Juicy Setting Tidbits

6 Aug

I just picked up Alan Weisman’s book, The World Without Us. It is cyberpunk setting gold!

In my game, Cyberpunk Remix, the world population is smaller than it is today, somewhere between 1 and 2 billion. Climate change and bioweapons killed off all the rest of the people and the people that were left huddled in cities for culture and protection. And city dwellers can’t support large families the way farmers can, so the population never came back.

So much of the world is – The World Without Us – in that people don’t live there because writing genes in Cyberpunk Remix is only slightly more difficult than writing computer code, so some new smartypants will, as often as not, take it upon himself to write a new bison-flu that is horrifyingly deadly to humans. So yeah, living away from the cities, not safe.

But there would be some reasons that would bring people into the wilds, and I just read about one, the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre.

So check this, 100 years from now, fossil fuels are rare and expensive. Sure people have biodiesel, but that has to be made from vegetable matter, so you have to grow it and process it, rather than just pump it out of the ground. Most people will not leave the city they were born in, for their entire lives. But some things have to travel. Cities need food, often from far away. I suppose these could be moved by dirigible… except, the food would need to be packaged to avoid spoiling.

And that’s where the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre comes in. Here are some excerpts from Alan Weisman’s book.

For a week, Moore and his crew found themselves crossing a sea the size of a small continent, covered with floating refuse. It was not unlike an Arctic vessel pushing through chunks of brash ice, except what was bobbing around them was a fright of cups, bottle caps, tangles of fish netting and monofilament line, bits of polystyrene packaging, six-pack rings, spent balloons, filmy scraps of sandwich wrap, and limp plastic bags that defied counting.

That’s right, plastic miners! Imagine it, a slowly rotating high-pressure vortex of hot equatorial air, bigger than Texas. Floating in this garbage strewn doldrums, would be small buoyant towns, probably half pieced together from the garbage they are there to get. The plastic miners would largely cooperate, especially in endeavors to  retrieve plastic from the sea floor, but I could see three different factions competing for their loyalty, the entrepreneurial Zu Fazhan Shetuan would be very keen on exploiting any business opportunities this would generate. After all, most of the plastic would be recycled and made into food packaging for sale on the world market. The Ithna’shar Juma’a would like to get involved in this. Not only are disenfranchised masses low hanging fruit for proselytizers, but the Shi’ites are highly interested in converts among inventors and other ingenious souls. And lastly Astroforce would not have any interest in setting up shop on the surface of the Earth, but they definitely wouldn’t want some other faction getting too much sway in the area, and possibly driving up prices on plastic products. It may be really easy to make long chain polymers in freefall, but you need the raw materials, and The Gyre would be one of the places where these raw materials would be extremely cheap and easy to get at.

Here’s more from The World Without Us.

In 1975, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences had estimated that all oceangoing vessels together dumped 8 million pounds of plastic annually. More recent research showed the world’s merchant fleet alone shamelessly tossing around 639,000 plastic containers every day. But littering by all the commercial ships and navies, Moore discovered, amounted to mere polymer crumbs in the ocean compared to what was pouring from the shore.

The real reason that the world’s landfills weren’t overflowing with plastic, he found, was because most of it ends up in an ocean-fill. After a few years of sampling the North Pacific gyre, Moore concluded that 80 percent of mid-ocean flotsam had originally been discarded on land. It had blown off garbage trucks or out of landfills, spilled from railroad shipping containers and washed down storm drains, sailed down rivers or wafted on the wind, and found its way to this widening gyre.

“This,” Captain Moore tells his passengers, “is where all the things end up that flow down rivers to the sea.”

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