Nova Terra stood up, for what seemed like hours hunched over in the red dirt and dust that continued to clog her nose day after day. The heavy diesel trucks only gave her nose and lungs something to taste and smell which was different than the churned-up earth that constantly made her eyes red, and seemed to shorten her breath each time she climbed out of the scared earth she would call her job. Choosing to support her family, she decided to forgo school as her dad was a victim of a collapsed mine 3 years ago, plus there was money to be made. The sky was a sickly shade of yellow, tinged with a noxious orange haze that hung over the horizon like a permanent cloud.
Nova Terra, a young girl whose body was already worked to resemble that of a 30-year-old, toiled away in a dimly lit mine, her tiny frame barely able to hold up the weight of her homemade pickax, which she was lucky enough to use as it was always a gamble if she would have any assistance when digging for the treasures buried below the dirt, or have to use her hands. She was just eleven years old, but she had already spent most of her life digging for rare earth metals that were used to make renewable batteries for cars and homes. It was a cruel irony that she and her fellow miners were working to save the planet while living in the depths of its destruction. Another irony, that began humorously, but slowly evolved into frustration and anger, is that the precious rare earth minerals she was harvesting were worth nothing to her or her family, but people paid her for their perceived value.
After the oil sabotage of 2027 where several oil tankers and key refineries throughout the world were targeted for destruction, some say it was from the east, some say from the west, others say it was a highly organized anti-oil climate group, others say it was rouge nationalists trying to appear like it was from "the other side". The images that were spread to the social media outlets slowly gathered steam, and politicians in countries she would never visit, would use these images of destruction to push their agendas on “clean and green energy” and how the time was now or never. Institutions and governments of the west would deem fossil fuels, once relied so heavily upon as a society, as a “cancer to the world”, and it needed to be “cut out”. Energy companies failed, leading to the nationalization of oil companies all across the globe. The oil sabotage would send shockwaves throughout the world, in ways that would affect Nova’s life and that of her community.
Ceasing all hydrocarbon exploration and production, except for military, factories, and international travel, the rush to mine rare earth minerals was in full force, and companies and front-line movers would be the profiteers. The rush could have been defined as a tsunami wave that hit Nova’s community. Once a small quiet village full of trees and clean streams, it not only looked but felt like a completely different place. What began as a few big black cars stopping at her village to scout around and look at maps while they ate their lunch in the heat, turned into bulldozers and excavators to clear the land where she and her family got their food. It only took 5 months for her once quiet home, to be bustling with plumes of dark smoke from trucks hauling loads of earth deep below the surface, to a landscape that looked like an infected boil that couldn’t heal. Sure there were new jobs for her and her community, but the labor and toll it took on her body and those of her fellow laborers of all ages, just didn’t seem fair. Governments who imposed this “mineral madness” often benefited from the work she and her family would endure, making more money to make more deals to cut open the earth more. More. More. More.
The girl's hands were calloused and blistered from hours of labor, her back hunched and sore from the constant strain. She had grown up in this mine since she was 8, surrounded by the constant clanging of pickaxes and the choking dust that filled the air. Her only solace was the faint hope that her hard work would someday lead to a better future for herself and her family. However, after 3 years of work, she was still cooking with scraps of rubbish she took home from the site or dung from one of the oxen in her village. It seemed like the entire world was making “progress” and she and her family were left in the literal dust.
But as she emerged from the mine each day, coughing and gasping for air, she was reminded of the harsh reality that awaited her. Despite the promises of a green energy revolution, her life remained one of hardship and struggle. She still lived in the dark, burning wood and dung to cook her meager meals. The renewable batteries she helped create were a distant luxury that she would likely never be able to afford. As she trudged back to her makeshift home to begin cooking dinner for her family, the irony of her situation was not lost on her. The “clean energy push” was great for some people, but for her, it made her life even more difficult. The very materials she worked so hard to extract were the ones that kept her trapped in a world of poverty and despair.