The Bottleneck Years by H. E. Taylor – Chapter 29

The Bottleneck Years

by H.E. Taylor

Chapter 28 Table of Contents Chapter 30

Chapter 29

On the Home Front, December 8, 2055

When I got home that afternoon, Edie was in a bit of a state.

“Luc, what is going on?”

“What do you mean?”

“There was a phonecall for you a while ago…from the United Nations!”

I had told her nothing of what I was doing. “Oh. It was probably something to do with the Task Force.”

No sooner had I said that than the house phone rang again. I checked the caller ID and it was from the UN.

“Mr. Fontaine? Luc Fontaine?” said a female voice. It was audio only.


“Hold the line, please.”

A man came on and started to talk about how visionary and important the Geoengineering Task Force was.

When he paused for a second, I replied, “Well, I wouldn’t say…”

The voice talked right over me and I realized I was listening to a digital recording. I started to laugh.

Edie was watching me, perplexed.

“They’re playing a simulactor at me,” I whispered and switched the audio to speakerphone.

Edie and I stood listening in the dining room.

The recording ended with a heartfelt plea for UN support and suddenly turned to dial tone.

I walked into the kitchen shaking my head. “I suppose it’s better than making” — I suddenly realized I didn’t know how many groups there were or how many people were in each group — “some seventy odd phone calls, but it does turn it into an empty gesture.”

“You didn’t answer my question,” said Edie. “What are you doing?”

“I’m on the Geoengineering Task Force.”

She was switching between stirring the pasta and stirring a sauce while speaking to me over her shoulder. “What’s that?”

“We’re trying to get the climate back under control.”

“Why is that?”

It dawned on me that I hadn’t told Edie about the methane paper. I had been relating to her solely through Anna. “I’m sorry. I guess I thought you were tied up with Anna and not interested.”

“Luc, I had a baby. That doesn’t mean I turned my brain off. What’s going on?”

“Well, methane levels in the atmosphere have been rising fast. Too fast. We seem to have passed some kind of trip point.”

“Oh,” she looked puzzled for a second. “Why’s that happening?”

“Do you know about feedbacks?”

She handed me the pot of pasta. “Here, put this on the table. I vaguely remember learning about them in high school, like more snow reflecting more sunlight.”

“Yeah, that’s a negative feedback.” The table was set, but there was no water. I put the pot down on the warmer and started looking through the cupboard.

“What’re you looking for?”

“The water jug.”

“In the fridge. So, what about the feedbacks?”

“Well this is a positive feedback. A form of methane in the ocean called hydrates stays inert because of low temperature and high pressure, but as the Arctic ocean warms up, it’s turning to gas.”

“And they think that’s why the levels are rising?”

“They’re pretty sure.”

“I thought the permafrost was melting.”

“Yeah, that too.”

Edie brought the sauce over to the table and sat down. I joined her.

She watched me take a mouthful. “How is it?”

“Oh. Good.” I realized I had hardly been tasting the food because I was trying to figure out how best to explain this stuff to her. I pointedly tasted the next mouthful.

“You’re such a funny man.”

“Why’s that?”

“You think in egalitarian terms, but you always act like a gentleman. You never sit down before me and you try to shelter me from harsh realities, like methane.”

“What can I say? I try to treat you with respect — like a lady.”

“Well I’m not a lady.”

I didn’t reply to that and a minute later she added, “If you really respected me, you’d tell me what is going on.”

She said it in such a quiet and gentle way, it wasn’t a rebuke. Dimly I recognized she was telling me how to get along with her. I thought about that, eating in silence. Then two things happened simultaneously. The house phone rang again and Anna started crying down the hall. I went to the phone and Edie went to Anna.

The phone was some media group asking me if I had any comment on the Secretary General’s speech.

I was confused. “What speech?”

“The one he gave this afternoon.”

“I haven’t seen it and no, I have no comment.” I hung up on them.

I turned on the house system and surfed over to the UN site looking for an archival copy of the speech. A link in Current News took me right to it.

While I was setting up the system Edie came into the front room with Anna. She sat on the couch behind me and proceeded to breast feed the child, a light blanket over her shoulder and front.

I sat beside her and we watched the Secretary General give his speech.

He was a tall thin African who stood head and shoulders above the officials around him. He approached the podium and stood ramrod-straight, his face grim.

“I have delayed reporting these results to you because they are so grave. I felt I needed corroborating studies to be sure. Today, those further studies have been completed and there is no longer any reasonable ground for doubt, or for delay.”

“I have to report to you that methane levels are rising dangerously fast. The gas is coming from melting deposits under the Arctic ocean.”

“We are now on Mother Nature’s roller coaster. Unless we take control, we will suffer dire consequences — consequences such as flood and fire, drought and hunger.”

“By the authority vested in me, I have formed a Geoengineering Task Force charged with the responsibility of discovering and implementing an optimal solution to this crisis.

“I hereby request that the Security Council fund the TaskForce. And I call upon all the nations of the world and all the citizens of those nations to support the TaskForce in fulfilling its duty.”

“With courage, wisdom and hard work, we shall remake our world and render it viable for generations to come. Thank you and good night.”

The video ended and I shut the system off. When I looked at Edie her lip was quivering.

“Luc, I’m afraid.”

“Don’t be. We’ll figure something out. I promise. There’s a lot of good people on the TaskForce.”

She was not soothed in the least.

I reached over and gave her a hug around the shoulder. “Don’t worry. We’ll deal with it.”

Edie started to sob and dropped her head onto my shoulder. It would have been a romantic tableau had it not been for Anna happily slurping away under the blanket.

Excerpted from _The Bottleneck Years_ by H.E. Taylor

For further information see:

A Gentle Introduction.

Last modified February 26, 2013

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