Published in The Niche, British Ecological Society, Vol 50, no 3, p60. This came from wondering where the red lines are in eco-activism – at what point do we become too similar to the current regimes that we dislike? I explored the edge of comfort in fiction, and in writing I think I found where my line lay.
A bedraggled man staggered down the cobbled streets, his shoes sliding off and his tie askew. Smeared with eggs and rotten fruit, he looked down at the oozing marrows that littered the floor. Just a few more metres, he thought. Just one hundred metres more and it will all be over.
An excited youth screamed from behind the barricades as he lobbed a mouldy tomato.
‘Shame! Shame! Shame!’
His gut twisted like a boa constrictor as he realised it would not be over. Sure, the ritual would end and he would be free to leave, to shower, to change his clothes. But life as he knew it would be over. He was being delisted, and would have to retrain as a shoe-repairer or mudbrick-maker. And in his free time he had 1000 trees to plant, water and tend over five years, with at least a 90% survival rate.
Damn eco-nuts, he thought. Always drooling over some butterfly or jaguar or lesser spotted arse-weevil. So his mines had leaked a little mercury. No pain, no gain. His shareholders had been happy. And he had been gaining just fine until those bloody sandalwearers had taken over. Sure, he’d bent the knee and mouthed the words – it helped keep the Sector governments onside. He’d even attended a mass by the ridiculous new female Pope who bleated on and on about looking after Pachamama. But surely nobody had really expected him to change? Business was business after all, even if the religious geeks and their girl-guide governors were measuring business success in CO2 reduced or whatever. He wasn’t about to spend half his hard-earned cash on cleaning up like GreenMine or SilverBullet just to get a badge for recycling. Though perhaps he’d have done a bit more if he’d realised the Mome had grown teeth…
Watching the former CEO of GoldDigga slip and slide down the street was a cool-eyed woman in her forties, her crisp uniform displaying her rank as one of the top advisors to Her Holiness the Mome. She turned to the younger woman on her left.
‘So the Mome is popular in Europe Sector Three then?’
‘Yes’ replied the younger woman. ‘Even this sector had slipped in allegiance to the Pope, but they’ve rushed to the Mome. Confessional booths are full of people repenting for eating beef or flying to the southern European sectors, and the young especially seem to embrace invasive species removal and tree-planting as penance more than they did Hail Marys. Carbon emissions were down 5% last year and we are on track for a further 15% this year, and we have seen increases in large carnivores of up to 20%.’
The older woman nodded, impressed.
‘I am not sure, however, that I can give a mandate for quite such… public penance for those who do not confess and repent. What happened to the guideline committee?’
The younger woman blushed, and spoke to her feet.
‘I, well, the thing is, nobody gets hurt, much, and, I, we, the guideline committee… we stayed up all night watching Game of Thrones series 17, and then had to write the guidelines in a hurry and we got a bit carried away, and once they were in place they were so popular…’
The older woman pursed her lips. She took in the stinking, swearing man, the excited hordes behind the barricades, the mumbling local official. No pain, no gain, she thought. So long as most people were happy, where was the harm?
‘Sector Three, you pass inspection. All methods approved, in the name of the Mome.’