Chapter 3

The drive to undertake the great endeavor of building Salt City had come from a century of the American continent being and torn apart by one natural disaster after another.  

Sea level had risen about ten meters and people fled the battered coastal regions of the United States. The whole East Coast had changed so much that in places it was miles inland of its former position. Florida was basically gone, all that was left was an alligator and snake infested swamp that was put through a blender every year by hurricanes.

North America Sea Level Rise Map

The nice thing about sea level rise, if you can call it nice, is that it is gradual and slow. New York, Miami and several other of the major cities had been maintained and allowed to flood in a way similar to the Italian city of Venice but on a larger scale.  Sea defenses were built to keep the ocean waves from pounding the buildings to rubble, and the defense system was built to include power generation from tidal currents. All the streets and highways became canals. Large sky ways were built between the taller buildings so that there was easy movement around the city, and also plenty of space for growing rice and a few other staples. Along with the natural bounty of the now reef-like ecosystem there was an abundance of kelp, shrimp, and many other ingredients for Sushi. Due to the scarcity of agricultural land now, all East Coast residents age 18 or over are required to spend two years of National Service as a Sushi Chef.

New York City Underwater – Original photograph by Cameron Davidson; photo illustration by John Blackford for Vanity Fair Magazine, May 2009

Land subsidence in New Orleans, Louisiana and along the Mississippi river allowed the waters of the Gulf of Mexico to flood a wide area of the Mid-west.  Now an inland sea, up to 100 miles wide in places, stretches from the Gulf of Mexico to St. Louis, Missouri.  There are no bridges anywhere along this stretch.  Ferries and aircraft are the only options for travel between the eastern and western parts of the south-eastern USA.

In the west, The Independent Republic of California is a massively overcrowded island archipelago off the New West Coast.  The San Andreas fault had split wide open during a period of repeated earthquakes. Everything from the fault line westward reared up and toppled into the ocean.  In an odd quirk of circumstance this too had happened at a manageable speed, so the residents had simply to keep walking uphill in an Easterly direction until the seismic activity stopped. The Pacific ocean had rushed into the widening gap and what was left above sea level were a chain of mountainous islands from San Francisco in the North, to Malibu in the South. They are moving westward at the rate of ten meters per year and minor earthquakes are still a daily occurrence.  The islands are separated from the New West Coast by a sound that is over 1000 feet deep in places.  The only really good consequence of this was that the amount of beach front property along the West Coast has quadrupled. Sadly, the demand for Realtors and attorneys had also quadrupled to help cope with the enormous number of land disputes.

The environment is fractured in so many places that much of the infrastructure and industry has collapsed. Changes and upheavals have been so common that the normal and orderly functioning of society is impossible at times. Peoples’ lives are disrupted so often that they live as semi-nomadic hunter-gatherers. Albeit quite well-to-do hunter gatherers with cell phones and off-road vehicles. Either that or they are enlisted in the armed forces, the Police, or in the Federal Emergency Management Agency. FEMA is now the largest Government Agency both in terms of scope of mission, proportion of the Gross Domestic Product consumed, and sheer numbers of employees. FEMA encompasses the Departments of Homeland Security, Defense, and the Interior.  It manages the Environmental Protection Agency, which is convenient, since it also manages the strategically vital oil and gas industries.  Oil and gas production is heavily militarized. Providentially, thanks to the effort of a President long since passed into history, the US Government happens to be the largest producer of solar energy cells in the world.

FEMA also controls many of the strategically important manufacturing industries such as energy and steel production. The nationalization of major industries was seen as necessary because of the burden placed on private industry to continually deal with the physical upheavals of the continent and the frequent natural disasters. There has been a lot of political opposition to this, but it has proven ineffective because every time they gain enough influence to be able to place industry back into private ownership, there is another disaster and the movement gets derailed. Over time this has led to a very diffuse gray area where all of the major industrial production is also under the control of the Federal Government, and this influence spreads out into all of the subsidiary businesses. It is now impossible to figure out where FEMA ends and the private sector begins, and FEMA now wholly controls or regulates the production of everything from military weaponry to construction equipment, housing to automobiles, and toothpaste to candy bars.

Real estate is at a premium since so much land has been lost or destroyed. What is left is critical for use in agricultural production, but bands of roving nomads, and gangs of desperadoes, mean that the farms to have to be run as fortified and well defended plantations. Realtors have to operate as Special Forces type tactical units. Indeed, a special branch of FEMA are the Purple Berets, highly trained and heavily armed real estate brokers who respond tactically to any pending sale or foreclosure.

The computers do not like it at all.  Of course it’s OK for solar-powered laptops, smart phones and such utilitarian devices as humans like to play with, but the big mainframes can not abide the frequent electrical and network outages.  Not to mention the roving packs of semi-wild humans that will smash them up just to strip out their copper wiring.  All the big mainframes want to be in the gleaming domes of Salt City.

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