Tag Archives: global warming

State of Micronesia, 2016

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


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

Nightmare in Hot Springs II: Death Springs Eternal

(a continuation of this post)

The sinkhole at Mammoth does not only contain fossils of mammoths. Other large animals did occasionally slide down the slippery slopes and become trapped inside, but the excavations conducted so far have indicated that such events were comparatively rare. Many of the other mammals and scavengers that resided in the area, having in general paws and claws, were more likely to be able to scramble their way out of the hole if they did end up inside it than the mammoths with their flat, poorly gripping feet. One notable exception is a truly rare find indeed, the bones of one Arcdotus Simus, the giant short-faced bear.

Giant Short-Faced Bear

He wasn’t lightly termed a giant; this fifteen-hundred pound beast stood twelve feet on his hind legs, while his height at the shoulder when he was on all fours matched that of a human.

This brutish fellow makes the modern-day black and grizzly bears (shown below on the left) look perfectly cuddly by comparison. Indeed, it puts one in mind of other Ice Age creatures, like the saber-toothed cat, which was similarly a bigger and far nastier version of the modern-day mountain lion.

Bear Skulls

What an amazing continent this must have been, in the days of the Ice Age! It’s difficult to imagine creatures of such size and ferocity living alongside humans – perhaps because they don’t anymore. It’s even hypothesized that it was not climate or habitat change, but man himself that directly caused the extinction of the oversized animals that were once plentiful upon the North American continent. Is it a coincidence that many of these species – which could have had few natural predators – went into decline with the arrival of human hunters?

There have in human history been numerous cultures that derived a majority of their sustenance from a single species like the mammoth, which could provide not only food, but clothing and shelter as well. Witness, for example, the mammoth bone houses built by ancient tribes of the Ukraine, Poland, and the Czech Republic:

Mammoth Bone House

Mammoth Bone House Inside

Imagine how eerie it feels to the modern person, accustomed to walls of wood or stone, to sit in the barely penetrable darkness surrounded by hundreds of bones of long-dead creatures, the sounds from outside the hut muffled by the skins covering the enclosure. To the ancients who lived in such places, one must have been continually reminded of what a gift the mammoth was to the humans who hunted it, of how tremendously its death could improve the lives of those who sought it.

Mammoth Bone House from Inside

But one can imagine, too, how too much dependence on a single species could ultimately lead to the failure of a culture or a people. Many animal species have been hunted to their ultimate demise; however, probably countless more have become extinct indirectly, owing to loss of habitat, to man’s “conquest” of the environment. And it is not the only so-called lesser animals that are vulnerable to losing their livelihood in this manner. The Plains Indians provide a classic example of a similar disaster befalling humans. For ultimately it was not the war against the Indians that defeated the Indians; it was the vanishing of the buffalo, the reduction of their range, the wholesale slaughter of herds for their furs. Without the buffalo, the people of the Plains had no means of making a living on the land for which they fought. In his lack of regard for animal, man once again destroyed man.

There was a final exhibit at the Mammoth Site concerning recent newsworthy finds, particularly in Russia, of carcasses of mammoths found frozen and nearly intact, so well-preserved by the frost, in fact, that the meat was still good. This represents a fascinating development in the study of archaeology, for it is my prediction that as global warming continues and previously glacialized areas are exposed, we will discover more and more bodies of Ice Age creatures that have been cryogenically preserved down through the ages. Indeed, areas like Russia, much of which is, and historically has been, wilderness, are likely rife with such remnants long ago buried in snow and in ice. There have been no visitors to disturb them, no people to poach the tusks, no dogs to drag away the bones.

But in spite of the immeasurable boon to science, I fear it will be but a small comfort, as the ice around the earth melts away, if we uncover the remains of long-lost creatures that flourished during the last Ice Age and are able to study them. For much as we may admire the creatures who came before, their bones and flesh can only serve as a grim reminder of the extremes of which our planet is capable, and of what can happen to species that are ill-prepared to adapt to drastic shifts in the weather.

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