The post Christmas spell has made me read more than usual. January has that something about it where after the flurry of a Christmas run around, we retreat into the turn of the Winter Solstice and ponder what will come in the year ahead. Every time we switch on the television or radio we are met with tenterhooks gloom and doom, from migrants wanting that 'better life' sinking on unstable boats in the Mediterranean to a volatile stock market which means we are under the boot of more austerity (according to our illustrious leaders in parliament). Easy to say for those earning way above the minimum wage in the London power house. Here in the West Country, jobs which equate London salaries are non-existent unless you are a Doctor or Lawyer.
So, all of this rather negative news throws my mind to future scenarios. If someone approached me to commission a novel and then asked me what the suggested topic would be, I would say look to the overpopulation of the British Isles. Something has to give. The terrible floods in the north of England around Christmas echoed a similar situation to the Somerset Levels in more recent times where some of the residents have still not been compensated. And the reason for much of this? The weather causes the flooding - yes - and the meteorological merchants of gloom have been talking about global warming for a few years. While they have been talking about it, what have the powers that be been doing about it? Encouraging us to recycle waste products, use less plastic bags, car share where possible or use public transport ... yes, it all sounds nice, sensible and responsible but it isn't the root cause. The root cause is the amount of people not just on the planet Earth but in the country as a whole. And, like many stuck in the cycle of the Syrian war, they all want a 'better life'. If we lay down any more concrete then like the Somerset Levels and Cumbria, the better life will become an unsustainable nightmare.
Looking at how fit, athletic and energetic some of the young Middle Eastern men are, I would hope they could stand and fight against their oppressors. They certainly have the enthusiasm to make hazardous journeys with expectations at the other end. How does this impact into literature? The stories here are massive. Images of demanding migrant women with their fat faces pushed into severe headscarves, wailing with their crying babies pushed in front of television cameras for sympathy, feeds the fuel of journalism, which in turn fuels the socialist echelons for more to be done while ignoring the needs of the indigenous population who are losing their jobs through austerity and often their homes. Journalists can be very dangerous people. Trouble keeps them employed so they want more of it.
Zoom forwards some forty years. Britain - currently with a population of 60 million (and that is a conservative estimate) could see a population of 100 million quite easily. Everyone will have to be housed, fed, educated, cared for through hospitals and expect transport links and green space. It makes me think of a cinema with a certain seating capacity. If you pile too many people in, few will be able to see or hear the film, arguments break out and a safety hazard ensues which leads to every man for himself and some injured or killed in a stampede for survival. Yet everyone expects this 'better life'. I cannot see anything getting better. If anything it is already growing worse quite rapidly.
What is to be done? Build more skyscrapers? Throw anyone occupying a house where they have a spare bedroom out and force them to hand it over to a larger family? Enforced euthanasia? A one child policy? Those answers are derivatives of Communism and would be quickly rejected but governments may try to force them in under their right of democracy. Just look at the recent upheaval over the bedroom tax. Food production? If the land is chewed up with so many building and road projects, where will the food come from and surely we will need more reservoirs for vital water supplies? Off the top of my head I see some terrifying consequences. You only have to be in a supermarket the week before Christmas to see what tension can do for a mini-siege. Read 'Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep' by Philip Dick or 'Rule Britannia' by Daphne Du Maurier for their view of the future. Different angles on different places but oddly, they weren't far off the mark.
*Recent news of the Zika Virus just adds to the dangerous mix of how fast an illness can spread in overpopulated areas.
The future is full of literature. Creativity can solve problems. Start writing.