Deborah Bezhope rubbed her eyes as the harsh glare of her phone screen filled the room. It was still dark outside, but she had already begun her morning routine of checking the news and energy reports. She would normally prefer her morning routine in the soft morning light as turning on the lights unless it was a necessity wouldn’t look well for her position, nor would it be worth the Federal Digital Dollars it would take to run the lights as the energy was already low during evening and nighttime hours as the solar panels were obsolete without the sun, and wind usually didn’t turn the turbines after 4 PM on most days. Making electricity scarce in the twilight hours, thus with scarcity comes a higher cost.
She was used to these mornings as most people were in her carbon class. She would have the benefit of utilizing more than necessary power at her work, and at home as her job was to have her electronics charged at all times. Her main responsibility at the government branch of climate communication was to review, monitor, report, and ban any article or account that would try and denounce the climate efforts and policies the government was putting in place. This was a necessary department after the energy riots of 2034, which seemed to spread throughout the United States and other countries around the Western world like a map of the countries slowly burning from the edges. What started in California and quickly began to pop up on the East Coast would rapidly expand inland as energy supply and prices rose and stayed at exorbitant costs. Without being able to afford basic necessities, and bills three times the amount of rent and mortgages people had enough. Enough of not being able to afford to live in their homes, enough of politicians pointing fingers and blaming everyone else than themselves, enough waiting for the local government agencies to come in and fix the problem, enough of higher taxes to subsidize the unnecessary energy costs per home. So when enough “enoughs” was put inside a pressure cooker with no outlet, people took to the streets.
After months of rioting, makeshift roadblocks, and police forces dwindling and unable to squelch the mobs' appetite, the government stepped in declaring martial law, as well as setting up Climate Communications Control Units throughout the United States. These units were set up as a deterrent to public outrage following the riots as the Climate Riot Review Committee concluded that many of the riots were staged utilizing social media platforms, as well as utilizing platforms as a tool to spread information that wasn’t in line with the politicians' agendas. Climate Communications Control Units were set up to monitor, and disseminate information on climate change and policies, report, and freeze accounts that would question or critique the climate agenda. Sharing or spreading information that was not in line with the Climate Communications Program carried the highest offense and penalty. What made it so effective was the climate denier clause which gave CCCU’s power to mute, block, and remove anyone who voiced an alternate viewpoint of the current state of the climate crisis. It gave them the power to remove not just what account the information was spread, to but also any and all social media accounts the person may have. This included professional, personal, side businesses, and other platforms. Should the information that was spread “trend” or “go viral” then there would be an extra reach of power to silence others in your online social circles, such as family and even friends. This approach was like cutting off the arm for a splinter in the finger, making people think twice about the repercussions of spreading info. Not just affecting them should they be flagged, but also those around them. An effective form of controlling the narrative and getting those climate crisis deniers to think twice before being boastful and sharing the lies Deborah worked so hard to squash.
As she scrolled through her Twitter feed, she found an article on the latest energy scarcity crisis titled “NET ZERO 2050 is in our reach”, and without thinking twice, she hit the share button. Just as she was about to set her phone down, an alarming alert flashed on the screen. Deborah's heart raced as she read the message, "Sharing articles critical of the government's energy policies is now considered an act of treason. Your associated accounts have been locked until further review.” Deborah knew she was in trouble. Deborah knew that further review just meant that if anyone was to challenge this ban, the agency would shift its resources into building a case as to why it was the necessary good of the public to not allow the individual their "freedom of speech rights". It was hopeless to challenge the ban, often leading to more hassle and tarnishing of your name to your friends and family. It turns out the article she shared was actually filled with information and data on what the world must look like to achieve this, which was not in line with what the government was communicating. The article shared that for Net Zero to be achieved it would mean a world of no humans, volcanoes, wildlife, or pretty much nothing like it exists in her world. A bleak and deserted landscape was the only way for the population to reach this decades-old goal.
With that alert, she knew not only her Climate Crisis Unit position would be terminated, regardless of her defense, but it also meant that her side job of selling eco-friendly and energy-efficient products to low-income families would have to be closed as well, as she was going to be locked out of them. As she was allowed to have full charge of her electronics, she would take advantage of this status 3 years ago when she opened her online store, which she grew from a few followers to over 10,000 loyal customers who would purchase her eco-friendly products that would help make life more comfortable to those who couldn’t afford adequate energy. From clotheslines, to bio-burning coffee heaters, to solar phone chargers families could adapt to a world without accessible electricity. The funds she was bringing in from this side project were subsidizing her flat rental so that she could afford to be close to work and not have to purchase a vehicle whose average price was $85,000. Without the income of her government job, combined with her online store being closed, and with the difficulties she would now face trying to find other work that didn’t rely on social media or a fully charged phone/computer she knew the reality that she would have to soon move.
What started off as a normal morning, would soon shatter her world as she thought and believed she was sharing something good for the population, when in fact the situation was not lost on her. She had spent years working to silence those who opposed the government's climate policies, only to become a victim of her own efforts.
As Deborah sat in her dimly lit apartment, with her phone now losing the last “free charge” her mind raced with thoughts of what was to come. She knew that her life would never be the same. She had become a casualty of the very system she had helped create, and she couldn't help but wonder how many others before her she might have wrongly silenced and what effect that had on them and their families.