Xmas 2026: View from the south-west across the Canterbury Plains towards the foothills of Banks Peninsular
My nephew has just returned with the water rations, manhandling the huge containers full of this world's most precious liquid, up the steep slopes, using the yoke my brother made for the job.
I'm not really surprised at this action, its just that ten years ago it wouldn't have taken me two days to travel the thirty kilometers to my brother's house to spend xmas with him, and water came out of a tap. For me, a bit slow to assimilate new stuff, it all still seems a bit weird.
My nephew grins at me watching him, 'Keeps me fit Uncle.' he says with a wry smile, wresting the yoke from his back as my brother rushes to steady one of the containers.
He's still single at twenty-six, having spent a good portion of those last ten years fighting in the middle-east, before the oil reserves ran out and we nuked the place... and realised that it wasn't oil that was the world's most precious liquid after all.
Funny how things turn out.
But I'm still concerned and have been for some years about my brother and his family.
'I still reckon you should move out to the country, to the Alps.' I say to him, we have a good mode of sorting through life's problems with easy rhetoric, shooting all manner of troubled breezes in an almost breathy air of non-commitment, 'No one rations the aquifers for domestic use, not yet anyway.'
Xmas 2026: Some of the last remaining natural greenery, on the last remaining, usable, tar-sealed road, heading into the Southern Alps.
But I know he's not keen to leave the house that's been his home for the last twenty years, rebuilt after the 2011 earthquake, as much as we all know the rains won't come for months, and that when they do they'll be torrential; further destabilising the hills around Banks Peninsular.
'Yea I guess, its just seems easier than waiting on the Council to manage the supply.'
'You've turned into a fricking hippie.' he replies, jibing me at the village life where my wife and I live in a small collective community, where I now help run the communications infrastructure for the local region, nestled in the foothills of the Southern Alps.
'Haha, reckon, who'd a thought?' I say helping my nephew with the second container.
'You're a hippie-dippie Uncle Dave, power's on Dad.' says my niece, coming down to see what we're doing and to let my brother know that the promised power over the xmas period seems to have enventuated.
I turn and see her smiling, proud at the woman she has grown into and the fact that she and her husband have travelled for over a week to get to my brother's for xmas.
'Yea, that's me, a fricking hippie.' I say returning her smile, 'Still, at least we can generate our own power.'
I see my my brother flash one of his grimaces as we all head back upstairs, letting me know he doesn't agree with me, but I can't shake the feeling that his days next to the crumbling ruins of Christchurch are numbered.
Xmas 2026: Christchurch sunrise from the old estuary, can just see the sea in the distance.
It only took ten years for the world to go to pot, for the cities to fail, for the droughts and floods to hit so hard they took out eighty percent of our infrastructure and caused massive loss of life, something even the earthquakes failed to do for the years they were active.
Despite predictions from most environmental modelling of the first few decades of the 21st century and everyone's expectations, the sea level actually dropped. There were no giant tsunamis, no giant power waves wreaking destruction on coastal areas, just the gradual receding shoreline, unending droughts, and rain filled weather bombs.
Combined with the gradual change in overall weather patterns and fiercer and fiercer extremes of weather events, the dearth of water quickly caused once arable land to sour and become arid. Most of us think these changes started way back in the early naughties, but apparently the remaining scientists - when we hear from them - say the changes were occurring even before that.
But apparently the sea level is still due to rise, so at least that's something to look forward to.
Xmas 2026: Lake Lyndon, a water reserve of the Otira Region settlement. In the distance the desert conditions, which seem to creep forward a few meters each year and each year the lake levels drop a few more inches.
Back upstairs in the living room, my brother hands me a class of crystal clear and cool water, which I take gratefully and then plonk down on his sofa as he heads back into the kitchen. Its like receiving a glass of wine, something to be savoured, as I don't really need it.
I stare out across the haze at the panoramic view of the Canterbury Plains that my brother's living room affords. I must be a little depressed or down - it is Xmas after all - as I cannot but try and fathom the changes, as I take in the desert landscape before me and the memories come flooding back.
There was a point where I watched the stream of refugees from Chirstchurch head West to the Army run camps set up in the foothills of the Alps, during the exodus back in 2021, and had thought I'd never see any of my family members again.
It's not as though the city collapsed overnight or anything remotely as dramatic, but there was just a point where the city's infrastructure could not sustain the population and a slow evacuation had begun. A point where the fighting over food and water, looting, depleting water supply and general unrest became too much for anyone to bear.
A gradual trickle became a flood as sevety percent of Christchurch's population made their way away from their homes and streamed across the blistering plains on foot to get to the camps, driven by the need for water.
Xmas 2026: Lake Hawdon, slow progress in decreasing the Ph and associated toxin levels, but local scientist says it'll be a usable water source by 2028.
The dramatic part if any, is that none of them were ever seen again. No one really knows what happened to them, although the rumours suggested massive riots and an associated death-toll, the official line from the government at the time was that they had been evacuated to the North Island.
But having already relocated deep into the foothills of the Alps years before with my wife, I can distinctly remember watching the shuffling hordes day after day, in the hope that if my brother and his family were among them, we'd catch sight of them through the huge clouds of dust and haul them back to our place. I remember my lovely wife had tears streaming down her grimy face almost every day, christ I had tears streaming down my ugly mug almost every day. It was a bad scene.
My brother and nephew come and sit next to me.
'The girls say dinner will be soon.' says my brother budging up next to me to make room form my nephew.
'Cool, did those lettuces travel well?'
'Yep, really appreciate you bringing extra, we haven't had any since last year.'
Xmas 2026: Rain clouds at sunset over the central Alps, now a localised phenomena and in stark contrast to the plains only kilometers away.
'No problems, we planted extra for you guys.' I reply and again my concerns come to the fore, 'Why don't you guys come out and have another look round Otira after xmas? Just to, you know, look around. again, and feel actual rain, it'd be like a holiday... you guys look like you could use a break.'
'Yea, I suppose it wouldn't hurt and we have been talking about it.' says my brother in a resigned breath out.
'That wasn't so hard now?' I say and nudge him playfully and catch my nephew's eye as he nods almost imperceptibly.
'We could definitely use your guy's skills, we have a drone programme starting up. The Aerials are almost complete but they're having problems with the tech.'
This is unfair of me and my nephew, a set up, both of us knowing that my brother is a whiz with and passionate about anything that flies; both of us know that the ever decreasing number of people living around my brother and sister-in-law on the hill, means he doesn't have the 'just staying coz our friends are here' reason to wheel out this year; and I catch my brother's wistful yet unfocused stare.
'Cool, my stuff hasn't been working for ages...'
'Cool, sorted, you can come out in January, we can play wargames.' I say to cement the deflection away from the setup.
'Great.' he replies sarcastically.
Again my nephew nods and gets up to head back into the kitchen, leaving my brother and I sitting staring out at the desert.
Xmas 2026: West Melton on the way to my brothers, can't believe I used to live here! Where are all the houses?!
'It's still crazy.' I venture.
'Yea I know, seems like only last year we moved up here.'
'Yea, who'd thought we'd fuck it up so badly?'
My brother laughs, 'Reckon, been thinking about it. There was so much we needed to be doing, not just the eco, green bullshit stuff.'
'Yea, I know what you mean, we kinda needed to get our shit together in so many ways.'
My brother nods.
We are referring to what's commonly known as a HAONPU or a hindsight application of no practical use.
In the years leading up to the relevant ecological tipping points we should have been working on replacing money with an alternative form of exchange, and supporting the rise of enlightened self interest. We should have been replacing cities with the reestablishment of smaller self-sustaining, technologically interconnected social communities.
We even should have been supporting and legislating the fall of bigotry and actual rise of equality, while arranging the fall of the world's remaining despots and supporting next evolution of democracy.
Even developing the exchange of organised religion as our primary 'moral' compass with the establishment of scientifically based and legislatively defined personal and interpersonal standards.
Xmas 2026: Only one dust storm for the entire trip to my brother's house, bonus!
All of these things were needed to prevent the endless cycles of consumerism and the rape of the planet, and none of which were directly related to ecology.
But this would have entailed some discomfort and a real change in our consumer cycles - like ensuring a focus on equal resource distribution around the world, eradicating greed, and ultimately developing a programme to control our breeding habits - without reverting to totalitarianism.
So we didn't change a thing, even in 2016 when we realised we'd wiped out 40% of the world's species in just over ten years, we still did nothing.
As I stared across the now arid countryside of the Canterbury Plains, infrastructure stripped for use elsewhere - even the roads - trees long since gone, I relaised that we probably couldn't have made the social and cultural changes in any case, not without a real impetus, and that hindsight really was a useless bitch.
And later that night, as I listened and joined in with the 'Here's to xmas 2026, cheers!' resounding around the sparsely provided xmas table, I wondered what we were all actually going to do next.