Highlight text to annotate itX
By 2100, New York was enduring an excruciating 70 days a year above 100 degrees (as predicted), so we abandoned it. The other coastal hells, too. Rising sea levels coupled with the inherent seismic instability of living near the boundaries of tectonic plates drove our people inland, leaving the coastlines and engineered seawalls an unpredictable frontier upon which the brave make a living and the destitute subsist, far away from the safety of the megacities. I’ve heard rumors that some six-footers live out there, gulping down great quantities of diseased fish to support the nutritional demands of growing to such an incredible height. They wouldn’t last long in the close confines that house so much of the world’s population.
Most of us moved late in the twenty-first century, after the famines and population growth made rural or even suburban life untenable, a trend sociologists began to observe late in the Twentieth. The scrubbers keep our air safe from the antibiotic-resistant bacteria and the massive fans stir up a cool breeze; you barely notice the combination of the outside temperature and the radiant heat of millions of densely packed bodies. You can choose air conditioning for half of the day—I can’t sleep without it at night—but there’s not enough juice for a full 24. Our towers, topped with solar cells and stacked stories of ultracapacitors, soar far above the clouds. It’s so much cooler up here.
The middle of America is still our Breadbasket. Breadbasket haha, only rich people get bread. It’s more like the Algae-and-Solar-Farmbasket. The robots live there, loading onto electrified rails great vats of nutrient-rich sludge harvested from stinking pools that used to have names like Iowa. Kansas. Ne-bras-ka. Fat cables stacked next to the tracks pipe power from the photovoltaic arrays out to the walls, constantly pumping to keep the oceans at bay.
THERE USED TO BE PLUSH, PADDED CHAIRS IN AIRPLANES, AND EVERYONE GOT ONE. PASSENGERS USED TO LOUNGE AROUND, DRINKING FREE JUICE OF TOMATO AND WATCHING TV.
Life here is predictable and safe. There is no crime and plenty of food from the faucet. Though our ancestors used to commute—actually leave their homes and work in completely different buildings!—we never have to leave our units. The companies who gave us telepresence once boasted that they could keep cars off the roads; now nobody owns cars, and few people use roads. There’s no need for such excess, and besides, working from home lets us consume fewer calories, the only currency we worry about anymore.
A very few people have to travel, and they take planes. It is supposed to be miserable: hundreds of poor souls crammed standing inside a metal tube for hours on end. There used to be plush, padded chairs in airplanes, and everyone got one. Passengers used to lounge around, drinking free juice of tomato and watching TV. And because that wasn’t luxurious enough, there was a whole other section devoted to being even more comfortable. Huge chairs, hot food, servants. Haha, their utensils were probably made of gold or petroleum-based plastic or something.
With such a plush experience, it’s no wonder that people used to spend much of their precious vacation time on planes, so accustomed to luxury that reclining seats were considered a right rather than a privilege.
At least we take up less room these days. In the mid-21st century parents started realizing that their children would have better lives if they were smaller. Small changes in diet from a young age had massive effects on a person expected to live efficiently. Height, once seen as an attractive quality became, like so many other vestiges of uncivilized life, superfluous, and we awakened to the beauty of miniaturization. Fashion websites started featuring sustainably sized people shown next to small objects for scale. A woman next to a fire hydrant. A man riding a dog.
Eventually the gene pool responded, and average heights dropped by six inches in 25 years: a mirror-like reflection of the 19th century’s planetary growth spurt. By taking up even just a little less space, we could fit more of our kind on our wilting world. Nature.
The other day I was watching a historical internet feed where a group of six-footers complained about space on an airplane, one of the older ones that had seats. One tried to recline into the personal space of another—oh no, you’re close to me!—and then, when he stopped her chaise’s descent, she doused him with an entire container of fresh water. (This is an old custom that required he pay $100 to an Ebola patient.) What a waste! But imagine the life back then: free tomato juice and peanuts, so much water that you could just throw it around, and a freewheeling charitable spirit that stretched across the globe. With such excess, it’s no wonder we ended up where we are, but who can blame them? 2014 must truly have been the golden age of flying.