Brave new world

How much time is left until the end of humankind? [Guideline]

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President
Russia, in the Kremlin

2021

“Dear Mr. President, the climate crisis is a challenge to all humanity and threatens life on this planet on an unprecedented scale.”

“Only if every country commits to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions and takes far-reaching action on climate change can we limit global warming to below 2 degrees.”

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“Russia in particular, as the largest country on earth, bears a special responsibility.”

“That is why we would like to invite you to participate in the follow-up negotiations to the Paris climate agreement.”

“Signed, the President of the French Republic.”

File the letter

It was foreseeable that this proposal would come from the Europeans. A lot of idealism, no sense of political realism.

Sure, climate change is a reality, and especially in Russia the temperature has risen faster than in the rest of the world. Nevertheless, this disturbing natural phenomenon is not at the top of your priority list.

You want the Russian economy to grow and you want to be popular with the population.

What to do?

The negotiations are likely to be all hot air, but at least Russia would look cooperative.

Moreover, with a good agreement, the Europeans might forget the dispute over the Crimean peninsula and ease the onerous sanctions against your country.

But an agreement could also set back the development of the Russian economy by decades and play into the hands of your critics.

Think

Climate change is not your fault, it was mainly caused by the West.

Some of your advisors think that Russia will actually benefit economically from warming.

Participate in the negotiations nevertheless
Do not participate in the negotiations
President
USA, at the White House

7 years later

A long protest marches past.

It consists of thousands of people who lost their family members and homes when the last hurricane hit the Caribbean islands.

In addition to emergency aid, they also demand that the USA meets its climate targets.

Draw curtains

You are already used to such protests, because deadly hurricanes are now commonplace.

How people manage to get to the White House every time is a mystery to you.

You suspect that they are paid by the Russians to paint a bad picture of the US.

Call security adviser

The climate agreement has long been a thorn in your side.

Your predecessor negotiated it to look good to the world community, but gave little thought to the economic impact it would have on the US citizens.

The Russians, Chinese and Indians have pushed for a tightening of the Paris climate change agreement to limit global warming to below 2 degrees.

Inquire about the current situation

According to intelligence information, Russia is circumventing its obligations and secretly selling oil on the black market…

Should you do as the Russians do?

You could endear yourself to the oil companies and get your next election campaign financed.

Thinking of the protesters

You feel sorry for them.

If you don’t honour the commitments you’ve made, these protests are just the beginning, not to mention the shitstorm that awaits you on social media.

Stick to the climate protection treaty
Do not abide by the treaty – just like Russia
Tanja
Russia, Moscow

4 years later

The man with the grey beard and the grey eyes looks at you desperately.

He comes from Siberia, from your home town of Omsk, and worked for years in natural gas production.

Unlike you, he has not managed to climb the ladder: while you, as a manager of the group, have no money worries, he, in his mid-50s, is afraid of not finding a new job, of growing old in poverty.

Switch on flat screen TV

The white face of the president looks out at you as he reads out the new law that spells the doom of your company: today, Russia is honouring the commitment it made in the new climate agreement.

To achieve the goal of a zero-emissions economy, trading in oil and natural gas will be banned with immediate effect.

Dismiss the man

You watch him shuffle out of the office with his head down.

Bitterness rises up in you. You have devoted your whole life to this company, you have given up your family and your free time to make Russia a pioneer in natural gas production.

How could the president betray your company in this way?

Invite the next worker in

You will have to lay off about 250,000 people to keep the group profitable.

They will never forgive this.

But what could you do?

Resign yourself to your fate
Do something against the president
President
Russia, Siberia, Omsk

20 years later

You are proud of the great technological leaps your country has made in recent years, which is of course also due to your presidency.

The first wave of unemployment as a result of the reforms severely tarnished your image, but now the population reveres you like a hero.

Shake hands

Today you will visit a reforestation project where many people who used to work in oil and gas production are employed.

Solar-powered drones fly over the huge areas that burned down years ago and drop small seed packets on the ground.

Thanks to the special nanosludge that lies on the ground, a small forest will have grown here in a few years.

Satisfied nod

Mankind has managed to get a grip on the climate problem and you have been able to secure your power.

When you’re old, you’ll settle down here in Omsk, in one of the beautiful tree houses hanging high up in the northern firs.

Finish story
Tanja
Russia, Novosibirsk

4 years later

Something went wrong with the attempt on the president’s life.

There was a mole. Many of your friends were sentenced to long prison terms.

You too have been behind bars for 4 years on corruption charges.

Staring at the cell wall

The state has worked to ensure that the dismissed workers get permanent jobs in the renewable energy business sector.

By now you regret that you acted rashly. When you get out, you will no longer recognise Russia.

You set out to build a new business that is not based on coal or oil.

Finish story
President
Russia, in the Kremlin

20 years later

Times have become rougher. War is in the air. The Americans have not only fooled you with the climate agreement, they have also cancelled one nuclear weapons treaty after another. Nobody talks about climate protection any more: the wealthy have fled to the Scandinavian countries and Russia; you don’t know what the situation is in Africa and on the East Asian islands. No camera team has dared to go there for years.

Read the report of the secret service

The world is in a spiral of rearmament. This is necessary to secure the borders with brutal force against illegal migrants and not to fall behind in the global struggle for the remaining resources. Every day you hear about skirmishes between American, Chinese and Russian forces searching for raw materials in the Arctic, as well as American cyberattacks on Russian energy suppliers.

Reaching for the smartphone

For the first time in your time as president, you are really worried about your country. Americans are ready for anything… Your smartphone is vibrating.

The sequence of notes sounds familiar. It is the melody from “Isle of the Dead” by Rachmaninov. You have heard it far too often in your dreams.

With trembling fingers, you open the AI programme on the device that reads and translates the US president’s secret security briefings every day.

Read translation

У нас есть бомба… мы будем воспользоваться возможность…вначале США…сердце России…нападение [We have the bomb…we will seize the opportunity…America first…the heart of Russia…Attack]

Close programme

An American attack on the Kremlin. Secretly, you have been expecting it for years, but it still catches you completely off guard. You know that you only have a few minutes left to make a decision.

assess the situation

Take advantage of the first strike and attack? Or ramp up the missile defences and entrench yourself in the bunker?

Call the security advisor, run towards the bunker
Give the order to fire nuclear missiles at Washington
President
Russia, in the Kremlin

a few seconds later

The door closes. The lift shoots down. You are deep under the Kremlin. You climb through a yellow tube into the safest part of the bunker. Behind you, the thick lead walls melt away. The roaring in your ears clouds your thoughts.

Count the seconds

Nothing happens. A few minutes later, the emergency generator has activated. You call the military headquarters. False alarm. There was no impact, the AI made a translation error: the US did not plan to attack Russia at all. Instead, they wanted to start a new nuclear fusion plant in the heart of Russia as a sign of reconciliation in cooperation with Russia.

Finish story
X.M.
Russia

800,000 years later

“And so it came to pass that the so-called human race blew itself up, unable to control its consumption of oil and its addiction to gambling with deadly weapons,” the museum director ends the tour.

Yawn

The demise of homo sapiens sapiens helped your civilisation to flourish. Your bodies do not mind radioactive radiation; on the contrary, you draw the energy you need to live from radiation.

Leave museum

You are glad not to have lived among these people. The last homo sapiens sapiens, in their hope of survival, made thousands of genetic human experiments, which eventually gave rise to homo clarus, the true crown of creation. After the last homo sapiens sapiens were exterminated, your human race rose to true greatness and set about populating the galaxy.

Finish story
president
Russia, in the Kremlin

10 years later

Stunned, you look at the NASA pictures posted by Russia’s most renowned climate scientist. You see an orange glowing surface mixed with grey streaks. Is this a picture of the sun?

Read mail

“It is already too late for our Siberian forests, just as it is too late for the 5,000 people who have already died in the forest fires,” she writes, “But climate change is not stopping. Please do something before disaster strikes. We need to stop fossil fuel extraction and reforest!”

Take a closer look

You doubt the authenticity of these pictures. The name of the researcher is nowhere to be found, even after investigative research. It’s almost certainly an attempt to deceive the Americans, who know that the country’s future depends on natural gas reserves and the oil trade. But the tweets in the social networks, the pictures of children from Irkutsk and Krasnoyarsk dying of lung poisoning in hospitals – all this cannot be faked.

Take climate action, protect citizens’ health
Do not jeopardise Russia’s economic growth because of misinformation
President
Russia, in the Kremlin

2 weeks later

The population does not agree with the planned climate protection measures. You now regret that for years you promoted the dissemination of documentation denying that humans have anything to do with climate change. Since you never participated in climate agreements, the world community distrusts you.

Reflect

To get international support for reforestation of the Siberian forests and care for the wounded, you have to prove that you are serious now.

Introduce climate change education in schools
Restrict civil liberties; by the time people are educated, it is too late for the climate
Sascha, son of the president
Russia, Moscow

20 years later

At school, you learned how important climate protection measures are for the well-being of humanity. You decided to use your intelligence to work for a better world instead of following your father into the presidency. With other international students, you developed a chemical process to remove large amounts of emitted CO2 from the atmosphere and convert it into graphene.

Finish writing the paper

Your father tried to hijack the proceedings for his own purposes, even involving the secret service, but you successfully resisted. The times of nationalism are over. You are proud of your country, but to bring the planet’s ecosystems back into balance requires the brightest minds of all nations. It will be many years before humanity really gets to grips with the climate problem. But in Russia at least, a state of affairs that feels a little like normality is once again prevailing.

Finish story
Sascha, of the President
Russia, Saint Petersburg

20 years later

Saint Petersburg used to be called the “Venice of the North”, but today “Venice in the dark” would fit better. For years, not a single streetlight has been lit at night; it is forbidden to go out. You crampingly clutch the dim lamp that you have assembled from an expensive 9-volt battery and a broken LED.

Sneaking past dark walls

Nervously, you pull a few notes out of your trousers. Objects change hands, then your counterpart has already disappeared into the night. Take a deep breath. Finally, a mobile phone again. If your father finds out about this…

Retreat from the scene

Ever since your father banned the ownership of all electronic devices because of their power consumption, mobile phones have been a hot commodity on the black market. You’ve been saving for years for this old Nokia. It doesn’t even have internet access, but the internet has no practical use for you anyway, because on the Russian internet there are only websites about the importance of climate protection.

Hide mobile phone in your coat

For the first time in years, hope arises in you. With a bit of luck, you can reach your aunt on the outskirts of the city, at the last working transmission tower, the only one of the presidential family who managed to escape. Maybe she can help you. You have often heard from your father how difficult life was back then. For you, it feels as if the Soviet Union never ceased to exist.

Finish story
President
Kazakhstan, Baikonur Cosmodrome

40 years later

You have moved heaven and hell to get a place in the spaceship.

Soon you will leave this planet forever.

The destination of the journey is a new planet at the other end of the galaxy that offers humans enough livelihoods to build a new civilisation there.

Look at the rocket

There is no hope for planet Earth and the people you leave behind. Things have turned out worse than the climate researchers thought.

The Earth system has passed several tipping points. Russia’s permafrost has begun to thaw, the forests of Siberia have completely burned down, the country is ruled by mutinous gangs.

You relied on the innovative power of the economy, but the destruction of nature was faster than technological progress.

Look at your son

“Father, you have to go now,” your son says. You hug him tightly, feel his body for the last time.

Suddenly you realise how old you are. Leaving him here may mean his death.

But you fear the wrath of the people if you stay behind in his place, because as president you made those fateful decisions that brought the country and the planet into this terrible situation.

“No. You get in, child. Don’t argue.”
Swallow and enter the spaceship
President
Kazakhstan, Baikonur Cosmodrome

3 minutes later

The rocket takes off. Faster than you can blink, it has disappeared behind the black night sky.

What awaits your child on the new planet? Will people learn from their mistakes? Will they manage to build a more just society? Will they see nature as something worth preserving and respecting, or will they also exploit this other planet and then move on, as nomads of the galaxy?

You will never know.

Finish story
President
Space

5 minutes later

The rocket takes off. You are pressed into the seat. Planet Earth is moving away at breakneck speed. It used to be called the “Blue Planet”. You would rather call it a firefly.

Due to the eutrophication of the sea, there is so much phosphorescent algae that the water shimmers neon yellow.
You don’t know how much time has passed when the light goes out. Your heart begins to race. You hear muffled screams.

“Please stay calm,” says a voice, “It’s just a small technical error, we’ll soon have it-”
The connection breaks. It goes black in front of your eyes.

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