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The decades of escalating heat and dryness, which inevitably returned with a vengeance after some years of waning, had reduced the world’s food production to a mere shell of its former glory. The grocery stores, whose well-stocked shelves city dwellers had grown accustomed to, were now all boarded up and abandoned after being ransacked for their remains – expired cans of food. Industrial agriculture could only be subsidized for so long by an over-exploited and abused environment, but nobody ever really thought that day would come. The green revolution was supposed to be the answer to feeding the world’s growing population. Unfortunately it turned out to be yet another Ponzi scheme built on a finite, dwindling energy source, the burning of which was destabilizing the climate. Nearly all the mega cities and great metropolises had turned into death traps and were quickly emptied of their human inhabitants after a series of violent riots sparked by starving populations. Areas where water was still plentiful were inundated with refugees. Nonetheless, a small population of human scavengers had remained in these great ghost cities of the Post Industrial Age and managed to eke out a life while enjoying the somber solitude of decaying edifices and vacant streets.


A few of these remnant city-dwellers frequented the dust-laden corridors of old libraries. Television and other electricity-depenedent digital devices, which had once been so pervasive and addictive, were no longer available after the heat engine of carbon-based civilization broke down. Thus books and the written word were the surviving medium for amusement and escapism. Even in these desperate times, people found time to dream and wonder. When the grid flickered and finally blinked out for good, much of what had passed for entertainment was now viewed in retrospect as a widespread collective mental illness. The citizenry of the fossil-fuel crazed civilization had retreated further and further into an artificial world of digital bytes and glowing computer screens while the natural world had disintegrated around them.


The recent past leading up to the final days of industrial civilization was looked upon as an age of irony. Science and technology had created miraculous abilities to save lives while at the same time enabling the wholesale destruction of mankind through hi-tech weaponry. Knowledge and wisdom were available at the touch of a keystroke, while mass death and misery hinged on the push of a button. People appeared on the surface to be free, yet their thoughts and actions were carefully manipulated by a veil of infotainment; people’s lives were affected much more by things left unspoken. The pursuit of “happiness” became the law of the land; the pursuit of truth was criminalized and viewed as the deviant behavior of malcontents and miscreants. Questioning the dominant paradigm was obstructive to progress; solutions to the world’s problems were entrusted to ideologues of free-market capitalism and worshippers of endless technological advancement.


A reduction in complexity was inevitable, but did it have to come at the expense of a bankrupt planet? Cheap and abundant energy slaves no longer existed, and even if they did, there was nothing to transition to on a planet plagued with a destabilized climate for the next millennium. The human population would never again reach anything like the 9 billion at the zenith of the fossil fuel age, and this was a welcome thought for those few who remained. Quoting from a dog-eared book found by one of the humans scavenging in a library, or “book cemetery” as it was now known:

What is the greater danger – nuclear warfare or the population explosion? The latter absolutely! To bring about nuclear war, someone has to DO something; someone has to press a button. To bring about destruction by overcrowding, mass starvation, anarchy, the destruction of our most cherished values-there is no need to do anything. We need only do nothing except what comes naturally – and breed. And how easy it is to do nothing…

…Democracy cannot survive overpopulation. Human dignity cannot survive [overpopulation]. Convenience and decency cannot survive [overpopulation]. As you put more and more people onto the world, the value of life not only declines, it disappears…

And not much did survive. But for those last vagabonds of humanity, the tragedy of the Great Collapse and mankind’s downfall were the grist of post-apocalyptic folklore, never to be forgotten.