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Part 5: History

 


Our wander downtown was probably the most familiar part of my time in the year 2030. I had lived in Europe, so I knew the look and feel of a pedestrianized town centre—and I liked them. I liked the new downtown Vancouver, too, with its courtyard cafés, strolling musicians and living statues. Some things don’t change much once you’ve found a winning formula. No homeless people, I noticed—I’d have to learn about that on another trip.

When our hour was up, we used an elevator to go to the top of one of Vancouver’s tallest buildings, and Johanna led me down a few corridors, past a reception desk where they were expecting us, and into the office of one John Michael Williams, CEO of a big mindware company who had, as Johanna explained on the way up, been a cabinet minister in the government of BC at the time when everything went crazy, and the big changes started to happen.

“How do you know him?” I asked.

 

 





Guy Dauncey's “My Journey to 2030” in five parts:


Part 1: Home

Part 2: City

Part 3: Farms

Part 4: Economy

 


“Very mundane,” she said. “No big love affairs, or anything like that. We were at school together.”

John Michael was a very affable man with a warm handshake, who was running short on time, but could spare 15 minutes, because—as he said to me in a quiet aside—“I’ve got a soft spot for Johanna.”

“So, how can I help you?” he asked. “Johanna says you want to understand how BC came to hit the Go Zero goal so soon.”

“Yes,” I replied, not sure whether to be casually affable or nervously polite. I just hoped he didn’t ask me anything about Iceland.

“You have to understand, we inherited a very good position when the government I was part of was hit by the crisis in 2015. The previous governments, going back to 2007, had set the province on a very firm course towards carbon reductions, so everyone knew what the game was, and how important it was. Some of them, at least.”

“It was 2015 when the shit really hit the fan. The world already had a new Kyoto Treaty that had been crafted in Copenhagen in 2009, committing most countries to substantial reductions, and many of the important programs were in place, but we still weren’t getting the traction we needed as a planet. 2015 was the year, in January, when the global science community finally stopped being so fastidiously careful in everything they published, and came out en masse with their new report saying, ‘It’s too late. You ignored our warnings. We’ve passed the critical tipping points, and now there’s nothing we can do that will stop the temperature from rising by 2 degrees, then three, and then six, bringing ecological catastrophes and mass extinctions, including for most humans.’

“The forest fires were particularly bad that year. At one point they were burning all the way up the west coast from Los Angeles to Prince George—it was biblical in the scale of devastation. Five million people had to leave their homes, and 30,000 families lost their homes to the fires. Then came the November downpours right on top of the fires, and whole mountainsides that had lost their cover were washed away in torrents of mud, carrying away roads, sewers, and gas pipeline. It was unbelievable. It had already been a scorching summer with temperatures above 40° C for weeks on end, and a hurricane season that had devastated both Houston and Halifax.

“People finally woke up that year,” he continued. “Children around the world united, and used the Internet to declare a week-long strike when said they would refuse to attend any classes unless they were taught about climate change, and what they could do. ‘This is our future you’re messing with,’ they said, ‘we demand a say.’

[pagebreak] GVO-studentsprotest_1.jpg“In England, a group of teenagers took things one step further and launched a class action suit in which they were joined by 16,000 other young people accusing Britain’s government of ignoring their future, obliging them as future taxpayers to pay far more to cope with the looming disasters to come than would be necessary if only Britain would act now. It was a bit unfair, because Britain was at the head of the pack, but in terms of what was needed, it was still nowhere near enough. The court ruled in their favour, which totally shocked Britain’s establishment, and led to similar lawsuits being launched by young people all over the world.

“With progressive leaders running coalition governments that included the Green Party in most European countries, the U.S. fully on board, and China beginning to show up as a very significant post-carbon technology leader, the scene was set for major action. The world economy was strong again after the recession, so demand for oil was soaring and speculators had driven the price up to $250 a barrel, which had everyone screaming.

“You following me so far?” he asked. “It’s years since I’ve had the pleasure of doing this. It’s quite enjoyable really, knowing how far we’ve come.”

 

 





Guy Dauncey's “My Journey to 2030” in five parts:


Part 1: Home

Part 2: City

Part 3: Farms

Part 4: Economy

 


“I’m following every word,” I said, desperately trying to fix it all into my memory. But would anyone believe me, back in 2008? That was something I’d have to worry about later—assuming I ever got back there.

John Michael continued.

“That fall, the world’s leaders met for an emergency climate summit in Paris, where they agreed that as many countries as possible would go for zero by 2030. To back their ambitions, they wrote the Climate Solutions Treaties that have been in place ever since—collective global agreements in which nations work together to speed up most of the solutions, such as the global standard that requires the highest level of energy efficiency in all appliances, and the global solar treaty that has expanded uptake dramatically, driving down the price so that everyone can get on board. It was these treaties that enabled The Great Acceleration to happen. There were also treaties to close down most of the world’s coal mines by 2030, and to not open any new ones unless they included the still untried carbon capture technology.”

“There was one other piece that I should include, but I do have to leave in a minute. It was a global agreement that every three years, each nation should publish a report on the costs and impacts of climate change, looking ahead to the year 2095—this was one of the rulings that the judge had made in the British children’s class action suit, requiring governments to spell out exactly how bad things were going to be—or not, as the case might be. It was this ruling that led our government to discover—and be forced to publish—that most of the Lower Mainland could be under two metres of water by 2095, and Vancouver’s summer temperature could be in the 40’s for weeks on end.”

“Anyway, I do have to leave now,” he said. “It’s been nice talking with you. I hope this has been helpful.”

“I do have one more quick question, if I may,” I said, knowing it might be my only chance. “Did the Green Party ever form a government in BC during these years?”

“Well, funny you should ask”, John Michael said. “Because, yes, they did—and it was a good thing, too. It came about because of a referendum that was held in May 2009, when the people of BC voted in favour of reforming their voting system to make it more proportional. As soon as that was in place, the Greens’ 10, 20 percent share of the vote started turning into seats, and before you could turn round, they were in coalition governments, first with one party, then the other. It was quite amusing at first, until the mainstream politicians began to realize that the Greens had a much better handle on the climate crisis than they did, and started wooing them for support. They’re still in the current coalition government now, by the way.”

And with that, our meeting was over—except for one thing. As we were leaving, and John Michael had given Johanna a rather fond farewell kiss, he said, “It’s not over, by the way. Don’t go getting any ideas that simply because BC is at Zero Carbon, we’re out of the woods. Far from it. We’re still working desperately hard behind the scenes to get the rest of China, India, and other countries on board—and we’ve still got to find a way to use the world’s forests and grasslands to suck the excess carbon back out of the atmosphere. 280—that’s the new goal we’re all chasing—getting atmospheric CO2 right back to where it was before the Industrial Age started. 280. Don’t forget it, back in Iceland!”

And with that final comment, my trip to 2030 was suddenly over. As Johanna and I came out of the building, I tripped and fell to the ground, hitting my head on one of the Bixi Bikes racks. As I fell, those strange vibrations came over me again, charging my whole body, and I must have blacked out, just as I did when I fell off my bike at the beginning of my adventure.

When I came to, it was all over, as if it had never happened. I was back on the street in Vancouver where I had fallen off my bike, and there was a crowd of people leaning over me, trying to help. I was back in the year 2008—and honest to God, that is my story.

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Guy Dauncey

Guy Dauncey is a speaker, writer, and organizer who works to develop a positive vision of a sustainable future, and to translate that vision into action. He is author of the award-winning book Stormy Weather: 101 Solutions to Global Climate Change, and nine other titles. He is president of the BC Sustainable Energy Association, Executive Director of The Solutions Project, and publisher of EcoNews, a monthly newsletter that promotes the vision of a sustainable Vancouver Island. For full details, see Guy’s website at www.earthfuture.com

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To sign up for EcoNews, see www.earthfuture.com/econews