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Monday, August 15, 2011

Where have all the people gone?

Where have all the people gone?

by Daniel Bailey, Skeptical Science, August 9, 2011

There was a time when the crumbling towers around me held people. 
The world was a much different place, then.  SFIt was a time when the deserts of Braska and Gowga were verdant fields, when the rains fell in just the right amounts at just the right time, when people soared like eagles in their metal sky-kites and walked the streets now below my keel.   They say men even crossed across the then-frozen Sea of Northern Lights from Canda to Rusha on sleds pulled by dogs over the ice.  Some even say that people once went to the Moon and trod its surface (Oh, the things some people say!).  The fields, the rains which watered them, the sky-kites, the city below me and the people who lived then, all gone now.
That was before the world changed.  Sorry, that wasn’t quite right.  Before WE changed the world.  Before we knew that the way people lived back then, the lifestyle they led, came at a price.  A price that would end up being paid in human blood.  What they didn’t realize then was the tiny byproducts of their energy sources, the carbon, accumulated in the air, the water and the soil.  Not a lot, but enough to change things.
It happened slowly, at first.  Nights stayed a little warmer, the autumns would last a little longer, the winters would start a little later, spring would come a little earlier.  Not every year, but more and more, the seasons changed.  The great ice in the North was the first to yield, they say.  The thick crust covering the Sea of Northern Lights, the Arctic they called it, thinned.  Eventually it melted in summer, only to regrow in winter.  But each winter it was less than the last and soon it was gone.
The once-frozen ground in Canda and Rusha turned soft, like warm butter, yielding up vast stores of even more carbon.  Greenland’s great glashurs stirred to life, flooding the sea with immense blocks of ice the size of mountains.  And soon the Land at the Bottom of the World began to stir.  They say its Western part, the Wace, slid into the sea in the lifespan of a man.
The world-ocean began to rise, reaching hungrily for the works of man.  Man fought back, building great walls to keep the wolf at bay.  But soon the rising tide proved too much.  And one-by-one, the great cities of the coast, like the one under me, Myame, were left to their end.
The forests, once vast (before man a squirrel could travel from sea-to-sea via branch and vine without stepping paw on the ground), finally succumbed to timbering, drought, pestilence and disease, yielding their own carbon.
The fields dried, producing less food.  The rains, when they came, fell in great cloud-bursts, washing away the best soils for crops.  Food, once abundant, became scarce.  Mankind began to quarrel over what was left.  No one knows who started it, but war came.  First in skirmishes, then great battles were fought.  The number of man, once almost beyond count (it is said men could walk 4 abreast in rank and file around the entire world and the line would never end), began to dwindle.  And the Bombe itself was used, repeatedly.
The world, once home to billions, now barely supports not much more than once lived in the city below me.  For the oceans were also changed by the tiny carbon, becoming wet deserts with little life.  Sometimes the sea itself turns red like blood.  This event, once rare, is happening more often, now.  And the waters of the Sea of Northern Lights bubble and boil...

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