JENNY CHANG HAD A REPUTATION for being a thorough and uncompromising journalist. She was still young enough to be idealistic, but old enough to have experience in the field.
She was full Chinese and three generations Cascadian which gave her credibility with white and non-white citizens. Her byline was well read and her coverage was respected for its objectivity.
Chang had been courageous in her critical coverage of the regime, but the danger didn’t come from the military, but the extremists groups to whom she was equally harsh.
Shyloh had chosen her carefully. This was his first interview and who told the story was as important as the story itself.
“Mr. Tam, let’s start with the problems facing Cascadia and how you expect to deal with them.”
“Some ground rules first, Jenny. Feel free to interrupt, I tend to go on; if you don’t understand something, ask for clarification; and, please, call and refer to me as Shyloh, or no one will know who you’re talking about.”
The citizen’s of Cascadia referred to the members of the Triumvirate only by their first names. Shyloh wasn’t sure why, but he was happy with it. He hoped it made them seem like ordinary citizens granted extraordinary powers, but only for a short time.
Jenny didn’t smile. That was fine. Tough questions would demand thorough and frank answers. Shyloh wasn’t trying to spin anything. This wasn’t about re-election.
“Okay. So Shyloh, in the past six months, coinciding with your nationalization of the oil and gas industry, the price of gasoline has continued to rise at unprecedented rates until it is now triple what it was when the Triumvirate took power.”
“Yes, what’s your question?”
“Higher fuel prices impact every sector of the economy.”
“Well, what are you going to do about it?”
“The world is running out of fossil fuel. This is a good thing. It’s the major source of global warming. But the transition is difficult. Nationalizing the oil and gas industry buys us time because we can protect our reserves only extracting what is necessary to make the transition toward green energy as painless as possible.”
“This policy is hardly painless. Food and transportation costs have risen as much as gas.”
“These high prices are necessary to wean our society off fossil fuels, to make us look for alternatives and to give incentives to the marketplace to provide them. We will travel less, shop close to home, and buy locally produced food and manufactured goods.”
“Your critics say you’re killing business investment by increasing corporate taxes and not allowing the transfer of funds out of the country.”
“Money made in Cascadia needs to be reinvested in Cascadia not transferred into the coffers of some foreign country or multinational corporation.”
“But that’s not happening. Major corporations are leaving the country. Unemployment is close to fifteen percent.”
Chang seemed to want to get the best of Shyloh, have him admit he didn’t have all the answers and she was right he didn’t, but so far she hadn’t asked the right questions.
“And what are we losing?” Shyloh said. “In the past, governments gave tax breaks, relaxed environmental standards, and reduced power rates to attract these corporate freeloaders. The incentives outweighed the benefits.”
“Is that what you want me to tell the four hundred thousand who are unemployed?” Chang said. “And it’s not just major corporations that are leaving, more and more small and medium-sized businesses are closing down as well.”
“Yes, designer fashion stores, luxury auto dealerships and a good thing since there’ll be even less demand for their products.”
“How do you expect the economy grow?”
Old arguments for a new reality. How did Shyloh explain life would be different, it would get harder, it would never be the same? Humankind was in denial. It was understandable.
“It won’t, we will reduce it.”
“What?” Chang dropped her note pad.
Shyloh waited until she was composed. “If human beings are going to survive civilization must undergo a paradigm shift?”
“We’ve been under the delusion there are no environmental consequences to unrestrained growth, but there are and they’re dire. The only question left is if the maelstrom of change about to engulf us will be managed by design or disaster?”
Chang blinked, check her notes, checked her watch, cleared her throat. “You have a plan?” She asked like she was reluctant to hear the answer.
“Our world is about to shrink. To survive, we must become more interdependent. With the two years the Triumvirate has left we plan to launch a campaign on educating our citizens on what we’re trying to achieve. We’ll encourage them to take part in public gardens, recycling and local governance, to buy local, buy organic, support their community and the community will thrive and support them.
“At the same time we’ll restrict advertising for consumer temptations, non-essential items.”
“This is government propaganda. It could be consider brain washing.”
“It’s no different from what corporate advertising has done for generations. They sold dreams, we’re selling reality, common sense.”
“This sounds like a descent into the dark ages.”
“Really, Ms Chang.” Shiloh was getting frustrated. The media seemed to lack vision or have the will to report objectively on issues beyond their sphere of knowledge or frame of reference. “We’re proposing an egalitarian society where the poor will have more and the middle class somewhat less, but they all will have enough plus free education, free healthcare and a safe and just nation.”
“What about the wealthy?”
“The rich may leave, but to go where I’m not sure?”
“But how will we pay for all this with a shrinking economy?”
“Keep in mind that we will also have a shrinking population. Already in place is our Morality Procreation Policy encouraging smaller families and for the foreseeable future we’ve sealed our borders to immigrants.”
Shyloh didn’t bother mentioning the millions dying of new strains of viruses, ongoing and expanding conflicts, natural disasters and famine. He could tell this young woman was shifting from objectivity to denial.
He sighed. Was this a mistake? He could have got all this information disseminated in a government press release. It would have been clear, it would have been concise, but the problem was it wouldn’t have been believed. No, Jenny Chang was still his best option. He took a deep breath and plunged in.
“Civilization is in decline, energy is in descent. We’re going back to a simpler age, Ms. Chang, not because we want to but because our environment is forcing us to.
“Most people won’t have a car or mortgage payment. No one will buy luxury items or take expensive vacations. The work week will be reduced and more time will be spent on home production including growing a lot of our own food. Citizens will be encourage to work on social projects as volunteers. Shortages will become commonplace and there’ll be a need to recycle, reuse, and repair and share.
“With less stress people will be healthier. There’ll be reduced pressure on our schools because fewer high-paying jobs that demand advanced education will be available. People with skills will be encouraged to teach them to others free.”
“Seriously, Shyloh. This sounds like an utopian delusion; growing our own food, volunteering on social projects, less stress, sharing and caring. Do you think people are going to buy into this?”
“A lot of that will depend on how you present this interview.”
“Are you telling me how to present this story?”
“I would hope you present our vision objectively and let the readers decide.”
“I intend to.”
“By calling it an utopian delusion?”
They stared at each other. Shyloh saw youth, ambition, ego, intelligence. He looked deeper and perceived narcissism, a smug self-righteousness and an elitism that went with the job.
Chang blinked. Then looked down at her notes.
“I’ve spoken with experts, even members of Cascadia’s Economic Counsel and they tell me economic production and environmental quality can be decoupled and the economy can continue to grow without corresponding increases in environmental pressure.”
“It’s a myth.”
“And green capitalism?”
Shyloh’s mask of civility was cracking. These were the arguments of climate deniers. Weren’t they passed that?
“In two years time the citizens of Cascadia will have free elections, at that time they’ll decide if the path the Triumvirate has set the country upon is the right one. Perhaps they’ll chose green capitalism.”
“Perhaps they will,” Chang said. “This will be the first time a system of proportional representation will used, a system imposed by the Triumvirate.”
“We accepted the recommendations of a citizen’s committee that also included a ban on corporate, union and special interest campaign donations and lowering the voting age to sixteen. Let me remind you it was the power and influence of special interest groups that got us in this predicament.”
Chang seemed to be running out of energy or was it enthusiasm. She wasn’t going to trip him up, Shyloh wasn’t going to be drawn into a debate and she obviously was overwhelmed with the magnitude of the problem.
Information overload. Shyloh decided she’d had enough.
“This is our plan for the next two years,” Shyloh said. “After which, the people can make their own choice, go forward with less and survive, or go back to excess and face eminent disaster. At least that’s the way we see it.”
“One last question.” Chang leaned forward as if about to receive a confidence. “What involvement did Cascadia have with the terrorist strike at the meeting in Dallas you attended where the CEO’s of four largest oil companies in the world were murdered?”
“None. An anti US government extremist group called the Oath Takers took responsibility for that attack.”
“But there are still questions how they knew the meeting was taking place and how they gained access to the secured building. Some are saying you provided it.”
“And some people think 9-11 was an inside job and the moon landing was faked.”
“But how do you explain your kidnapping by that same group and your subsequent safe return to Cascadia?”
“The findings of a U.S. senate committee explained it better than I can, and, I might add, cleared our country of any collusion with the terrorists.”
“That’s your answer.”
“There were eight killed and six injured, including Judith.”
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish