They continued on for several more days, skirting an area of what looked like a group of old factory buildings, long shut down. And they passed close to two different villages that appeared to have activity. Both had rising smoke from campfires, and, from one, the hum of machinery could also clearly be heard: probably a generator, Chess supposed. And then, late one afternoon when they were beginning their usual search for the night’s shelter, they saw people walking, a short distance away.
Chess glimpsed them first and signaled for the girls to stop. In breathless silence, they watched the strangers advance. The small group did not see them through the trees, though: the two adults were plodding along with lowered heads, and, moving beside them were two small children, one with a limp.
Next to him, Chess heard Sariel suck in her breath and, without looking at her, he groaned. She went to move toward the people, and he caught her arm with a thump, holding her back.
“We must help them,” she hissed at him, trying to disengage her arm.
“We agreed…” he stated in a slow whisper, “to avoid all people. It was your suggestion.”
Sariel’s eyes looked angry. “The child is hurt. I can help,” she insisted.
Chess looked to Ileana, but she did not support him. She just stood quietly, a slight frown on her face, and then, finally, she said in a low voice, “We’ve seen no one out here for days, and no sign of any vehicles. It would be a risk, but not, perhaps, a huge one.”
Defeated, Chess let go of Sariel’s arm, and she sprang off like a rabbit freed from a trap. By the time Chess and Ileana caught up to her, she appeared to have the family already somewhat in her trust.
They found a suitable house for the night, and Chess went about making preparations for a campfire as Sariel began to treat the children. He could not help glancing over at her from time to time. He had always admired the soothing manner she had with her patients. Perhaps, he thought, she had also learned that from the doctor who she claimed had taught her so much. And he noticed that Ileana was right by her side, assisting her. They seemed to work well together, he thought. He watched as Sariel bent her head close to Ileana’s and spoke softly to her.
The children, on the other hand, did not absorb much of Sariel’s calmness. Although they did not seem afraid of her, they were agitated, and their wide eyes constantly darted around. Chess thought he understood why: the parents, sitting beside them, spoke fearfully. With exhausted-looking faces, they related their recent history. They had left civ several weeks before, when, with no hope of finding employment -- and in dread of having to go to shelter -- their money had finally run out.
“We should have stayed, though,” the mother groaned, trying to pat down her disheveled hair with shaking fingers. “We did not know how bad it would be.”
“I thought we could find someplace out here,” the father added, looking at the ground. “I want to work.” He glanced at the woman. “We both do. I know there are villages out here. But the only people we’ve seen are in trucks, driving fast on the roads.” He looked over toward the children, watching Sariel for a moment. “We flagged one down,” he continued. “The men looked angry and they all carried these…” He gestured nervously. “These huge guns. We ran when we saw them.” He turned to Chess, his tired eyes pleading. “Is that all there is out here? Violence, and garbage left behind?”
Chess was silent, unsure how to answer. Just then, Sariel spoke up. “The boy should not continue walking,” she pronounced, laying her hand near the leg wound that was making the child limp. “If he does, he may soon lose the use of this leg.”
At that, the mother burst into loud, sobbing tears, and the two children did the same. Chess swallowed hard and let his gaze slide away from them. And, inadvertently, his eyes met Ileana’s.
“Yes,” Ileana said quietly, staring at him, “there are gangs roaming the area. But they will not bother you. They are looking for something.” She smiled a little. “Actually, it’s an interesting story.”
With a quiet laugh, Chess turned away from the flame he had just gotten started. He settled himself on the ground and took a deep breath.
Continued next page...
As one Dominican said to me, “The apocalypse here will not take place in the form of an earthquake or hurricane, but of a world buried in garbage.”
- Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared Diamond
Although much has been made lately of the many swimming pools, fountains, and golf courses that decadently use limited water in the Southwestern part of the U.S., a much larger use of water is in the energy industry. It seems that every existing method to generate energy uses vast amounts of water in that process - mostly to cool down areas of the power plants. This is certainly true for nuclear, natural gas, and coal-fired plants, but it is also true for other energy sources, including solar. But it has never really been clear to me, in what I have read, if the water used in energy industries is polluted at all, or just evaporates like the water in the fountains. If it evaporates, then it will return to earth at some point, in the form of rain, and it is not lost. However, the major question is where will it return?
As the Southwest gets drier, other areas of the country appear to be experiencing significantly more rainfall. Torrential storms in the Northeast have set records in recent years and caused severe amounts of damage to property. It is possible that, with increasing climate change, this problem, too, might become much worse. However, even now, the Northeast often has more water than they want, and the Southwest does not have nearly enough. This has led some businessmen to make some bizarre-sounding proposals, such as constructing a pipeline to carry excess water somewhat diagonally (visualizing it, map-wise) across the country. However, if we construct oil pipelines that are thousands of miles long, is this really so crazy?
If the subject of The Ripple Effect interests anyone, I wish also to mention the book Unquenchable: America's Water Crisis and What To Do About It by Robert Glennon, which is very similar and covered the same issues two years earlier. It’s just that I feel that I know more about The Ripple Effect because I read it first and took more notes! However, Glennon’s book is where I read about the proposals to move large quantities of water between regions of the country.
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