Saturday 1 June 2019

How Soon Is Now? Part 1, Chapter 1: A new novel by Gary Walton

Photo NOAA
The book is a rough draft at the moment, I don't have a publisher, I am serialising the novel on The Big Wobble, looking for constructive criticism, maybe if the book is good enough it will land on a publishers desk!

Chapter 1 Heatwave

Just like a heatwave (Heatwave)
Burning in my heart (Heatwave)
Can't keep from cryin'
It's tearing me apart

Don't pass up this chance
This time it's a true romance

 Martha And The Vandellas - Heatwave

On the 1st of June, 8,45: pm, 2025, I was sat in my apartment hooked up to my laptop with headphones on my ears and a microphone in front of my face and a pile of notes. I was due to appear on the Carol Brand show, on United American Free Radio, I was on standby waiting to be connected to the radio station via Skype. Dr Brand, an old friend of mine was an award-winning author, leading aerospace executive and space and missile defence consultant, she was a former spokesperson for NASA and a very respected expert on climate change. I was due to speak live on air at 9 pm Dutch time, her show was going out live from Calfornia in the early afternoon. Dr Brand wanted to discuss my website which is called, Eleven: 59: and discuss the fragile ecosystem of our planet and what we could do to prevent its inevitable collapse.
At around ten minutes to nine Dr Brand's producer called me up on Skype, we did a couple of sound tests and he said, "we are good to go." Exactly 9 minutes later I heard the opening music for the show
REM's It's the end of the world as we know it...

"That's great, it starts with an earthquake,
birds and snakes,
an aeroplane
and Lenny Bruce is not afraid."

"Eye of a hurricane,
listen to yourself churn-
world serves its own needs,
dummy serves your own needs."

The music faded and Dr Brand introduced me.
"Tonight I am very excited to say we have with us Cooper Watson, one of the world's leading deep researchers on everything from earthquakes to extreme weather, volcano eruptions to space weather."
No pressure there then, I thought.
She went on, "Cooper updates the world every day regarding what's happening geophysically on planet Earth and space, on his own website, Eleven: 59:, a name which refers to "The Doomsday Clock," which symbolises the likelihood of a man-made global catastrophe if or when the clock reaches 12:00, which was now at a precarious one minute to midnite." Carol continued, "you will be amazed at the information found on his website"..."Cooper thank you for joining us from your home in Holland, can you tell us, just what has been happening on our planet this week, just to give our listeners a glimpse of the devastation happening right here on our planet under our noses, so to speak."
"Well, Carol, hello, thank you for having me on your show, I would just like to tell your viewers we have an unusual early heatwave here in Holland, this week millions, maybe billions of sardines have been washing up dead along the beautiful beaches of Costa Rica, reports of dead fish as far as the eye could be seen according to a Costa Rica Police officer," I explained.
Dr Brand cut in once more, "listeners you have to visit Cooper's website it's so important to know just how these issues are impacting our world today, go ahead Cooper."
"Alo this week, an estimated 1500 tons of dead fish have washed up on Sakhalin Island in Russia, north of Japan."
I went on, "the death scale of the Pacific herring in Piltun Bay is enormous and may have actually wiped out the whole population in that area of the world."
"The fish have been sent to Moscow for examination, however, so far the experts are baffled as to the cause of the deaths.
I carried on, "Alaska's salmon fishing has actually officially collapsed causing the federal government to issue a disaster declaration for Alaska's pink salmon fishery and several other salmon and crab fisheries along Alaska's West Coast."
"However,  that was not the only problem hitting the North-West Coast of North America, in the last couple of years, the amount of marine and bird life dying in the area was truly astonishing."
I went on, "I had recently received a voicemail from a friend of mine who worked in the fishing industry off the coast of Oregon, he claimed in his voicemail, quote." "There are no fish out there, there is nothing left to catch, tuna, sardines, anchovies, they have all gone, they are simply not there anymore, he was deeply concerned for his lively-hood," I said.
"Please go on Cooper."
"The unprecedented deaths of millions of common murres, a small penguin-like seabird living along the western coast of the US and Canada, from Alaska down to San Francisco, have been dying in incredible numbers for a decade now and are almost entirely extinct, they are dying of starvation because of lack of food along the west coast waters, the true death toll of the little bird is thought to be much higher than the official numbers because most were dying out at sea," I explained.
"Starfish, along with other marine vertebrate had completely disappeared along with the west coast of North America from Alaska to Mexico."
"There have been incredible reports of strange tropical fish showing up along the Pacific waters of Alaska in the last few years due to an unprecedented area of warm water larger than Canada which is known in science circles as the Pacific blob."
"During the winter of 2024 experts released a report claiming the blue-footed diving seabirds called Cassin’s auklets, are now officially declared extinct after the birds have been washing up dead by the thousands on beaches from San Francisco to Alaska since 2016."
"A new paper released by WWF, The Living Planet Report, issued the latest depressing news of a catastrophic die-off of the world's seabirds, due to overfishing, habitat destruction and pollution, populations have dropped by an incredible 80% since the 1970s, can you imagine Carol, if the worlds human population fell by 80% in just 55 years?"
"Wow that is astonishing," said Dr Brand.
"The scientists found that the total annual seabird consumption decreased from 70 to 45 millions of tonnes over the study period, while annual fishery catches increased from 59 to 70 million tonnes over the same period, which is unsustainable," I said.
I went on, "we are still being fed only tiny morsels of information regarding the damage Fukushima has done to the Pacific, it's now more than fourteen years since the disaster and we are still nowhere near fixing the problem, TEPCO the owners of the stricken plant say it could take another thirty-years to fix the problem, others think thirty years is a very conservative guess."
"The increasing heatwaves we are seeing while proving to be a challenge for humans is killing wildlife and agriculture on an unprecedented scale and the scale of fish-die-offs around the world due to the heat and red tide algae blooms is absolutely astonishing," I added.
"I can guarantee, if the heatwaves continue into autumn they will be responsible for record-breaking hurricanes and typhoons due to the warm oceans along with massive wildfires which we have been witnessing recently."
 Dr Bland was quiet, when I finished, she just said  "wow!"
She thanked me for coming on and told her listeners to visit my website once again.
She also asked me to come on to her show again, which I agreed.
I thanked Carol for inviting me to her show.
I heard her say, "my next guest is..."
I took off my headphones, turned off the computer and relaxed, that had gone well.
I was a little shakey, I had done numerous interviews for the TV and radio but it always made me feel nervous, it was done, I could relax.
I opened a bottle of Chianti and took it out to the balcony, it was a very warm evening, this time of the year it stays light until around 10:30 pm in Holland, I sat down and watched the sun dip under the ocean and thought how lucky I was.
I sat sipping wine, listening to the surf roll onto the beach, above me as day became night I could see millions of stars. Diners and drinkers could be heard and seen below my balcony on the terraces along the boulevard below.
As I looked south toward Amsterdam I could see the space billboards high above the city advertising Coca Cola, McDonald's and other tasteless products, pardon the pun, the space billboards were polluting up the night sky they were ugly as was the 5G-Wifi towers which were being installed everywhere. I looked ahead toward the horizon, ship lights twinkled under the beautiful still night.

I woke up the following morning around 6:30 am, It was a beautiful warm cloudless day, I made some coffee and told the house-port to play the news on the wall TV and to read out my emails.
A big red banner reading "Breaking News," appeared on the tv screen, I stopped what I was doing and watched the tv.

Seventy-nine people had been killed and at least 40 wounded in shootings at a mosque in North Amsterdam, Holland. The head of Police was calling the incident a terrorist attack, which always baffled me, what else could you call it? The head of Police called it one of Holland's "darkest days". Four men had been charged with murder and they will appear in court later today the police confirmed. Two other men and one woman were detained nearby and firearms and explosive devices recovered. The police spokesman said one of those detained was later released, officers were working to determine if the other two were involved. The attack, which came around the time people were attending the mosques prayers, was the deadliest in the nation's history. The gunmen, who identified themselves as white supremacists live-streamed their rampage on Facebook from head-mounted cameras. The footage showed the four terrorists firing indiscriminately at men, women and children from close range inside the Moskee Essalam in Zaandam. Police called on the public not to share the "extremely distressing" footage online. Facebook said it had removed the groups Facebook and Instagram accounts and was working to remove any more copies of the footage. I looked on, sipping my coffee, how frequent these attacks had become and this one, on my own doorstep, how sad.

I had to do my work so I switched the tv off. I had more emails than normal, many listeners had written to me after listening to Dr Brand's radio show the night before and I was encouraged by the positive reactions I had received from the listeners.
I wrote articles or reported events every day for my website, Eleven: 59:, I had a healthy following, the website was a growing phenomenon with millions of visitors over the ten years I had been reporting. I usually started work around 7:00, in the morning and worked up to lunchtime, I tried to keep afternoons free for doing chores around the apartment, or for going on long walks along the beach.
This morning, for instance, a wildfire in Colorado was raging, with more than a billion dead trees in Colorado, this was an accident just waiting to happen.
Park County officials had issued the mandatory evacuation order for the Ranch of the Rockies subdivision, which is about 75 miles west of Colorado Springs on the Park County border. It was not immediately known how many people lived in the evacuation zone. The fire was reported around 11:30 a.m. the day before and already covered five hundred acres.
Gusting winds and warm temperatures threatened to fan the blaze. 2024 was the worst year ever for wildfires in North America, droughts and hot dry conditions fuelled by strong dry winds were exacerbating the problem and with many states inundated with dead or dying trees, the fires were becoming unstoppable, this year the fires had started early in the States and Canada.

Unbearable heat in Pakistan had killed more than 2,000 people in Karachi in the last five days. Temperatures humans shouldn't have to endure were causing people to faint as the mercury sizzled at around an astonishing 50 degrees Celsius, 122 deg F. The last week in Pakistan had witnessed melting roads and plastic parts on cars also melting in the heat.

Another disaster was unfolding as Somali families displaced by drought and famine conditions for the last five years were now on the move again with catastrophic flash flooding forcing nearly 500,000 people out of their homes, leaving them more vulnerable to malnutrition and diseases such as Acute Watery Diarrhea (AWD) and cholera.
Somalia's two major rivers were affected, with the Shabelle River rising at an unprecedented rate of around 20 feet (6 metres) in less than a week.
A week after the rains began, they showed no sign of letting up.

I finished writing around 12:00 pm, put the laptop away and opened up a tin of soup and warmed it up in a pan and poured myself a glass of cold milk and took them both out onto the balcony. It was now very hot, on the street below a growing number of cars were looking for a place to park, mams and dads, kids, pushchairs, and dogs were milling around or being pushed around heading for one place, the beach. On the boulevard below the terraces were packed with people having lunch or a drink. It was such a beautiful day I decided to go for a walk along the waterfront.

It was a hot one for sure but the onshore wind made the conditions ideal for a long walk along the beach. I had left my shoes purposely above in the apartment, I loved to walk barefooted in the cold early summer sea. Along the beachfront, kids were busily filling their little buckets with seawater or sand, excited dogs barked and showed their enthusiasm by jumping with pure joy. Other people were content to just lie on towels soaking up the sun. I walked south along the water's edge for more than an hour, seagulls squawked above and dived into the water looking for fish, after a while walking I had completely left the hustle and bustle of the holidaymakers and day trippers behind me and was now alone on a deserted stretch of beach, just me and the seagulls.
About half a mile ahead I could see a large grey mound lying in the shallows, I decided to take a look. As I walked closer I saw three grey-black whales lying motionless in the shallow water, a young woman with a camera was on the scene taking pictures of the dead whales.
I shouted, "Hi"
"Hi back" she answered.
She shouted over the roar of the wind and surf, "any idea what happened here?"
I knew exactly what had happened, "yep, these magnificent creatures are dead sperm whales, three adults and they have been washing up dead in alarming numbers recently around the coast of northern Europe and the UK," I answered.
"Why, what's killing them?" She shouted still taking pictures.
I got closer to her so I didn't have to shout, "the experts think it's because they are struggling to find their staple diet, giant squid and other deep-sea fish, they have somehow navigated into shallow waters and died."
"Oh that's so sad," she said.
"Yes, it is," I replied.
I looked at the girl, she was stunning, she had shoulder length blond hair and beautiful green eyes, a beautiful smile and long slender legs which had turned dark bronze from the sun.
I told her we had better move away because the giant whales were filling up with gas and could explode anytime.
She looked disgusted, "explode?"
"Yes, when they die, they fill up with gas, like a balloon and after a while, BANG."
I offered her my hand, "hi, I'm Cooper." I said.
"I'm Maggie," she said.
"Nice name, how come, Cooper," asked Maggie?
"My grandfather's hero was the actor Gary Cooper, you know, the film star, so my dad called me Gary and now all my family call me Cooper," I explained laughing.
"Haha, families have a habit of creating nick-names, how come you know so much, you here on official business?"
"Nope," I answered, "I'm just out for a stroll and bumped into these sad creatures, "I write about the environment though, I write about events such as these poor dead whales but also earthquakes, extreme weather, that kind of stuff."
"You're a writer," she asked smiling?
"I'm more of a journalist but yes, I do write," I explained.
"What do you do," I asked.
Maggie looked at me a little shy, "I write."
"You do? Now there is a coincident," I said awkwardly.
We both stood there looking at each other for what seemed an eternity.
Maggie blinked first, flashing beautiful white teeth, "well, Gary Cooper, I would love to stay and talk but I have to rush," she said bye, turned and headed south.
I watched Maggie head off, I shouted, "take care," she turned, smiled and waved, wow, what a beauty, I thought. I watched as Maggie's figure grew smaller, she turned around another two times and waved each time sending my heart racing.
I turned to the dead whales and stood there for a while admiring the enormous creatures, who were starting to smell pretty bad, masses of seagulls filled the air squawking, landing on the whales and trying to pluck the tough skin. I was wondering if I should report the dead whales when two drones caught my eye, they had Police insignia on them, one of the drones dropped down to my level and faced me, a Dutch command rang out..."Meneer! verlaat dit beperkte gebied voor uw eigen veiligheid." ("Sir! please leave this restricted area for your own safety.")
I wanted to take some pictures for my website, maybe write a story, I looked back at the drone briefly before realising it would be folly to ignore their warning.
I looked one last time at the once magnificent beasts and headed back leaving the drones surveying the scene.

The next morning I awoke around 6:30 am, I made some coffee and went outside to the balcony, it was another clear blue sky and promised to be another scorcher. I turned on the laptop and started work on my website. The first email to catch my eye was a heat wave in Mexico, where temperatures had reached 51 C (123.8 F) in many areas which had led authorities to declare a state of emergency, the country's National Weather Service (SMN) claimed. According to the SMN, temperatures had risen to 50 C in the northern state of Sinaloa, the western state of Michoacan and the central state of Hidalgo.

Closer to home warm and sunshine records were being smashed for May in the UK, Western Europe and Scandinavia as the areas enjoyed many warm dry days with many parts enjoying tropical temperatures for days on end, after a chilly start to the month. The Dutch Met Office KNMI claimed May 2025 was the warmest month of May in three centuries, it was the warmest May since 1706 with almost half the month recording days of 26 deg C, (78.8 deg F) the highest number since 1901.
The UK Met Office claimed increased sunshine during May 2018 helped to make it a record-breaking May for daily maximum temperature and sunshine across the UK.

Indonesia's most active volcano of Mount Merapi was spewing a column of volcanic ash 6 km into the air, triggering an alert notice for passenger planes, a government official said. Merapi is located about 28 km north of Yogyakarta city, which has a population of 2.4 million and thousands of people live on the flanks of the volcano.
Meanwhile, in Guatemala, Villages on the slopes of the Fuego volcano were reported to be buried in volcanic ash, mud and rocks as the volcano erupted for 16 and a half hours killing more than 500 people with many more missing. Another volcano in the news was the Great Sitkin Volcano in Alaska, which had just erupted after earthquake activity had caused a massive explosion of ash, boulders and steam 4,000 meters into the sky affecting air traffic, luckily no people lived in the area.

I poured myself another coffee and looked out at the street below, it was now 10: am, the hustle and bustle were just starting as day-trippers and families on holiday were arriving once again making their way to the beach. Out on the sea yachts, speedboats and kite-surfers tackled the waves on a beautiful cloudless early summers day.

An email arrived on my laptop from the BBC, they were making a documentary about climate change and asked if I would be available to give them an interview if I agreed they would fly me over to London for a recording to be aired on "The today program," sometime in early July. I replied saying I was interested and asked them to send more information.
Another email arrived...
It was from the  USGS (United States Geological Survey), I receive an email automatically from the USGS if an earthquake of magnitude 6 or higher was recorded anywhere in the world, a magnitude 6 or higher are classed as a major earthquakes, this particular email made me gasp, it read: USGS 2025-06-05 08:52:23 UTC UPDATED: (M 9.1)  400km S of Bali, Indonesia: Tsunami warning issued. The depth of the quake was just, shallow quakes cause the most destruction and this one was shallow, it was the sheer size of the quake, a magnitude 9.1 equaling the fourth biggest quake ever recorded. The 2011 magnitude 9.1, in Tōhoku Japan and tsunami, killed 21,000 people and destroyed the nuclear power station, Fukushima. The Indonesian earthquake, in Sumatra of 2004  resulted in a quarter of a million deaths along the Indian Ocean from the devastating tsunami which followed that quake, both were of similar size to the Bali quake. It was an interesting statistic, 10 of the 20 biggest quakes ever recorded had now occurred in the first 25 years of the 21st century, these massive disasters were becoming much more common.
I posted the information on my website, packed up my stuff and left the apartment.

I had an appointment in Amsterdam with the esteemed, historian and theologist, Dr. van Velsen from the University of Amsterdam, I had received an invitation from him to discuss climate change. In the true Dutch tradition, I unlocked my bicycle in the basement of my apartment and pedalled off, heading for the train station in the hot morning sun. Apart from public transport, my only form of getting around was my bicycle, which, just like millions of other Dutch people.

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