Having gotten that off my chest, I only have one more thing to say about the last post: “Without followers, evil cannot spread.” – SPOCK, from Star Trek: The Original Series, “And the Children Shall Lead.”
This is what I have been pondering of late. I am completing research into what the future holds for my third book in the Caitlin Ferguson Mysteries, which starts out in the year 2031. (When I started this series, that was a long way away, but now it is only ten years away!)
What would readily available if civilization crashes as we know it? Would it be like what we see in the movies, lots of looting, lots of crazy shootings, roving gang-like packs, and many people running amok? Recently, RTD stated it doesn’t have enough money to expand the train lines up through Boulder, Longmont and Louisville. We voted and have been paying for this with our tax dollars since 2004! The fund has accumulated to about $243 million so where is that money? Boulder officials have asked of RTD about this and the responses have been vague. RTD officials are now saying it might be 2050 before we get this line. The Governor says he is looking into it. In addition, is that money still available for us, or have they been dipping into it for other projects? Working recently with my son who is learning to drive, and wondering if he will ever get through it to get his license, he may have to depend on buses and trains in the future to get to the University. This system is not as viable as they say it is and I would like to see changes before 2023 when he graduates.
So what are the transportation options in 2031? Still limping along like now? That is only ten years from now. When I started my book series, this seemed like a long way out, but now the reality is here. The pandemic reduced commuter traffic enormously because people weren’t going to jobs. They hunkered down. Moreover, pollution went away! Couldn’t the railroad system be a better option than crazy, crazy traffic and pollution?
In the book, my assumption is that the trains are still available, and my characters had a means to flee into the foothills and mountains using rail or bus transportation, as well as any vehicles that they had or could get their hands on. Gas would still be available, but with no new supplies coming in it would be a matter of time before the characters would have to use other means of transportation. Would individuals still commute to Denver on the highways? Would the highways still be viable? With the collapse of the HWY 36 Bridge in 2019, how can we know that this won’t happen again? What would be alternative roads that we would use and how quickly would they deteriorate in my book time frame?
The pandemic death toll is now at 442,000 (2/2/21) in the USA, 2.2 million worldwide. We have begun to slow down the number for the first iteration of COVID-19, but the variants keep coming and the vaccines are slow in coming. In the book, I factor in a tear or rift opening up in the sky, and beings pouring through, thus decimating more of the population. So, unless we can get a handle on the virus, how can we get a handle some future threat? There will continue to be fewer people at fewer jobs unless we make sacrifices and dramatic and creative changes in how we do business with people and the planet. Civilization will continue to change during present day, and will deteriorate to become something so foreign in the future, if we don’t pay attention. How we embrace those changes and make something better will make a difference for our children and grandchildren in the future. New leadership will make a difference, but we have to put aside petty grievances for the greater good.
Taking all of this into account for the new book, realistically how many people are left in the area where my characters live? I have been guessing about one-half of the population, but it may be more depending on the direction I go with outside events factored in with the pandemic (which I have!) and how is this sparse population dealing with new illness and deaths?
FOOD and FOOD DISTRIBUTION
When the pandemic struck, the food and household items’ distribution system broke down. And, boy oh boy did we react! How crazy was that to have so many people looking for essentials, especially in the big cities? Too many places closed, and too many people lost jobs. It took months of shut down before anyone starting seeing relief. Toilet paper became the new Holy Grail quest. Grocery stores were stripped bare. Online shopping sites couldn’t keep up with demand, and workers got sick in mass numbers. Restaurants had to change their way of thinking, having more takeout than ever before. Ghost kitchens showed up and food delivery systems such as Uber got on board to deliver food. So many businesses closed because of their narrow margins.
Schools and individuals created a massive campaign to distribute care packages, organize food drives and simply handing out large cash amounts for those in need. The people came together in a commitment to help others. Throughout all the denials and no government intervention, (until the new administration stepped in!) we did something as a People. Without government support, the nation’s citizens helped each other in ways we hadn’t thought of in years. We had more connections with the world thanks to technology, thus we pulled together as communities with a can do spirit similar to the Great War and WWII days, and made it possible for others to make it through the first of the pandemic.
In the future people will suffer, and shortages in supplies will be a reality, unless we make more changes today. Society could deteriorate and there will be more and more food deserts. One of the best things I saw on TV recently was a school getting money for hydroponic gardens to grow fresh vegetables in the food desert community. I found a site that gives information on grants for projects to help schools (and other agencies) build gardens and greenhouses to grow their own fresh vegetables:
And, this is only a start. If we don’t continue this effort to make changes, in the future, people will have to go back to hunter/gatherer societies, moving around and growing what they can. Cities will have to evolve and many will slowly deteriorate. Smaller village-type communities might thrive if they can get the bare essentials, but it will take more work to get those resources.
In 2020, schools shut down because people started getting sick. The world as we know it as parents drastically changed. We had to learn how to learn and teach subjects we hadn’t visited in years. We had to rely on the internet and computers. So many people had nothing to prepare them for this type of learning. Teachers had to create pod-type learning units and they had to learn to teach surly middle school and high school teenagers, as well as keep the attention of elementary school students. Staying at home sometimes felt like being in prison. We didn’t know what to do with each other at first. We had never been this close all the time. On the other hand, it did not kill us. We learned all kinds of new things, even though we weren’t teachers, and most of us worked out how we communicate with each other.
In reality, we don’t like to think about it but changes are happening and more changes will have to occur from the ground up. Parents have to participate and teachers have to accept that participation. Teachers have to learn a new way of teaching, a hybrid style that is different from anything we’ve ever seen. Teachers have to reach the kids in the middle, those who aren’t the top of the class, and those who aren’t the lowest in the class. We must create an atmosphere of value for teachers and compensate them in real world and realistic amounts. Changes must be made in schools, both for the teachers as well as to the buildings to make it a safe environment to learn. These are hard changes and federal and state governments will need to intervene. Of course, every change comes with a price. Yes, we will be taxed in increasing amounts, as we always have been through our property taxes. However, school boards will have to vote to loosen the money strings and let the districts use that tax money in ways that are more creative. Funds will have to be reduced for superintendents’ salaries and massive athletic programs in order to give more to the teachers and to the crumbling buildings.
STEM programs will have to evolve and be pushed into all schools within each district. Districts will need to push for apprenticeship-based learning for all schools. Moreover, apprenticeships should be expanded into a broader career base such as finance, environment, tech, and health care fields, not just for construction and manufacturing trades. Unions need to expand to help those areas create a similar model. Public and business misconceptions need to be cleared up about what an apprenticeship is, and the learning environment has to change for young people in all schools. In an article (dated 1/27/21) titled “Apprenticeships are an overlooked solution for creating more access to quality jobs,” authors Annelies Goger and Chenoah Sinclair out of the Brookings Institute, outline excellent ideas on how to reform apprenticeships. The article goes on to state that the 1937 National Apprenticeship Act needs to be updated and misconceptions need to be cleared up on regarding the benefits of this type of learning. It also stated that “In 2017, Harvard researchers estimated that apprenticeships could be expanded from 27 to 74 occupations and that we could fill more than eight times the number of job openings…up to roughly 3.2 million jobs.” To further this idea of “earn and learn” Brookings is publishing a series of briefs on policy issues. Check out: “Brookings’s Blueprints for American Renewal & Prosperity.”
In my book scenario, most public school systems have broken down. Survival has taken precedence. The children learn about how to survive on the land. Reading and ‘riting and ‘rithmetic occurs only in the little communities that still hold their value and have been populated by people who continue to read and learn. Tech is still surviving, because of funding for the space program, but as for all of the other areas of study, only those parents who created a literary base (with real books!) know enough to teach the next generation.
In 2020, we had to learn how to work in a new environment – from home – if we still had jobs. Small businesses and jobs went away in mere months. However, jobs such as in the medical field thrived because people were being hospitalized or dying. Other job areas such as in the tech industry thrived because they could embrace the new hybrid-working environment. Most of the employees in tech already had computers and internet connections, so they could transition and embrace this job change easier than those who had nothing at home. Zoom meetings abounded and even became tedious. We realized how many unproductive meetings we had and learned to streamline what was really necessary in our conversations.
Manufacturing has suffered over the past 20 years and especially in the last 4 years. In an article by ITIF (Information Technology & Innovation Foundation), experts stated that only 11.39% is the total manufacturing output in the economy in the U.S. Manufacturing employs only 8.51% of the workforce. Outsourcing for products is the new norm, and has been so since the recession in 2008, and manufacturing has grown only 1.6% since 2010. Outsourcing and tax relief for the owners given to move manufacturing overseas has been even more prevalent in the past four years. During COVID, Companies shut down as workers who worked in unsafe conditions got sick and had to go home, with no benefits or compensation relief. Many died during the pandemic so manufacturing slowed down or shut down completely. Many companies suffered during the pandemic because their sources for these supplies come from overseas, sources that were hit the hardest. When you cannot get the supplies to manufacture goods in the US, demand was high and shortages occurred.
Many studies and policy suggestions in 2020 were submitted to the new administration, suggesting ways to improve and increase education and job placement. It will take years to sort out what we can do as a nation after COVID goes away. In a NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) paper dated 12/16/20, author Mark Schmit notes that manufacturing has to prepare for success in the long-term. Risk was what the panel discussed. Weak links in supply chains have made the industry realize the benefit of physically close relationships with suppliers and customers. Innovation is the key to keep manufacturing and unfortunately this means more automation and less people, except workers with advanced degrees. People will suffer unless they have more education in these fields.
In the book future, most outsourcing has become obsolete. In the area where my characters live, travel and imports have been decimated. Everything is locally produced, and the shift has been to aerospace technologies. There are fewer people and even fewer jobs in anything but tech and aerospace. The children who survived the invasion got their education via STEM programs and apprenticeships. In the future, these children are the parents. They provide survival skills and basic needs are mostly met. The America they knew changed dramatically in the late 2000s and is still changing. The remaining population hopes for rescue to the colonies but limited space is available. Climate change becomes more prevalent and forces the population to move to the middle of the states and Colorado has become a haven for the last of civilization.
This is the last topic I want to touch on, a rather touchy subject for all to contemplate. Currently, law enforcement is our first line of defense. Conservatives have a different view on how the populace should protect itself. Images of gun-totin’ men and women appear on media more frequently than those of people who want more peaceful resolutions. They usually just wind up looking ridiculous, but they are out there and the implication is this image is what is right, no matter the consequences.
Reform is necessary at all levels. Instead of funding for more deadly weapons, we need to fund better programs that train our officers, create and fund more police social worker positions, and pair them up with patrol officers on all shifts. Policy must be created and adopted by local agencies with a strong premise that all officers hold life precious and will make every effort to protect themselves in non-violent ways, but also protect the citizens they encounter, including suspects and arrestees. There needs to be a resolution and policy for all agencies that includes language stating there will be no more bloodshed of people who express their differences and that consequences must be given to those who disobey these policies. Everyone is allowed to protect themselves, but not at the expense of innocents. Police, especially, have to be held accountable and decision-making skills should be honed. Gun education needs to be funded both for law enforcement and for the public, and it should be mandatory for all gun purchases. Funding for education should be a priority in every budget and community resource.
If a civilization breaks down as I propose in my new book, police and government has deteriorated. Weapons are necessary for survival and for defense of humankind. People will hoard weapons to fight the things that are killing them. The logistics of what will be available and how to protect each other in the future will be vastly different that today. Weapons production will die out and people will have what they can scrounge.
All this is the tip of the iceberg I know, but we have to start somewhere in changing our way of thinking. “Change is the essential process of all existence.” – SPOCK, from Star Trek: The Original Series, “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield.”
In 2020, there was a lot of blaming, and name-calling, with no one looking at what is true. There was blatant prejudice rearing its ugly head. Many horrifying incidents occurred, and people were killed for no reason except for the color of their skin. Fear drove this. Reactions boiled over and many people woke up. In addition, the last administration let it all happen, inciting the worst in the people who supported them.
While I would like to think that we as a nation will always pull together and help alleviate future incidents and threats, I have no illusions about the majority of the people going back to their old and selfish ways if we don’t continue to have new and strong leadership. It is my hope that a larger percentage of the younger generation is as involved as they are now and will continue to learn, as well as support their neighbors and friends.