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July 28th 2010 print

Steve Woodman

“Good Gaia Day”

The power is back on. There is talk about extending the nationwide brownouts to two days, making it a Gaia Weekend rather than a single day. It would cut carbon emissions from the nation’s coal fired power stations by twenty eight percent.

Sunday night, December 12

“What light is that?”

The strident voice sliced through my breast and made me jump.

 “A garden light. A solar garden light.”

“Show me.”

After a moment of careless examination my only light is tossed back. I catch it and, for a heart stopping second, juggle the pale insipid thing.

“Conditioners?”

“Only one. It’s disconnected.”

Torch beams slide across my walls, heavy boots stride by me, crow bars rip into wood, the air conditioner unit tumbles through the shadows and bounces on the floor.

“Fridge? Stove?”

“Disconnected,” I say and then recite, “no stove, no jug, no toaster,”

“Good, very good.”

“All clear,” a minion yells.

“Good Gaia Day, miss,” the squad leader bids me before stomping away.

Other green shirts, illuminated by my solar garden light, pick up the dislodged unit and carry it out. They shoulder me aside. I bite my lip and watch them go.

Outside they toss the unit onto the recycling pile where it joins my TV set. In the hour since the Earth First Brigade had descended on our neighborhood the heap has grown to quite a height. Other green shirts, shining eerily in the dazzling light of their torches, raise their axes and lay into the dumb metal boxes as if they were killing a rabid dog, quickly reducing the sleek fashionable curves into tangled metal and plastic.

Gaia Day, Gee Day, has come to the street where I live.

Monday, December 13

The first day of the working week and the world has returned to the twenty first century. The power is back on. There is talk about extending the nationwide brownouts to two days, making it a Gaia Weekend rather than a single day. It would, the Climate Minister had opined on the radio this morning, cut carbon emissions from the nation’s coal fired power stations by twenty eight percent.

I go to work.

“What’s up?” Moira asked me at the coffee machine.

Her husband was a climate change denier before the election and had written letters to the newspaper. He disappeared barely a day after the surprise government was sworn in. Moira has always been nice to me and I know I can talk with her plainly.

“Green shirts took my air conditioner,” I whispered. “Left a bloody big hole in the wall.”

She touched my arm. “Did they hurt you?”

I shook my head. “Scared the hell out of me.”

“Be careful. Now they know you, they’ll watch you.”

There was a catch in her voice. “What’s happened?”

“Just graffiti on my front door, denouncing Harold.”

“I’m so sorry.”

She blinked back a tear and tilted her head. Zealan, the office Carbon Monitor, was walking towards us. Without acknowledging our existence he taped an Out of Order sign onto the coffee machine. I looked at my steaming cup.

I opened my mouth to ask the twerp what the hell he was about but noticed Moira’s emphatic shake of the head. He was taping another sign to the microwave. Apparently we were now only allowed a maximum of one cup of microwave coffee a day.

I looked at my cup again. I’d almost finished and it was only ten in the morning. 

Tuesday, December 14

Once again I spent my lunch hour searching the stores for solar powered garden lights, but everywhere I went they told me they were out of stock. Demand has outstripped supply.

I returned to the office to find that the new Industrial Relations Minister had decreed that lunch hours had been reduced by a half hour to make up for lost productivity occurring during the Gaia Day blackout.

“Idiots.”

I noticed Zealan watching me from across the office and I wondered how loud I’d sworn.

I wiped perspiration off my forehead. While I’d been out they’d turned off the building’s air conditioning.

My office faces west. 

Wednesday, December 15

Getting to work today was a trial. The trains were packed. The Transport Minister’s overnight edict that the cities were now a car free zone and roads were only for buses and delivery vans has thrown the transport system into disarray. There were fights on the platform as virgin commuters, unused to train travel, tried to board already overflowing carriages.

Zealan glared at me as I entered the office and wrote something in his little green notebook. The claustrophobic trip had stripped away any inhibitions I may have had. I strode up to him and snatched the book from his hand.

“What are you writing!”

He stared at me open mouthed and then a supercilious sneer crossed his pale little face. I read the page. After my name he’d written; clothes ironed.

I threw the pad onto the floor and stood on it.

“You are a silly little man,” I said and ground my foot.

This afternoon the new Treasurer announced a five percent increase in electricity charges and a further ten percent tax levy to pay for his ‘forward thinking government’s Wind Power program. When I got home I threw my electric iron onto the heaped mess that the neighborhood recycling pile has become.

Thursday, December 16

Got to work late today, the trains were packed and I missed my regular service. It didn’t get any better. My computer was unplugged from the wall with a memo from the boss propped against the monitor.

My employment was being terminated because of continued anti-social behavior.

The union rep was nowhere to be found and my boss was unsympathetic. Zealan grinned as I made my way to the elevator. It was now suspiciously out of order and I had to use the stairs; thirty eight flights.

Moira hadn’t come to work and, according to one of the girl’s, had not even rung in. I tried her mobile but for some reason there was no service. Her house was boarded up and covered in sick EFB graffiti. None of her neighbors would answer their doors so there was nothing for me but to leave a note for her and go home.

I noticed her street’s recycling pile was three times as high as ours.

Friday, December 17

I’m writing this behind a screen so the feeble glow of my single solar garden light doesn’t show through the window curtains. Even though it’s only Friday I noticed none of the houses in my street have their lights on. Squads of green shirts are swaggering up and down the darkened avenue, directing their drunken laughter and catcalls at late home commuters and dog walkers.

The Earth First Brigade had smashed the street lights themselves yesterday while I’d been looking for Moira. This afternoon I found a handwritten flier in my mail box. It attempted to allay any fears I might have about the possibility of increased crime the lack of street lighting may encourage with the hopeful announcement that the Brigade’s all night presence in the neighborhood will keep any criminals at bay.

 The radio news was all about the strict energy conservation measures the government had been ramming through the House of Representatives and the Senate which, they anticipated, would knock the country’s carbon emissions to forty percent of Nineteen Ninety levels.

The Prime Minister is adamant. The news that last year’s carbon emissions of the major powers; China, India, the US and the Russian Federation had not, in fact, significantly decreased as she had predicted during the election, if anything only strengthened her resolve to save the planet.

As I listen to her berating Parliament I wonder about a few things. Will Zealan forget about me now that he’s had his little victory? Is Moira safe and should I retrieve my note from her door? How terrible the bad weather will be when and if it finally arrives and most urgently, now that I am out of work, what I would look like in a green shirt?