«"My question is: When do you think the human race conclusively lost control over its own destiny? I'd like everyone here to answer, if you don't mind." April produced a handheld notepad. "Please just start anywhere in the circle-here at my left, will do."
Martha Madronich stood up, reluctantly. "Well, I hate to go first, but in answer to your question, um, Professor, I figured we lost it for good sometime during the State of Emergency." She sat down.
Ed Dunnebecke stood up. "I'd have to say 1968. Maybe 1967. If you look at the CO₂ statistics, they had a good chance to choke it all back right there, and they knew full well they were screwing the environment. There was definitely revolutionary potential in the period, and even some political will, but they squandered the opportunity in the drugs and the Marxism and the mystical crap, and they never regained the momentum. Nineteen sixty-eight, definitely-- I've said enough."
Greg Foulks stood up. "I'm with Ed on that one, except there was one last chance in 1989 too. Maybe even as late as '91, after the First Gulf War. Well, that one was actually the Second Gulf War, strictly speaking. But after they blew their big chance at genuine New World Order in '89 and '91, they were definitely trashed. I've said enough." He sat down.
Carol Cooper stood up. "Well, you hear this question quite bit, of course.... Call me romantic, but I always figured 1914. The First World War. I mean, you look at that long peace in Europe before the slaughter, and it looks mediation might have had a chance to stick. And if we hadn't blown most of the twentieth century on fascism and communism and the rest of the ism bullshit, maybe we could have built something decent, and besides, no matter what Janey says, Art Nouveau was the last really truly decent-looking graphic-art movement. I've said enough."
Sam Moncrieff took his turn. "Late 1980s... there were some congressional hearings on global warming that everybody ignored... Also the Montreal Accords on chlorofluorocarbons; they should have passed those with some serious teeth about CO₂ and methane, and things would be a lot better today. Still heavy weather, probably, but not insanely heavy. Late eighties. Definitely. I've said enough."
Rick Sedletter rose. "What Greg said." He sat down.
Peter Vierling stood up. "Maybe it's just me, but I always felt like if personal computers had come along in the 1950s instead of the 1970s, everybody would have saved a lot of time. Well... never mind." He sat down.
Buzzard stood up. "I think they blew it with the League of Nations in the twenties. That was a pretty good idea, and it was strictly pig-stupid isolationism on the part of the USA that scragged that whole thing. Also the early days of aviation should have worked a lot better. Kind of a real wings-over-the-world opportunity. A big shame that Charles Lindbergh liked fascists so much. I've said enough."
Joanne stood up. "Nineteen forty-five. United Nations could have rebuilt everything. They tried too. Some pretty good declarations, but no good follow-through, though. Too bad. I've said enough."
Joe Brasseur stood. "I'm with Joanne on the 1940s thing. I don't think humanity ever really recovered from the death camps. And Hiroshima too. After the camps and the Bomb, any horror was possible, and nothing was certain anymore.... People never straightened up again after that, they always walked around bent and shivering and scared. Sometimes I think I'd rather be scared of the sky than that scared about other human beings. Maybe it was even worth heavy weather to miss nuclear Armageddon and genocide... I wouldn't mind discussing this matter with you later, Professor Logan. But for the meantime, I've said enough."
Ellen Mae Lankton spoke. "Me? If I gotta blame somebody, I blame Columbus. Five hundred thirty-nine years of oppression and genocide. I blame Columbus, and that bastard who designed the repeating rifle. You'd never find an F-6 on any plain that was still covered with buffalo. But I've said this before, and I've said it enough." She sat down.
Ed Dunnebecke stood up. "Funny thing, but I think the French Revolution had a very good chance and blew it. Europe wasted the next two centuries trying to do what the Revolution had right in its grasp in 1789. But once you stumble into that public-execution nonsense... Hell, that was when I knew the Regime had lost it during the State of Emergency, when they started cablecasting their goddamn executions. Give 'em to Madame Guillotine, and the Revolution will eat its young, just as sure as hell... Yeah, put me down for 1789. I've said enough."
Jeff Lowe rose to his feet. "'I don't know very much about history. Sorry."
Mickey Kiehl stood up. "I think we lost it when we didn't go for nuclear power. They coulda designed much better plants than they did, and a hell of a lot better disposal system, but they didn't because of that moral taint from the Bomb. People were scared to death of any kind of 'radiation' even when a few extra curies aren't really dangerous. I'd say 1950s. When the atomic-energy people hid behind the military-security bullshit instead of really trying to make fission work safely for real people in real life. So we got all-natural CO₂ instead. And the CO₂ ruined everything. I've said enough."
Jerry stood up. "I think it's fruitless to look for first causes or to try to assign blame. The atmosphere is a chaotic system; humanity might have avoided all those mistakes and still found itself in this conjunction. That begs the question of when we lost control of our destiny. We have none now; I doubt we ever had any."
"I'm with Jerry on this one," Jane said cheerfully. "Only more so. I mean, if you look back at the glacial records for the Eemian Period, the one before the last set of ice ages, there were no people around to speak of, and yet the weather was completely crazy. Global temps used to soar and dip eight, nine, ten degrees within a single century! The climate was highly unstable, but that was a completely natural state. And then right after that, most of Europe, Asia, and America were covered with giant cliffs of ice that smashed and froze everything in their path. Even worse than agriculture and urbanization! And a lot worse than heavy weather is now. I'm real sorry that we did this to ourselves and that we're in the fix we are in now, but so-called Mother Earth herself has done worse things to the planet. And believe it or not, the human race has actually had things worse."
"Very good," said April Logan. "Thanks very much for that spectrum of opinion by people who ought to know. Since I have no intention of being here when Dr. Mulcahey's forecast is tested, I'll be taking his advice and leaving Oklahoma immediately. I wish you all the very best of luck."»
--from Bruce Sterling's Heavy Weather , written in about 1993, set in 2031