State of Micronesia, 2016

My flash fiction story “State of Micronesia, 2016” has been published in Every Day Fiction:

http://www.everydayfiction.com/state-of-micronesia-2016-by-lori-schafer/

I had the inspiration for this story some time ago when I ran across a newspaper article about the Federated States of Micronesia, an island nation which is evidently one of the first to feel measurable and potentially disastrous effects of climate change. There is, in fact, a very real fear that the islands may disappear as sea level rises; this article presents a good summary of the situation as the Pacific Islanders see it: (http://www.pri.org/stories/2014-09-23/pacific-island-nations-theres-nowhere-left-run-climate-change). Now, I have since read contrasting viewpoints – including the view that Pacific Islands that are constructed from coral reefs are in no danger from global warming because the reefs will merely grow as sea level rises, and that the disastrous predictions being made by local governments are motivated by a desire to extort financial assistance from the world’s wealthier powers. However, as such arguments ring to me of the “climate change denial” that is still unfortunately so vocal and widespread, I’m not sure I’m willing to buy the science behind them without greater confirmation of its accuracy than some article somebody posted online.

In any case, I thought it was a concept worth exploring. Because even if the Micronesians are in no danger of losing their homelands, no one can deny that other populations have, in fact, already experienced significant, even culture-altering shifts in their native environments, particularly the Inuits of North America and other arctic peoples. Yet much as we like to believe that this problem only impacts those whose lives revolve around the ice or the sea, it affects all of us. The polar vortex that brought unusual bitter cold across the North last winter, and is expected to again this winter, the ongoing heat and drought out here in California – these are not merely matters of pleasant vs. unpleasant weather. At some point they will begin to affect our ability to provide for ourselves. And how are the Canadians keeping warm when the temperature drops to forty below? By burning fuel. How are agricultural products transported to California’s millions of residents? By fuel-burning trucks. We are not merely battling climate change; climate change itself may actually increase our demands on the planet. And I, for one, am not convinced that our technology is going to be able to keep up with the pace of our environmental destruction.

My story was not well-received by the readers at Every Day Fiction – and frankly even I would agree that many of their criticisms were justified, particularly in the way I’ve portrayed the grandfather character. He is almost a caricature. And I did, in fact, think long and hard about that when I was writing the story. But in the end, that was how I saw him: as an outdated, outmoded, one-dimensional Old World character. Because to me, only such a man would persist in denying what we see happening all around us.

State of Micronesia 2016

7 thoughts on “State of Micronesia, 2016

  1. Charli Mills

    I’m a curious bystander in life. You know, the one sitting on the front porch with binoculars. I learned of the plight of the Baffin Island Inuit in late winter of 2007 when arctic explorer and climate change advocate, Will Steger, came out of retirement to raise awareness (look up his awesome organization Climate Generation: A Will Steger Legacy. By his invitation, I gave a presentation at one of his education summits to discuss the role of local food systems. You bring up an interesting point of impact: The more we react to climate change’s severe weather patterns, the more we increase our planetary demands. My second novel which I drafted, but still have much to fill in regarding science gaps, is a cli-fi centered on Baffin Island. I observe that the earth counter balances in unexpected ways. And I also believe in the resiliency of humanity. As writers of literature, we can bring awareness in ways that help readers imagine different possibilities and have empathy for characters enough to extend empathy to the cultures they represent.

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  2. sirgb

    Reblogged this on sirgb's Blog and commented:
    In most of the cases you have that plus to inspire.
    Unfortunately, no matter how sounds sad, we have no choice, but to erode our surround. From point of view of the II Law, we humans, as the biological living systems with the possible lowest entropy ever known, require an expenditure of energy to maintain the living state of matter.
    We don’t violate the laws of physics – to maintain high degree of order we must make a high degree of disorder in surround. We as creatures are of dynamic nature, with tendencies to accelerate. Much of the energy wasted in modern industrial economies is the price we pay for speed. But, even we all convince ourselves to go 100% Amish, the increase of entropy will continue just with much slower rate. To destroy (reduce the orderliness) the environment is just a law! There is we or the environment.

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  3. sirgb

    In most of the cases you have that plus to inspire.
    Unfortunately, no matter how sounds sad, we have no choice, but to erode our surround. From point of view of the II Law, we humans, as the biological living systems with the possible lowest entropy ever known, require an expenditure of energy to maintain the living state of matter.
    We don’t violate the laws of physics – to maintain high degree of order we must make a high degree of disorder in surround. We as creatures are of dynamic nature, with tendencies to accelerate. Much of the energy wasted in modern industrial economies is the price we pay for speed. But, even we all convince ourselves to go 100% Amish, the increase of entropy will continue just with much slower rate. To destroy (reduce the orderliness) the environment is just a law! There is we or the environment.

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    1. lorilschafer Post author

      Wow! So what do you think is the ultimate inevitable result? I suppose entropy, by definition, can only lead in one direction – does this mean that any civilization is inherently doomed?

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      1. sirgb

        Wish I can give you that answer. One physicist was the best in definition of “life”, and this is the best point to start. He, the owner of world’s most famous cat said: “Life is something that resists decaying to disorder.” The genuine solution for defying the entropy nature invented is “life”. But, to have at least one something in Universe that can last, there is a price to pay (e.g. locust destruction). Inherently doomed.. a bit yes, but just until the moment our technology is developed to the level that allow us to colonise the space. One is for sure, what is inherently doomed is always the environment we live in.

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