2050. Letter to a Daughter.

by Stephen Robert Harris

Well love, here I am on top of Mynydd Bwllfa in the pouring rain, hot and sweaty as usual, taking down yet another bloody wind turbine. We’ve been up here for months now and still there’s dozens of the buggers left to go – still the scrap’s worth a fortune and the pay’s good, so I guess I shouldn’t moan. On a bad day (like today) it all seems a bit pointless – I mean they knew they’d never produce enough power to make a difference but they built them anyway, a bit like digging a hole just so you can fill it in later, but a lot (a lot!) more pricey – but as I say, the pay’s good and God knows I need the work, what with you away in Uni and your Mam’s regen treatment to pay for. That’s going well by the way; they reckon by the time they’ve finished the gene therapy the cancer will be completely gone and what with the hormone rebalancing and the nanotech she’ll likely live to 120, as fit and healthy and nearly as good looking as when we first met. Amazing isn’t it? We’re living in an age of miracles – bloody expensive ones mind!

And on a good day it’s magic up here. You can see for miles, and everywhere you look the gentech oaks are flourishing. Christ, they grow so fast you can almost see them getting taller before your eyes! It’s fantastic to think of all the carbon they’re locking away, gives you a bit of hope. And they’re so beautiful, some of them are going to end up as tall as giant redwoods they say. When I was a kid the land round here was like a bloody green desert, the sheep used to eat everything down to the ground. The irony of it was, Welsh lamb wasn’t even cheap, and all the farmers ever did was moan about how they couldn’t make a living. What a joke! They had all that land and they still couldn’t keep everyone fed! Sure it sometimes tasted great, but I reckon the stuff they grow in the factory in Hirwaun is just as good and a least you know it’s got everything in that you need to keep you healthy – and everyone can afford to eat it, which certainly wasn’t the case before.

As I say, on a good day it’s magic up here. You can see all along the coast, right across from where Cardiff Bay used to be to the Great Swansea Basin; sometimes there’s dolphins out there, darting in among the boats as they come into the Pontardawe docks. You can see the biomass plantations – the palms are doing really well – and the new power station at Bridgend. It seems mad now doesn’t it, that it took so long for everyone to realise that nukes were the only real way forward? I remember your Grandad telling me that the Greenies used to campaign against nuclear power and global warming at the same time! Confused or what? Still, I suppose I shouldn’t moan – it’s because of idiots like them that I’ve got this job. Mind you, it’s also partly because of idiots like them it’s so bloody hot and wet all the time – sometimes I feel more like a frog than a human being!

Which reminds me, I don’t want to worry you but there’s been another outbreak of malaria in the village – it’s seems the bloody stuff’s mutating faster than the pharma boys can keep up. Some of the usual suspects in the Welsh Nashes (yes, your old schoolmate Dai Gupta for one) are stirring up trouble again, blaming it on the Bangladeshis, saying they’re responsible for the overcrowding – they’ve got a bloody cheek, just cause their parents got here ten years earlier doesn’t make them any more Welsh than anybody else. Still, perhaps they’ve got a point – it can’t be all that healthy having 5 families in a house meant for one, can it? Mind you, we’ve got to make a go of it, no choice really what with more people and less land to go round… and it’s so lively in the village now – the Club’s packed out every night, the churches and mosques are full, the Farmer’s Market is always heaving, the shops and restaurants can hardly keep up. The aquaculture co-op is doing great – the divvi was excellent this year – and the allotments are truly a sight to see – every polytunnel bursting at the seams! Do you know, when I was a kid we still used to flush away the poo instead of using it for compost? Hardly seems credible now, does it?

By the way, we heard from your brother yesterday. He’s still putting a brave face on it but he doesn’t look happy – homesick I reckon. Well, who wouldn’t be? The Moon’s a bloody long way away and it can’t be much fun living underground 24/7. Still, mining’s in the blood and he’s making a small fortune working for the Chinese – another year and he reckons him and Angharad will be able to put down the deposit on a nice room in the Brecon Megacity – and with the experience he’s getting it should be no problem finding work once he’s back. But me and your Mam miss him so much. I sometimes lie awake imaging all that space between here and there – 400,000 kilometres is one hell of a stretch – and the radiation, and all that… still, there’s plenty of that here on Earth since that fiasco with Iran and Israel. But, despite the worry, we’re proud of him as well. Everybody knows that space is the answer, and he’s out there making it happen! Who knows, maybe your kids will be living on Mars when they’re our age, now that the terraforming’s finally getting started – they reckon those microbes they’ve put in the ice will do the job in no time. I’d go up there myself if I was twenty years younger and I thought your Mam would let me – imagine it, creating a new world from scratch! Amazing! Let’s just hope we don’t end up ballsing it up as much as we have this one.

Anyway love, I better go. Break’s nearly over and if that bastard foreman catches me recording this when I should be grafting there’ll be hell to pay. Him and his missus have just been turned down for a conception permit again and he’s in a stinking bad mood – can’t say I blame him, the population laws get tighter every year and it must be bloody frustrating. Glad we had you two when we did – couldn’t afford it now, even if we could get permission. Hope all is going well with your studies and you’re still enjoying Harvard – I still can’t quite believe you managed to get the scholarship what with all the competition. We’re so proud of you. And don’t forget, the sub-orbital home only takes two hours and we’d love to see you here any time. Your Aunty Jan’s always happy to move out for a few nights so you can have a bed in our room. I know I don’t need to tell you to keep working hard – it’s research like yours that’s helping your Mam get well and everybody live so long. Just remember to have some fun too, alright?


Love, Dad

About the author:

Steven Robert Harris BSc, PhD, was a Research Fellow at the Schumacher Institute for Sustainable Systems, Bristol, UK, where he investigated the social, technical and economic challenges of climate change and the transition to post- carbon living

Steve had been a trustee of Sustainable Wales for five years.  Members of the SW board had known him for a little longer, from when he worked at the University of Glamorgan, on the ‘Science Shops’ initiative,  and other projects. Obituary page for Steven Harris.