Posted in Climate Change, Fiction, Planetary renewal, The Journey

Another possible future

In the excerpt of my novel The Journey that I posted yesterday Terran, a young botanist travels through the land laid bare by unchecked climate change. Today’s excerpt is from further along in the story. Terran and her companion Raven have been rescued by a group of riders and taken to Jedahra, a settlement in a protected ravine. There, Terran is taken to a greenhouse by two of her rescuers, Red and Kya. The biodome mentioned in this excerpt is where she worked the institute, an isolated prepper community. At this point in the story Terran no longer has her laptop.

Everything inside the greenhouses was thriving. A memory of the sickly plants she’d seen on her last morning in the biodome flashed across Terran’s mind.  Here row after row of seedlings glowed with glossy vitality.  Despite her anxieties the sight of such healthy growth made her feel more at ease. As she took it all in, Red got to work cranking back the hand operated blinds that screened the roof. Terran watched the process intently. 

‘We cover the glass roof and windows during the night to trap in the hot air,’ he said, seeing her interest. ‘Those black rocks over there absorb the sun’s heat during the day and release it at night when the temperature drops. Because they are porous we douse them with water when it’s very dry.  As the rocks heat up they then release moisture vapour.’ Terran filed the information away in her mind as she took in the piles of volcanic rocks mounded up between the trays of seedlings. Maybe they could do something similar at the biodome. It would be better than struggling to maintain their faulty electrical apparatus.  Ideas for images about the processes began to form in her mind and, yet again, she wished she had her laptop.

‘The blinds are also useful for protecting delicate plants from the intense rays of the sun,’ Kya said as she bent over a row of bushy seedlings. ‘We’ll plant these babies out in the Salt Lands next autumn. They’ve got a lot of work to do and should be strong enough to withstand the conditions out there by then. They’re a very hardy variety of saltbush and provide good ground cover. Getting them established is the first step towards creating healthy soil. They help with erosion problems too.’ She pulled a couple of the weaker seedlings out of the planter trays and disposed of them in a compost bucket. 

‘Of course it’s all trial and error,’ Red said. ‘We never know for sure that our ideas will work.’ He gave one of his good-natured laughs. ‘We just try them anyway. We figure we’ve got nothing to lose.’

‘That sounds like a risky strategy,’ Terran said, falling back on the institute idea that it was better to stick with methods that were somewhat successful rather than attempt a different approach that might end in dismal failure.

‘What’s the alternative?’ Red asked. There was no laugh this time. No attempt to lighten the moment. Just a bleak stare. ‘You’ve been out in the Salt Lands. You’ve seen what it’s like out there. If we don’t try and restore environmental health things will only get worse.’

‘The old practices of clearing land for broadacre crops and irrigating it with water from underground aquifers caused the salt in the soil to rise to the surface out on the plains. A lot of our work involves reducing the salt levels in the soil,’ Kya said, moving on to rows of eucalyptus saplings growing in planter pots. ‘These eucalypts help stabilise the soil because their long taproots take the salt down deep into the soil. We’ll plant this lot out in the Salt Lands when the autumn rains come.’ She stroked the leaves tenderly.  

‘Our ultimate aim is to re-green barren areas so that they become a carbon sink.  The more green cover we can create, the more carbon is drawn out of the atmosphere and fixed into the soil.  Reducing atmospheric carbon is always our first priority,’ Red said.  He’d finished cranking back the blinds and was now pulling tools out of a storage cabinet. ‘There’s more carbon in the atmosphere now than there has ever been. If we don’t try to reduce it, the problems we face will just get worse. We have to do what we can.  Even when we feel hopeless we have to keep trying to make a difference. I guess you could say our approach is risky,’ he added thoughtfully as he piled the tools he’d selected into a handcart.  ‘The risks we take are calculated though. Just what we plant and where we plant it is something we spend a lot of time considering and planning. That’s why Amara is keen to see your research. You travelled through areas we know little about.’

Terran felt like a fool. She’d been judging everyone and everything she came across by the values she’d been taught at the institute. Even though she’d come to question those values they still influenced the way she saw the world. Her own narrow-mindedness had blinded her to the greater purposes that motivated the people of Jedahra. A sudden awareness of how deeply Kya, Red and people across the Alliance cared for the wellbeing of the world around them humbled her. ‘Thank you for helping me,’ she said. ‘You saved my life.’

‘It’s the Jedahran way,’ Kya smiled. 

‘It’s been fun too,’ Red said.  He gave her a fatherly pat on the shoulder and began pulling the cart down the aisle between two rows of seedlings.

Terran could see they were both eager to get to work.  Leaving them to it she left the greenhouse and took the path Kya told her would bring her to the study gardens. 

The Journey is available on Amazon (link in sidebar). 

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I'm an artist and a writer living by the coast in southern Oz.

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