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Wednesday, 19 June 2019
How Soon Is Now? A Novel By Gary Walton: Chapter 12: Our increasing dependence on modern technology
Chapter 12: Our increasing dependence on modern technology
"Rockin' In The Free World"
There's colours on the street
Red, white and blue
People shufflin' their feet
People sleepin' in their shoes
But there's a warnin' sign
on the road ahead
There's a lot of people sayin'
we'd be better off dead
Don't feel like Satan,
but I am to them
So I try to forget it,
any way I can.
Keep on rockin' in the free world,
Keep on rockin' in the free world
Keep on rockin' in the free world,
Keep on rockin' in the free world.
I see a woman in the night
With a baby in her hand
Under an old street light
Near a garbage can
Now she puts the kid away,
and she's gone to get a hit
She hates her life,
and what she's done to it
There's one more kid
that will never go to school
Never get to fall in love,
never get to be cool.
I was awoken by the smell of coffee and bacon, Maggie was preparing breakfast. I jumped off the couch and gave her a kiss.
"Darling, did you sleep well," asked Maggie as she handed me a bacon sandwich and a cup of coffee.
"Yes, I did, thank you," I replied as Maggie kissed me.
She was dressed to kill, in a dark blue skirt, white heels and a white blouse, her hair was bleached blond, whitened from the hot sun which accentuated her beautiful green eyes, Maggie's full lips, as usual, were painted strawberry red, matching her fingernails, "I have to go, honey, will you be ok," she asked?
"Sure, do you have an early start," I asked?
"Yeah, I have a lecture, I'll be back later this afternoon," she replied.
We embraced and kissed, "I love you so much," I told Maggie.
"I love you too and I'm missing you already," she laughed and was gone.
I stood on the balcony and watched her drive off silently in the e-Mercedes.
Two drones flew past, Police drones, at first I thought they were following Maggie but they stopped at the end of the street and turned back.
I told the house-port to turn the news on.
Iran and Russia announced they would be preparing joint naval exercises in the Caspian Sea, including rescue and anti-piracy drills, the commander of the Iranian navy was quoted as saying. Meanwhile, the U.S. announced more economic sanctions were to be placed on Iran. Five Israeli soldiers and ten Iranian soldiers had been killed due to skirmishes on the Syrian border. hundreds of thousands of people had their flights cancelled due to disruption in airports around the western world after a massive attack on computers, thought to have come from Iranian hackers.
I told the house-port to turn off the wall monitor, I grabbed my laptop and coffee and went outside to the coolness of the balcony.
I opened my emails...
Stockholm Resilience Centre had written to me claiming places on Earth would become uninhabitable after a series of events would cause a tipping point, producing a domino effect around the world, resulting in a 'hothouse Earth' state. But as most of the Northern Hemisphere was struggling from a record-breaking heat this summer, the team were asking has the tipping point been breached already? The statistics can't lie and when just a few of the extraordinary events of this summer are placed together we can see a very worrying pattern forming. Last year California suffered it's worst wildfire in living memory but by early July 2025 that record had been surpassed.
According to the BBC, California's biggest wildfire on record is expected to burn for the rest of the month, fire officials said on Tuesday.
The so-called West Complex fire had already engulfed 290,692 acres (117,639 hectares) - almost the size of Los Angeles. And it's not just California, some of the worst wildfires ever seen have raged across Europe this summer. The summer of 2025 had already seen some of the most extreme weather of all time.
Many countries have been hit by wildfires as well as the Arctic Circle, the report said.
The Global Footprint Network (GFN) had sent me an email claiming HSBC, one of the world's largest banks as saying the planet is running out of resources and warns that neither governments nor companies are prepared for climate change. The world had already spent its entire natural resource budget for the year by the end of June, a group of analysts at HSBC said, in a note that cited research from the Global Footprint Network (GFN).
That means that the world's citizens used up all the planet's resources for the year in just in less than six months, according to GFN's analysis.
By comparison, back in 1970, we "overshot" Earth's resource budget by only 2 days - Overshoot Day fell on December 29, according to HSBC. That date has now been pushed forward by more than six months since then. HSBC's note also warned about extreme events resulting from the heat, including the wildfires in Scandinavia and broken temperature records around the world. The predicted effects of climate change were starting to hurt.
I finished my coffee and carried on with my work. An email from Association of Zoos, Breeders and Aquariums of Mexico (AZCARM), was claiming 250 manatees had died along with hundreds of thousands of fish, birds and other reptiles, floating to the surface of rivers and lagoons in Mexico's southern state of Tabasco, where some of the country's major oil wells had been operating for decades. Scientists were scrambling to figure out the cause. "It could be one of the greatest environmental emergencies we have had in recent times," the president of AZCARM, told the El Universal newspaper. One study from the Aquatic Resources Research Laboratory at the Technical University of Boca del Rio found high levels of lead and cadmium in the water. But other biologists said toxic substances have not been found in their tests of the water and the manatees. Another study commissioned by the federal government and the National Autonomous University of Mexico said the die-off was possibly the result of a range of factors, including rising water temperatures.
The two Police drones I had seen earlier hovered above my apartment, one of them dropped to my level and checked me out, I gave the drone a smile and a wave, the drones were obviously looking for someone along the boulevard. Satisfied with me, the drone climbed back high up to its partner and flew on down the boulevard, I watched them curiously, I wondered who they were looking for. I heard shouting coming from below on the boulevard, suddenly a man came running out of one of the restaurants, two restaurant workers followed shouting, "stop him!"
The man had a gun and was running fast up the boulevard, he ran past my balcony, a look of horror etched on his face, the drones swooped down and followed the man, their sirens now whooping and whaling, the drones ordered the man to stop but he turned around and fired three shots at the two drones, he missed and carried on running for his life. One of the drones fired a taser into the back of the man and he dropped like a stone and his gun flew onto the road, the drones hovered just above the man's body which was prostrated on the pavement, he made an agonisingly slow lurch for his gun, the drone tasered him again, after screaming he became still, meanwhile, a Police car turned onto the boulevard, it was game over for the unfortunate man.
I made some more coffee and went back to my work, I received another email from my fishing contact in Florida, the red tide algae bloom was now stretching a hundred miles from Anna Maria Island down to Fort Myers on the Westcoast of Florida and was now officially an ecological disaster as thousands of tons of dead fish were being shovelled from beaches with giant diggers into giant skips. Dead fish were now washing ashore on Anna Maria Island after the red tide bloom drifted slightly north during the weekend. Meanwhile, crews in Sarasota County said they had removed tens of tons of dead fish over the last two days alone. The red tide algae bloom that depletes oxygen in the water, was killing marine life in Biblical numbers from fish to manatees to turtles. The organism was also causing respiratory problems and eye irritation in humans and their pets. The toxic bloom had killed hundreds of tons of fish, dolphins, turtles, and manatees – and now it was taking a toll on birds as the scavengers eating the diseased fish became sick too. The city had set up special dumpsters just for red tide waste along the beach which was being emptied regularly "to keep the smell to a minimum." The bloom had been largely stagnant off southern Sarasota County for the last several months, but it was now spreading north reaching Longboat Pass on Friday and then Anna Maria Island over the weekend.
Meanwhile, marine mammal experts are at a loss to explain why a large number of harbour seals have turned up dead on beaches in southern Maine this summer.
The most recent cluster of deaths was reported when the carcasses of 51 harbour seals, mostly pups, were discovered on Bayview and Kinney Shores beaches in Saco. Those beaches are situated between Ocean Park and Ferry Beach State Park. In the past 2 days, more than 130 dead harbour seals had washed ashore on southern Maine beaches, including Wells Beach and Ogunquit Beach.
"If this continues, there will be no fish left," I said to my self.
I looked below onto the terrace of the fish restaurant and wondered just how long would they be able to stay in business? Prices of meat, fish and vegetables had risen this summer alarmingly with the heatwaves, droughts and wildfires damaging crops around the world. With homelessness and poverty at epidemic levels in the west recently, just how bad will it become? I asked myself. Tent cities were springing up across the U.S. and Europe and last year deadly riots in France, Germany, the UK and the U.S. had broken out in the vast cities over price rises.
I made my self a cheese and tomato sandwich and a cold glass of milk, today was cooler and a little overcast, a refreshing change from the heat of late, still, there was no sign of rain though.
I settled down to write my column for one of the local newspapers.
Maggie arrived home late.
"Hey honey, how was your day," she asked?
"Fine, I was busy, why are you so late," I asked.
"I took the time to go to my house, check everything and get some fresh clothes," she said.
"How was your day," I asked.
"Well, I didn't want to worry you so I didn't ring, but, we had a bomb scare in the building, we were all evacuated, it was a false alarm though, some nut job left a suspicious package with protruding wires in the reception area," Maggie laughed, "the Police found out who it was within ten minutes by checking the surveillance camera behind the reception desk, idiot." Maggie laughed.
I smiled and told Maggie about the drone incident out in the street earlier.
"Someone actually tried to outrun a drone," Maggie asked me smiling?
"What shall we do tonight," I asked Maggie enthusiastically?
"Pleeeaaaaase, absolutely nothing, If you don't mind, I'm done today," Maggie pleaded.
"That's fine by me, honey," I answered.
"Shall I rustle up some dinner," Maggie asked?
"Why don't we order a Thai takeaway for a change," I suggested.
"Great!" said Maggie.
Maggie freshened up and joined me on the balcony, she poured us both a glass of red wine we had come to treasure our evenings together out here on the balcony watching the world pass by. The food arrived which we both devoured while discussing our contrasting day, Maggie was a natural chatter-box, as was I.
"The best thing about takeouts is we don't have to wash the dishes," said Maggie smiling.
"Oh, by the way, I have my two-week summer vacation at the end of this month, what shall we do," Maggie asked?
"Shall I book us a holiday," I asked.
"Well, to be honest, we are living on a holiday, I would like to stay here if that's ok with you?" Maggie offered.
"Ok, we can do that and have some away-days of course," I said.
"Oh, thank you, honey," said Maggie smiling.
"What was your lecture about today," I asked Maggie.
"You really wanna know," Maggie said sipping wine.
"I really wanna know," I answered.
"It was a lecture on humans’and their increasing dependence on modern technology," said Maggie.
She continued, "we should not oppose the technology because a lot of it is beneficial, however, we have to be aware ourselves of falling into technology slavery."
"The collection of data from our gadgets, showing our location, interests, fears and weaknesses, makes it possible for humans to be controlled by dark external forces," explained Maggie.
She went on, "the Antichrist mentioned in the Bible, is a personality that will be at the head of the world wide web controlling the entire human race at some point in the near future if not now," said Maggie.
"Wow, of course, he will, astonishing, the world wide web would be the perfect tool for an Antichrist," I agreed.
"More than half the world's population now have a smartphone and high percentage of the four billion people act as slaves to their device, they are addicted to their phones," Maggie said.
Maggie continued, "many more than five billion are online and growing."
"Just twenty-five years ago no sensible person would mention the word “porn” in a social setting or public conversation, it would have been just too embarrassing, now, it’s completely normalized, and you’re “weird” or “crazy” if you don’t have a porn habit, which I don't," said Maggie.
"One porn website, which I won't mention, received 2,000 hits every second in 2024, that is 120,000 every minute, 7 million and 200 thousand every hour, almost 173 million hits a day, which is twice the population of Germany, remember that is just one porn site," said Maggie.
"Astonishing," I said.
Maggie continued, "Teen Vogue has run features teaching kids to enjoy anal sex, while a six-year-old boy has become a drag queen superstar in the U.S., I mean the list is just endless."
"The dark side of the internet is a bottomless pit, executions, rape, child sex, snuff movies, how to make bombs, how to poison people, suicide sites, porn addiction, gambling addiction, it is a magnet for addicts, anything bad in the world can be found on the web," I said.
"Oh you owe me a dinner Maggie," I said.
"Why," asked Maggie?
"We had a bet, you bet me dinner when the Police boarded the fishing boat yesterday, you said they would be drug smugglers and I bet you it was a boat full of refugees trying to get to the UK, and it was," I laughed.
"Apparently, the refugees are travelling further north to get to the UK because the Channel is too well Policed," I said.
"I will buy you a happy meal next time we go to macadees," she laughed.
She poured us both another glass of wine.
"Nightcap," said Maggie.
"I will be gone early in the morning hon, I have a lot on," Maggie explained.
I awoke early the next morning but Maggie had already gone, she had left me a flask of coffee and a note telling me she loved me with a picture of a smiley man, it made me smile.
I looked out onto the balcony, the blue sky was back after yesterday's grey overcast clouds, it had been the first grey day I could remember for at least a month.
I told the house-port to turn on the news.
More skirmishes along the Syrian, Israeli border with both Iran and Israeli soldiers coming under fire, two more Iranian drones had been shot down, meanwhile, news which made me sit up rigid with shock, Iran’s President had claimed, domestically-manufactured rockets would carry two new satellites into orbit. The President made the remarks during a ceremony held to commemorate dead soldiers in the Irak Iran war, he said “missiles are our defensive tool and we are proud of them,” adding, “Tomorrow, we will send two new satellites into space using our domestically-built rockets.” He also described Iran’s defence power and technology achievements as a gift from Allah.
I immediately thought of a nuclear EMP (nuclear electromagnetic pulse), which I had discussed with Maggie last month, could they get away with such an act, I wondered?
Did Iran have that technology I wondered?
I told the house-port to switch off the wall monitor and turn on the grill at 175 deg C. I got some bacon out of the fridge and placed it on the grill.
I walked onto the balcony and opened my laptop to check my emails and update my blog.
I had during my years as a blogger, written about many many major earthquakes, and I had become somewhat familiar with their patterns, I would often predict major quakes and volcanic activity if the sun was releasing massive amounts of solar wind and shooting it in the direction of earth, solar wind from coronal hole activity or solar flares on our sun's surface travelling at incredible speeds smashed into the earth's magnetosphere were causing more than auroras here on our planet. Yesterday I had warned visitors on my blog to be on a "quake watch" as a massive, one million km long coronal hole had opened up on the surface of the sun. This particular coronal hole was very big and was shooting solar wind directly towards Earth at incredible speeds, reaching more than 800 km/second. This kind of solar wind battered our magnetosphere causing a G3 storm and sending spectacular auroras as far south as the Washington DC and Madrid in Spain, I had also noticed over the years that solar storms can, and do influence earthquake and volcano activity. When I opened my laptop emails from the United States Geological Survey (USGS) were lined up and waiting to be opened, no less than 9 major quakes (mag 6 or higher) had happened during the night, just as the solar storm hit, including a magnitude 8.2 in Fiji, a magnitude 7.8 of the coast of Alaska, and a mag 7.2 and a mag 7.0 in Indonesia.
Once again my prediction had proved correct.
The smell of burnt meat filled my nostrils, I jumped up and ran to the oven, the bacon had been burnt to a crust, I can predict earthquakes but can't make a bacon sandwich, I thought, smiling to myself.
I threw the bacon in the bin, told house-port to turn off the grill and carried on checking my emails outside on the balcony.
Disaster had struck parts of India, the death toll in Kerala rose to nearly 600 after its worst flood in a century, as authorities handed out medicine and disinfectants to ward off disease in thousands of relief camps. another 200 were missing and a further 1.2 million forced to shelter in camps, state officials said. "The death toll has risen to 573," an official of the state's disaster management authority told Reuters. Kerala received rainfall more than 40 per cent greater than normal for the monsoon season, which runs from June to September.
An email from the Danish Meteorological Institute was claiming the oldest and thickest sea ice in the Arctic was breaking up at an alarming rate, opening waters north of Greenland that is normally frozen, even in summer. This phenomenon - which has never been recorded before five years ago has occurred twice this year due to warm winds and a climate-change-driven heatwave in the northern hemisphere. One meteorologist described the loss of ice as "scary". Others said it could force scientists to revise their theories about which part of the Arctic will withstand warming the longest.
The sea off the north coast of Greenland is normally so frozen that it was referred to, until recently, as "the last ice area" because it was assumed that this would be the final northern holdout against the melting effects of a hotter planet. But abnormal temperature spikes in February and earlier this month had left it vulnerable to winds, which have pushed the ice further away from the coast than at any time since satellite records began in the 1970s. "Almost all of the ice to the north of Greenland is quite shattered and broken up and therefore more mobile," said a spokesman for the Danish Meteorological Institute. "Open water off the north coast of Greenland is unusual.
This area has often been called 'the last ice area' as it has been suggested that the last perennial sea ice in the Arctic will occur here.
My phone rang, I picked it up disabling the hologram function, I said," hello."
"Is this a Mr Watson," the voice asked?
"Yes, who is this," I asked.
"I am Mr Zwarte, and I work for the local council, you may well be aware of the recent, or rather, a continuing heat wave which has unfortunately plagued Holland this summer, Mr Watson?"
"Yes," I answered.
"Well, Holland, or rather Europe has developed a pest problem due to the heat, some places are becoming overrun with rats, Mr Walton, and the council would like to send someone over to check your building, we will have a team checking your street next Wednesday, could we make an appointment?"
"Sure I said, but I haven't had any rat problems," I said.
"I understand, that is good but, as we are checking your area anyway?"
"No problem," I said.
Mr Zwarte went on, "with highs in the mid-30s (+/-95°F) for most of this summer mixed with unsanitary conditions and lack of water have made Germany, France, Holland and Belgium's urban areas and major cities the perfect breeding ground for rats."
"This summer the rat exterminators have become overworked in large areas of Europe which have brought in local governments to help with the epidemic," he said'
"Mr Walton, the problem has also been brought on by people having BBQs and picnics and leaving old food behind instead of clearing up after themselves," Mr Zwarte explained.
"The lack of rain and the long drought has also not helped the situation, the retreat spaces of the rats in the sewers have remained dry, allowing the rats to bread very successfully," he said.
"Well, I will be home all day next Wednesday," I said and hung up.
I went back to work, another ice story, this time from Reuters claiming Antarctica's annual ice losses have accelerated nearly 8-fold in the past 45 years in a trend that could push sea levels meters higher in coming centuries amid climate change, according to a new report from scientists. They said the East Antarctic ice sheet is thawing at the fringes and adding to rising seas, unlike many past reports which have concluded that the eastern sheet has so far resisted a melt seen on the western side. Ice losses from the frozen continent surged to a net 300 billion tonnes a year in the period 2020-24 from an average 40 billion tonnes from 1979-90, according to the study in the U.S. journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
My phone rang again, I called, "answer," Maggie's smiling hologram fizzed into life.
"Hi honey, I am coming home to get some clothes, I have to drive down to Brussels this afternoon," she said.
"Why," I asked?
"I have to give a talk to the European Union tomorrow morning, unexpectedly," she said.
"Oh, lucky you," I laughed.
"Well, I was hoping you would come too," asked Maggie.
"I would love to come, Maggie, as long as we are back by next Wednesday," I laughed.
"Why what's happening next Wednesday," she asked?
"I'll tell you later."