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(7) Zahri

Extract from Years of Plenty, Years of Dread (2042): “…what few appreciated was that FDR had begun a vast project to terraform America—and, in particular, California. As became all too clear in the late 2020s, the water was life; and when the water ran out life degenerated to a very low level indeed. The images are so familiar now as to induce boredom—many catastrophes have come and gone since then; and yet, even now, the videos clipped from the lines at the water bowser, the girls who twerked next to their water cans, convey foreboding. We live after the catastrophe, of course—yet sometimes it seems the catastrophe never happened…

We say that FDR terraformed America—California, specifically—and yet today, as we begin Phase 2 of the Martian terraformation, the contemporary reader will find it hard to understand what we mean by ‘terraform’. Surely that has something to do with vast spaceships, with silver objects shaped like grain silos that slowly rotate in space before short darts tipped with chemical concentrates lance into the rusty atmosphere. Yet terraformation was not always so pure and dramatic—it was not ‘from the gods’…

Helen Gahagan Douglas (‘red down to her underpants’) duked it out with Richard Milhous Nixon over a territory that was created by FDR—irrigated to provide hundreds of thousands of families with land, with about 126 acres each. Douglas, a true believer, went on and on about the promised land parcels; she even did so before indifferent workers in the aviation industry. Ironically, she lamented that immigrant labour flooded the valley—a valley that was to have been composed from ordinary native folk on their patches. What neither Douglas nor Nixon realised was that FDR’s terraformation project, the artificial river, contained a fault at the geological level—and it was that fault that blossomed in the 2020s and drove the ancestors of people who had fled the dust bowl to FDR’s artificial Eden to the road once again. Nature…”


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