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2068

Sara Mallory's eyes blinked open in her apartment which was a dim grey in the pre-morning light. It was going to be another hazy day, where the sun would tease its appearance only to stay hidden in the thin layer of clouds. The air was heavy with a sense of dread as the woman woke up in her small, cramped apartment. It was a new day, but it felt just like every other day in this bleak and monitored existence.



As she rubbed the sleep from her eyes and reached for her phone, a message appeared on the screen, illuminating the darkness of the room. The message was stark and foreboding, telling her that she was in “Violation of Utilizing Unauthorized Electricity - 13.5D Cellar Device”. Of course she was in violation, the public transportation charging docks were either filled with gum/gunk or had been stripped of their electrical parts so people smarter than she could create makeshift power generators off the grid. Her only choice last night was to plug in her 8% charged phone at the apartment to determine if the factory she secured a job at would have its allocated natural gas supply for the next day so it could operate at the skeleton, half, or full capacity. Sara was on the half-capacity crew as she was a “sun”, a term created for the yellow classed population of society. This feeling wasn’t good, as she knew she already had been in several violations recently as one necessity after another led her to be in violation of this rule.


Her heart sank as she realized the severity of the situation. She knew that this violation could potentially bring her level of “climate agreement” on her social credit score to orange. Orange was not a promising place to be and would most certainly bump her to the “full staff” level of employment, almost guaranteeing that her days of work would be reduced.

As credit scores were tied to people’s climate scores, they affected all aspects of one's life. The Social Climate Responsibility act of 2042 linked people’s potential carbon impact directly to their social media score, for all to praise, or punish. A ranking of green was reflected with a green filter on a person’s universal social media profile. Meaning they were “allies of the environment”, a title given to those who could afford it, and usually the higher class fell into "greens". This rank helped make day-to-day life easier for those who were fortunate enough to hold it. Allowing people access to faster doctor appointments, priority charging, and surplus electricity usage, priority placement at apartments that were closest to the public transportation systems, priority in job placement and searching, to having first pick of the produce that was delivered twice a week to the grocery store.


But Sara’s heart dropped as her rank went from yellow to orange this morning, labeling her a "climate abuser", reflected by an alert that her social media filters all automatically changed pigments from yellow to orange, and this wasn’t a good place to be. Already stretched in her budget, she knew that she would have to allocate more and more of her monthly income to help pay for the “Climate Cooperation Program” in hopes she would again rise to yellow, then blue, then one day green. The Climate Cooperation Program was developed in 2034 to help those in the bottom rankings of the universal social score rise out of the hardships through contributions towards the programs that promised to end climate change. The score would not only identify them as climate allies or enemies but also to what degree. It would also help them gain better access to everything from doctors to credit scores, the higher the funds donated to the program, the better and easier one's life could be.


Sara was frustrated as she understood the importance of such a program, a program that would take public funds to further the research and development of “clean tech”, a tongue-in-cheek term lately as remains of so many past projects and skeletons of transitional equipment lay scattered on the side of the road in the distance. Once a time when treaties and deals were made to dispose of it in other people's backyards, now began to appear in landscapes over two decades ago. The Environmental Care Group, which monitored people’s climate impact on society was tight, but she never imagined that they would be monitoring her electricity usage. She tried to shake off the feeling of despair and anxiety of what this meant when her lease was up at the end of the month, and her pantry supply was low, but it was hard to ignore the sense of hopelessness that seemed to permeate every aspect of her life.


Once her rank was dropped to yellow 2 years ago her once-promising job interviews began to dry up, and she found it increasingly difficult to secure a credit card or a decent apartment. Finding a job at the factory was her only option as her job as a pharmacist tech was given to Ben, a snickering man of mid-20s who held blue-level status, who had a smug "holier than though" air to him as he dawned the white robe and stepped into the role she had for over 7 years which was stripped from her due to her not being a strong climate ally. A title that slowly snuck up on her after a series of unforeseen and trivial events, that most citizens have been feeling since the Climate Cooperation Program and the Social Climate Responsibility Act was put into place. It seemed like every aspect of her life was affected by the minor mistakes she had made, which she had no other choice than to keep making.


Sara was filled with dread as she had to rearrange her day, as she had to head down to one of the Climate Courts throughout town which processed hundreds if not thousands of climate violators each day. It felt like what people once referred to as the “DMV” of courts, a government service no longer needed as personal driving vehicles were reserved for the small group of "greenies", a smaller and smaller number per year making the service obsolete, which her grandpa always joked which was a good thing. Climate Court became a daily necessity unless you could pay the additional green fee and not have to be there in person and pay your fine. She knew that if he didn't pay the fine, she could face serious social consequences. But what she didn't expect was the ripple effect that the fine would have on her life. The government had ensured that the fine was reflected in her social media channels, with negative dings that would follow her around like a dark cloud.


As she sat in her apartment, sipping her room-temperature coffee, something she had grown accustomed to, as she had limited her allocation of energy for the remaining month, something she couldn't waste on coffee, she pondered a way to come up with a way to pay the fine, when she noticed that her phone was running low on battery. She plugged it in and waited anxiously to see if she would receive a message about whether or not she had to go to work in the morning, or worse, another violation. But as she waited, she realized the irony of the situation. She had been fined for using electricity she wasn't supposed to use to find out if she had to go to work, and yet here she was, desperately trying to charge her phone to see if she could go to work the next day. To pay the fine she had already received.


Sara couldn't help but smile at the absurdity of it all. The universal social ranking promised to make things easier had the opposite effect for so many and had taken away so much of the freedoms and autonomy the country had so much pride in before, but they couldn't take away her sense of humor. And in that moment, Sara knew that she would find a way to overcome this latest obstacle, no matter how great the odds were stacked against her.

What she couldn't prepare for was the feeling of social shame she was now about to face as she stepped out into the world as a "climate abuser", and her story would be lost in the noise of so many others who faced no other options than to violate the Climate Care Programs to survive.


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