Our school’s literary magazine announced their latest student writing/art contest today. The first prompt students are asked to consider: What if our Earth was faced with its last drops of water?
Ah, nothing like an apocalyptic prompt to get the creative juices flowing.
I’m sure many of you read Neal Shusterman’s latest book, Dry, which addresses this exact hypothetical catastrophe just on a smaller scale. If you haven’t read his novel yet, I urge you to go out and find a copy to read. As you take in the devastating effects of water scarcity, I encourage you to linger longer in your morning shower, keep a cold glass of water in hand, and apply and re-apply chapstick to your lips while reading. Shusterman vividly captures the cataclysmic breakdown of society, the deterioration taking only a few days; it will scare the wits out of you.
The opening scene begins with Alyssa turning on the kitchen faucet to fill her dog’s water bowl, but instead of a cool flow of water, she encounters a coughing and sputtering sound followed by a hiss. A sign that the tap has run dry.
We’ve all experienced a similar inconvenience, like when the utility company shuts off the water lines to our homes while making repairs to the pipes in the street. We don’t worry that the water won’t be restored to our homes. Fresh water is a given. Our local, state and federal governments are in charge of providing this crucial resource. We never have to worry about water simply running out, right?
At first, Alyssa believes the water will come back on, too. That there is a plan and the problem is only a temporary hiccup. No one in her community panics at first. They falsely trust their municipalities to restore water no matter what the cause. In Dry, there is no water to turn back on; it was never shut off in the first place. The reservoirs have run dry after years of drought, and a contingency plan was never fully developed. The panic sets in, and a fight or flight mentality takes hold.
Climatologists predict severe and extreme climate conditions are inevitable due to global warming; these include droughts, floods, and violent storms. The likelihood that the world will experience a catastrophic humanitarian crisis as a direct result of the impacts of long term drought is probably.
Fiction becomes reality.
Which leads me to the second prompt the literary contest is promoting: If humans went extinct, what would happen to the earth?