This post is part of the Visions of the Future Bloggers Network, a group of bloggers inspired by the new TV series Continuum. The one-hour police drama tells the story of Kiera Cameron, a regular cop from 65 years in the future, who finds herself trapped in present day Vancouver with eight of the most ruthless criminals from the future, known as Liber8, loose in the city. In the collection of blog posts, various writers share their vision of the future and how they would deal with the challenges. Head over to the Continuum website to catch the other posts and learn more about the series.
I am sharing my vision of food in the year 2077 as a speculative story. It is inspired by current events and over intellectualization, followed by a haunting story that would not leave me alone until I told it. It is all fiction but contains all my fears and some of my hopes about food in the future.
Blood & Bones
It was the day they cut down Stanley Park that I knew my mother was right. I had to get out of Vancouver. We watched from her penthouse apartment as the trees started to fall. Soon the ground would be flattened for the “farms” that would soon sprout up there. Mostly what they called cattle. My mom laughed at this idea. Then looked at me and said, “They won’t be real.” She looked away back through the window and said, “Nothing is real anymore.”
She was one of the last real foragers. Decades ago that would have meant being in the woods looking for food. Today it meant finding fresh produce at the illegal underground markets and salvaging their DNA using their seeds. She is descended from this line of nature enthusiasts called gardeners. Some were even botanists. In her books and her mind there was wisdom about food that was all but gone now.
Forever the skeptic, I could not possibly believe my mom was right. I grew up in a household where on her tiny balcony she grew micro greens and tomatoes. Unlike most, I knew real food. I marveled at my mother’s intense desire to stay connected to the earth even though she lived in the sky.
My mother banned the government-issued “free food” from the apartment. We lived on what we could grow ourselves or get at the black markets. It was hard to be hungry but I started to think, she might be right about the food. The more I saw people eat, the more ravenous they became.
She shared this wisdom of food with me. I kept notes as she spoke in her old paper books. We catalogued the seeds together. It was my way of spending time with her but with each botanical Noah’s arc package we put together, the worry lines in her face carved deeper.
Then the trees fell. The “animals” were brought in. Cows that could barely walk. That preferred to lie down and bake in the sun. I wondered if they were being cooked right there with solar power. There were rumours they did not even have bones.
My mom knew I would never leave her and join the voluntary exiles. The government was so smart. They knew the idealists and radicals would prefer to live off the land given the opportunity so they created communes in the mountains. There was only so much fuel left to transport people there. Our window of opportunity to leave was closing in on us. She would not leave. She said she could not close her eyes to what was happening.
One night she was not feeling very well and asked me to go get her special healing herbs for her stomach at one of the banned markets. They knew me well there and they loved my mom. I knew I could trust them but I just did not want to leave. My desire to make her feel better won. I left at night and came home to find her in front of her webcam, dead.
In shock, I saw the government food in front of her. She had never eaten it before. She had not been gradually exposed to it. She broadcasted the effects of the food on her body to the world.
As I said, she knew I would never leave without her. Doing this proved her point and made it impossible for me to stay. They would come for me once word spread. There were seeds, spices and herbs hidden inside supplement capsules along side her notebooks for me to take on the drive up the mountain. Everyone lived on supplements now, no one would suspect they carried such contraband. I left as soon as I could, just the way she planned.
They did not care about identification. The optimistics wanted to leave the city. Also, the downtown streets had been cleared of the poor and were being taken against their will along with me up into the mountain. To our new “home” which turned out to be a compound. There were no guards. Just a very tall fence. We were told it was to protect us from the wildlife.
Was there still such a thing? Real animals, not tamed and drugged into submission by the government? The thought thrilled and terrified me. No one else seemed to respond. Their eyes dulled by the drugs in their food. Being home-bound for so long and living on underground food, I started to see what my mother saw.
We were dumped off on the plateau. We could see Vancouver in the west each night as the sun fell behind it. I often thought how the rich must be laughing at their cleverness. No forced exiles. The unwantables left on their own accord. More Big Macs for them. They must realize their time was limited. That their hearts could only take the fat for so long. The corn oil boom then bust to replace the fuel in their cars transformed to the engine oil spinning around their hearts. My mother had told me about the joys of other oils people used to cook with. I grew up only knowing the junk food stink of corn oil.
Fat was the new fad and here we were sinew and bones. I looked over the garden. Meager beds of vegetables. I saw scrawny green sprigs from anemic baby carrots and potatoes. There was a small pen with a dozen chickens and a rooster so doped he slept most of the day. We also had one cow to provide milk and cheese but it was the kind that worshipped the sun and lay sprawled on the ground. There was a homemade fish pond with fish that barely knew how to breathe. I immediately wondered if their condition was the result of the feed they had been given or were they bred to be this way.
The people there were in not much better shape. They had been there for months and even though their systems had cleared, they were so hungry they could barely do the work to grew the food to take care of themselves. It did not help that the compound was solar powered which, on a mountain in British Columbia, meant minimum energy for half the year. It was not freezing in the winter most of the time but heat was required, not only for the human beings but for the green houses.
People were too afraid to leave the compound even for firewood, scared of the creatures in the woods. I wondered how long it had been since anyone had seen a real animal before? It was their fear that was keeping them imprisoned. There were no locks on the doors. No guards left behind to watch over us. Yet they stayed there, starving, already giving up.
To hell with that, I thought. We needed firewood and we were surrounded by woods. I had smuggled in a hunting knife with me. I was all prepared to explain why but it turned out, nobody cared what we brought with us, as long as it fit in one bag per person. I drew the knife and left the compound.
It had been a long time since I had walked uphill. With the elevation, it was hard to breathe. I turned around. Everyone’s faces were pushed up against the fence. I turned away from them, determined to go into those woods. I was going to come out with firewood and return alive.
The woods were so quiet and the kind of green my mom used to tell me about. Almost like it sparkled in darkness but was moist and soft. I touched it and was amazed, I could feel that it was alive. Deeply alive. I knew I should not linger. I put the hunting knife in my back pocket and gathered some wood. This was a symbolic gesture more than anything else. Fear would not be my prison.
When I came back, we made a small fire. The ones who had been there the longest sat the closest. They had been cold for months. People looked at me expectantly but I looked away. I thought of all the seeds I had brought with me. The food we were going to grow. It was going to take a long time. I just hoped I lived long enough to see the garden thrive.
We began with germinating the seeds in the green house in spring. They needed warmth to want to live. I also considered fortification. If there were beasts out there, I wanted us to be camouflaged. Once ready, I transplanted the small blackberry bushes along our most exposed edges. The fence would be a trellis and the bush would eventually provide us food and protection. On another side we grew grapes for food and wine. At one of the towers we planted pumpkins that would grow and hang from the top like a wild urban tree.
There were trees that would take a long time to grow but I knew one day we would have hazelnuts, lemons and apples. We were very lucky to live in a province that still had mild climate where nature wants to flourish. I think about some of the other communities that went north and wonder how on earth they survived. Had they survived?
One day we heard the sound of an engine and all ran out to see what was going on. The government brought us one last truckload of supplies. I was hoping to see rice, flour, anything real but it was mostly cans and vacuum-sealed boxes. It made me angry. This was not food that would sustain us. It was a drugged bandaid to long-term starvation.
When the officer stepped out of the truck, eyeing our lunch of greens, cheese and eggs, my heart stopped. He took the bowl from an elderly man and stuck his face into it, eating everything in a few bites that took so much time to grow. I unconsciously put my hand on the hilt of my hunting knife. The man’s wife put hers on top of mine, helping me realize what I was doing.
The officer grunted and laughed, “You call this food?! This is real food? You people are fools. And you’re all going to die here.”
With that he drove off. Someone said after the sound of the engine withered away, “What if he comes back?”
No one knew what to say but my guts turned as I looked at the small man with an empty bowl.
If he comes back I will teach him that real food comes from blood and bones.