Renewable Matter # 16 / May-June

When the States Invade Canada

by Roberto Giovannini

We live in a very strange world: in the past, TV series scriptwriters had to stretch their imagination far and wide in order to create thrilling or frightful story lines. But a few days ago, the actress Robin Wright, wife and opponent of “President” Frank J. Underwood in House of Cards, stated that Donald J. Trump “stole all the ideas for the sixth season” of the drama series. It is hard to deny that at this rate there are tangible risks that reality overtakes fantasy. So it seems appropriate to devote this section on how the environment and climate are sneaking into the collective imagination through media, to a comic strip and a TV series that have recently portrayed terrible scenarios. Or maybe not. 

The comic strip is We Stand Guard, written by Brian K. Vaughan and drawn by Steve Skroce. To “stand on guard” are Canada’s citizens, who must keep a close watch on the decidedly aggressive intentions of their giant neighbour, the US. The plot is set in a disconcerting but unfortunately plausible future, in about one hundred years from now: apparently the fight against global warming does not seem to have gone very well, the climate has changed and despite huge technological progress, the US have been devastated by a drought. In Salt Lake City, Utah, skirmishes between the police and demonstrators in front of the federal centres where potable water is distributed occur on a daily basis and the super green North East of the United States has become some sort of desert.

Vaughan is an American and knows his countrymen’s bad habit: if you need something important, you have to grab it, by any means necessary, with very little qualms. And in the 2112 parched world there is still a place with a lot of water. A pacific, not much armed and very near country: Canada. So the Americans first think of an excuse – an attack that blows up the White House, the first step of an alleged Canadian intention to attack the US – then they launch a flying armada destroying the main Canadian cities followed by a super powerful army of mecha-robot resembling imperial AT-ATs accompanied by digital marines equipped with exoskeletons. Once all resistance has been crushed and the few living civilians are imprisoned, here fly huge flying tank pumps, which have to suck water from the precious lakes of Canada’s Great North, in order to give it to thirsty Americans, offshoots of US generations who ignored climate change, thus condemning their country and the whole planet to an ecological disaster. Opposing the Leviathan is only a handful of warriors, ready for anything to ward off the arrogant invader. And this is as far as I will go: for our readers who are interested I am not going to spoil the plot of We Stan on Guard which – I guarantee you – is an entertaining TV comic, full of turns of events and a twist ending.

In the comic strip the baddies were the United States, albeit in one hundred years. The TV series broadcast with great success in Norway Okkupert (i.e. “The occupied” or the invaded), is set in the present day with more traditional baddies, i.e. Vladimir Putin’s Great Mother Russia. A Russia that – after Norway’s decision to stop producing hydrocarbons – asked by an evil European Union invades the peaceful Scandinavian country.

The series – Norway’s most expensive TV film production – was a huge hit and they are already working on the second season. Here’s the story line. After a devastating hurricane caused by climate change hitting Norwegian coasts, elections are won by the green party. Meanwhile, Norwegian scientists set up new super clean thorium-based nuclear power stations. The new green Prime Minister opts for a surprise move: he closes the taps of oil production and natural gas and shares with the world the miraculous invention of clean energy. An apparently very good move, which causes havoc on international markets nonetheless, enraging finance, energy magnates as well as the leaders of France and Germany and the whole of the European Union, swamped with an energy crisis. The Norwegian Prime Minister does not realize that he got himself into a big planetary mess, even more so because now the US President is an isolationist (really?).

So, at the end of the press conference where he announced his super green decision, he is kidnapped by a commando sent by Moscow and released provided that he reactivates the old energy policies accepting the European Union’s diktat.

Honestly: the world is strange. It’s dangerous. And the climate change will make it even more troubled.