The Future of Cooperation Between Communities

This post is part of the Visions of the Future bloggers network – a group of bloggers inspired by the new TV series Continuum. The one hour police drama tells the story of Kiera Cameron, a regular cop from 65 years in the future who finds herself trapped in present day Vancouver with eight of the most ruthless criminals from the future, known as Liber8, loose in the city. In the collection of blog posts, various writers share their vision of the future and how they would deal with the challenges. Head over to the Continuum website to catch the other posts and learn more about the series.

Time: February, 2077

After years as a planter/gatherer, you wouldn’t think that my hands would hurt as they do now. My calluses are just that much softer after the winter that blisters had formed by mid-day and I was forced to slow down. Planting season is well underway and we are all toiling with equal diligence. I can see that I’m not the only one suffering but we all know that, by the end of the week, our skin will have hardened and our efficiency will be back to normal. We have to be efficient. The community is counting on us. So, I continue to till the black earth and try, with every ounce of my will, to ignore the pain. I turn my thoughts to history, the days when machines manipulated the earth and belched out large plumes of smoke. I think they must have been mighty machines, them and all the fossil-fuel fed vehicles, to have affected the earth the way they did. Their time was short-lived but perhaps not short enough. Before the machines, people worked as we do now but back then Canadian America was such a large and mostly empty place, the toilers must have been so solitary and lonely.

We are 150,000 strong in our community and are part of a larger pod of a million people. Pods are what used to be known as cities in the days of the machines but their structures are completely different. Each pod is made up of a network of communities which are essentially self-sufficient but can also trade with one another if one community excels in a particular product. Our community happens to champion woolens and natural textiles mainly because of the significant number of textile experts who settled with us. They came from places that were known as Sri Lanka and India before the great global migration and dismantling of unsustainable lands. The wars there still rage on. They still rage everywhere. Over what, I’m not sure. Most of the old nations are desolate and unlivable but humans never seem to lose their desire to control lands – even ones that cannot support life at all. Training grounds they say. Testing grounds for new science and artificial life. Who will be the first to regenerate the wastelands? Who can claim that they are the new demigods and champions of the global community?

As far as I can see, most of the global community is here in Canadian America and in some of the other northern countries that remain above sea level. Immigration camps line our border with the American Deserts and along our sea walls. Permeation of the immigration filter can take years and semi-permanent pods have budded from collections of camps. The government could no longer avoid the influx of people but slowed it down long enough to allow the restructure of society and the development of complex systems to monitor the consumption and renewal of resources. Luckily, during the days of the machines, some scientists and planners had foreseen what chaos may ensue if precautions were not taken to reverse the warming of the world. They were the pioneers of the reinstatement of communities, true communities that many laughed off as being too utopian, too idealistic. But in a world where your only choices are survival or death, those who did not take up arms were willing to embrace the hardships, the endless toiling, and the return to the earth. This, in exchange for a life where that which is required to live is either worked for or provided by the cooperation of communities.

As the sun sets on another day, I walk my aching body back toward the pod, the concrete gravel road stings my feet right through my shoes as if the soles were made of paper. I watch half-heartedly as the numerous planters still in the fields and silhouetted against the golden horizon, bend and raise their bodies laboriously. Sometimes I fantasize about the rebel’s life which seems free from the endless toiling. Most citizens are hard workers but some, the members and followers of the Free Right, aspire to bring back the days of what they call “prosperity”. But the reality is that that type of prosperity, capitalism, disappeared years ago. There is nothing left to sustain it. A new system of Cooperatism, based on a model developed around the turn of the century in what used to be called Spain before the great drought, drives our economy. Trade is based on equivalency. No person, or product can be above another. In the years during the development of today’s Cooperatism, some believed the system would relieve the pods of classism, competition, and jealousy, and, for the most part, it did. But it was replaced by tension and resentment especially in the ranks of the Free Right. Widespread rebellions erupted against a perceived oppression but were quickly quashed by the government and the New Law Enforcers. Perhaps our way of life does seem oppressed but when one takes the state of the entire world into account, the large pockets of poverty and starvation, the streams of migration of displaced people, our system of work and cooperation seems freer and more comfortable than anything that existed before or exists elsewhere. It has afforded us a freedom never widely available before: freedom from want.

I open the door to my room in the Centiplex, a network of high density dwellings, and find my mother and her friend Mariella. Mariella is a healer and she is there to wash and bind my mother’s feet and hands. She will do mine, as well as my brothers and sisters who will require her tender care. Sousa, our neighbour and one of the community cooks, has prepared us a simple meal which is laid upon the kitchen table. Despite my exhaustion, I manage a smile. I find the way people use their individual talents and knowledge to help one another very comforting, even on this small scale. Outside our balcony the chatter of workers, coming and going at the beginning or ending of shifts, fills the night air with a liveliness that permeates all of our rooms and our lives. The constant sounds of activities and industriousness reminds us of ourselves and who we are working for. My blistered hands still ache beneath Mariella’s bandages but my determination to do my part for my community keeps me strong and will urge me into the fields once again tomorrow.

Influences:

Dyer, Gwynne. Climate Wars, Random House Canada.2008

Timothy Ferris. “Solar Storms.” National Geographic Magazine June 2012

Richard Wolff. “Yes, there is an alternative to capitalism: Mondragon shows the way.” The Guardian June 24, 2012.

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13 thoughts on “The Future of Cooperation Between Communities

  1. Isobel – this is so great! Really well written. I think you have a future in scifi! It also scared me a bit to think of this as a potential future given how it is based in current political and environmental realities. Maybe I can get a position as a baker in the community….

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    1. Thank you, Karen! I enjoyed writing it even though it was a bit of a dim view of the future. Or maybe not! Being the community baker, gardener, child care provider…might be very fullfilling. 🙂

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  2. Beautifully written! Congratulations on being picked by Continuum, their gain of course. I’m just interested to know, is that actually your first dabbing with Sci-Fi?

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    1. Thanks, Abufares. Yes, it is my first attempt at Sci-Fi as a genre. I’ve thought of a few scenarios for stories but never actually wrote anything. It was fun!

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  3. Very well written Isobel…..a change of pace for you but one, I think, you enjoy. A simpler life, in your view of the future, or a more complex one? Your story reminded me of the cottage industry in Britain before the industrial revolution. Wouldn’t it be interesting if the world had to go back for our future if our planet it to continue to exist?

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    1. Who knows, Mum? It may have to. This would be a simple life but not an easy one just as life was, I would assume, before the industrial revolution. Thanks so much for your insightful comment! I’m so happy you came by!

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  4. That is interesting and well written. I have to ask do you actually want a society like that or is that how you think things may turn out? Either way well done.

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    1. Paul! Thanks! I wondered if this post might draw you out! It’s been a while! 🙂 This is how I think things may turn out. I do like the concept of a more community oriented society but I’m not so keen on toiling my days away in a field. Who knows? Perhaps I could be the community scribe!

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      1. Well personally I dread the idea of a more ‘community oriented society’ it sounds a bit like communism how did that idea work out? However I share your views that we will likely see a more authoritarian future though. Personally I feel that the answer to so many of our modern problems (law and order, economy, familial breakdown, even terrorism to a large extent) is less law not more. Give autonomy back to people and reduce their tax burden to encourage individual and not collective responsibility. As to authoritarianism well I mean just look at London and the Olympics, we have SAMs on top of flats, thousands of soldiers (unarmed in the main thus actually presenting themselves as an attractive terrorist target) controlling access, helicopters with snipers patrolling the skies above and massive numbers of police and security. A complete joke I hate the Olympics as a consequence, if it needs security to such an extent then just scrap the idea IMHO.

        Community scribe? Actually that mightn’t be bad idea but I bet you’d also make a good chef from what I’ve seen on here. I wouldn’t mind being a beekeeper/farmer or baker of sorts and Part time Judge/Magistrate. There would be no armed elite responsible for security, that task being shared amongst an armed and thus free citizenry. The latter would of course deter Brigandry.

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    1. Thank you, Gabriela! I hope for a better future too. To be honest, I would love to continue the story…just not sure if I could be authorized to do so. We’ll see!

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