the screen. Las Vegas looked perfectly normal, then I said ‘- 20 Y’. The date changed to 20310423, and I saw many black dots moving in the streets. Here was the difference: 20 years ago Las Vegas was full of cars and people living in it, now it is an ‘interdict’ deserted ghost-city.
I zoomed on Africa. The continent was mostly covered with large violet spots, which shrunk when I got back to present time. The African population almost halved during this century, because of AIDS, Ebola II and other diseases. Now it is recovering slowly. The continent has not been declared ‘interdict’ for political reasons, but few people dare to go there. Those who travel there, do it on their own risk, because it is not possible to get Medical Insurance coverage. I hope that when I am an adult I will go there, to see what is left of the real tropical forest.
I returned the G-G to a member of the staff. She explained me that TIME is not just a game. In fact it is the simplified, didactic version of the equipment used by the Global Environment Monitoring Center, an UN-linked Authority, whose members collect information about anything of interest that may endanger the ecologic status quo of Earth. The Center resides in a white building, not far from the Dome. It is familiarly called “The Tetragon” or “The Cube”. The Center’s scientists and technicians convoy data from all the world, and give directives how to cope with any problem concerning ecology.
The staff member gave me a sticker with a formula on it: E=mc3 and explained proudly:
‘E’ for ‘Ecology’, ‘=’ for ‘is’, ‘mc3’ for ‘The Monitoring Center Cube.
Be happy up there, Grand-grand-pa, you don’t have to bother with the future of Earth anymore.
Your grand-grand daughter