A mysterious disease has ravaged Planet Earth’s once-dominant species, Homo sapiens, wiping out hundreds of millions. Survivors pick up the pieces and begin a movement for a new society. Fossil fuels and internal combustion engines ceased to exist. Even electric cars were no more. The much vaunted high technology — which many people worshiped as an omnipotent deity — mostly failed. A huge electromagnetic pulse triggered by financial and staffing meltdowns decimated the electrical grid.
Humans had no choice but to return to a mostly agrarian existence, as nature began to reclaim the silent concrete in cities. Park land, rooftops and abandoned big box stores were harnessed to grow food. In order to survive, humans had to unlearn many of their modern, urban bad habits. They learned how to live in harmony with the land, sea and skies which they had raped, pillaged and burned for so long in a greedy chase of profits and wealth. Cooperation and collaboration were the new ethos. Unsurprising to those who had been riding them, bicycles became the primary form of transport.
Government had been dismantled, and now autonomous communities organized themselves and traded within neighborhoods and nearby towns. People went without a lot of things including pharmaceuticals formerly made by profiteering corporations. Those who survived The Change turned again back to nature for herbal and other natural concoctions. There was no more stress from the old economy, where people worked thankless, underpaid 40-hour a week or more jobs that everyone hated and enriched only the top 1%. Fresh air, clean water, vigorous exercise and healthy food from working the farms and ranches, and of course bicycling, led to a far healthier population. Social problems remained but the crime rate, drug addiction and domestic violence all decreased.
Trees, grass, vines, bushes, and more plants flourished, pumping the air full of oxygen. Bees had returned to pollinate, and everything smelled wonderful. The disgusting foul odor of petrochemicals was long gone. Of course OPEC had also collapsed. What energy there was came from wind farms, solar panels on a local grid, and even bicycles were used to power simple laundry machines, churn butter, and run looms. Political were parties dissolved, and no one missed them. Disagreements were few, and resolved amicably and fairly. Education continued and included more practical life skills.
Roving bands of biker gangs prowled the roadways scavenging for parts, food, whatever they can find. But they were not the violent hordes of yesteryear; it was not the hostile Wild West. People of a certain age had seen or heard about Mad Max and how violence never solved anything but just created more problems. When there was a disagreement over who had claim to what, a sharing arrangement was made. Barter are respect were the new currency. Gone was the greedy corporate capitalism that separated people into classes which politicians pitted against each other to stay in power.
On a country road near Austin, Texas, a solitary bicyclist rides, his trailer laden with produce from the gardens of the intentional community he calls home. He’s taking the load to sell at a farmers market and strains with the effort. He also enjoyed it because he knows the trading will help get supplies for his ecovillage. Once a city boy, the dude never thought of himself as a hippie farmer. The notion of moving to the country to spend his days kneeling in the dirt tending to fruit and vegetables was as anachronistic to him as 8-track tapes and stick shift was to Generation A, for After The Change.
But farm he did, and today it was his turn to deliver the goods to market and return with credits for some food his community didn’t grow, implements, seed, and more. Getting up there in years, he was still able to get around by bike. Grunting up a long, steady hill with the load, he wiped the bead of sweat from his brow and just focused on every pedal stroke. Cresting the top, he pulled over for a rest. Surveying the view of the formerly grand downtown, he was always happily surprised not to see any pollution hanging over the city.
Continuing his journey, the biking dude thought back to the times when people stressed out about making money. People needed it for pay rent or mortgage, repairs, upkeep on the cars, medical bills and insurance, food, and more. Life was harder in some ways, but much simpler and, he though, more gratifying. With basically a sharing, bartering, decentralized economy, everyone was taken care of. Homelessness didn’t exist anymore, people got a monthly credit stipend to be able to buy food, have a place to live, and neighbors actually had the time and inclination to talk to each other.
Arriving at the market, he was greeted warmly by friends with a hearty “Dude!” Dismounting his bike he smiled and waved and returned the greeting. He took a long swig of the minty citrus water fresh from the garden and well from his community. Surveying the scene, he saw familiar smiling faces, a smorgasbord of food and goods, smelled the delicious food being cooked over fires, felt the warm sun and cool breeze on his face. He didn’t miss long days laboring over his computer or glued to his television or phone screens. Nature and real people were far more interesting.
As he took in the idyllic scene, the corners of his mouth turned up. Utopia it was not, nor a paradise. But it was damn near close. He pinched himself to make sure he wasn’t dreaming. Loaded up after his trades, he mounted his trust bike and headed home. He remembered a line from an old movie about a farm: “That’ll do, dude, that’ll do.”
Read my previous fictional piece, The Bike Rider and the Farmer.
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