Only a month ago, Taya’s project appeared insignificant to most other students in Professor Elro’s class in biodiversity. In Aire there were no forms of school like the ones we know and associate with our present time. From an early age, after the first five years of general education, children were encouraged to pursue classes that best suited their personal interests. There was no age limit. Each resident was entitled to attend courses they were naturally drawn to, and at the same time, there was no obligation to continue studies. Each made their own destiny.
Curiously, in Aire most of the symbols of structured societies were absolutely absent. Aside from protectors, which consisted of all residents from the age of eighteen, there were no other peace officers nor law keepers. Knowledge was considered the only currency, and barter or exchange of goods was a regular form of trade. No one was poor, and at the same time the notion of wealth didn’t exist either.
Walking towards the green area, Taya remembered the day she left the community, though only for an hour. It felt like it was long ago, years almost. In her twenty years, she probably had not stepped outside Aire more than a few times, never distancing herself enough to lose the sight of her hometown. A month ago, in concordance with the Professor, Taya left Aire when the energy shield was temporarily turned off to allow her to conduct her research in the proximity of the community, located where once the magnificent Amazon rainforest ruled with its breathtaking river, vegetation and savage creatures, all almost completely perished now.
Some two centuries after our time, Earth had turned out to be a much different place than we could have ever predicted. The future we feared was merely a mitigated version of what had become reality.
One of the rare remains of natural habitat was Aire, with its small surface protected by a dome of impenetrable energy, shielding it from the toxic pollution and radiation menacing the external world.
This was the future nobody desired, but very few fought to prevent, justifying the untamable climate change with technological progress that promised to save the human race at a cost that only later was revealed to be too burdensome. But there was no turning back.
Founded by people who recognized in time the dangers of the reckless human behavior that threatened to destroy most of the inhabited land on the planet, Aire had become the last known territory where people still lived according to nature’s laws.
Though small, it provided the external world with much-needed clear air for the sick, distributed in oxygen tanks. Aire was also the largest source of healing plants, no longer growing anywhere else in the world, effective in treating illnesses that modern science had never found a cure for. In exchange, the Global Assembly controlled by the world’s political leaders offered protection to the community, which had had throughout its existence a fair share of security breaches and hostile visitors intrigued by its nostalgic beauty and natural richness.
Taya was familiar with this story. As a child, she used to gather with other younglings in the park on pleasant evenings and listen to wise older men and women share the history of the human race and the decay of the society that led to terrifying wars, poverty, sickness, and above all, destruction of the ecosystem resulting in significant climate change, rise of the sea level and ozone depletion. Indeed, all of the historic coastal cities had completely perished under water following extreme floods and tsunamis, which had forced the surviving population to migrate to inland areas and build new megacities inhabited by people of all former nationalities. This brought the divide between the countries to an end, reuniting people of all races in ten strategically positioned cities around the world, all governed by the Global Assembly. The high population density in conjunction with the lack of infrastructure in undeveloped regions contributed to the spread of viruses and an evolved type of bacteria immune to most medication.
Despite the undeniable technological progress, the human race had irreversibly exterminated most of the wild life, destroying natural habitats in a desperate search for the remaining sources of clean water and fertile land. The world was in a race against time, and the odds were not in people’s favor.
Taya knew about the outside world from stories and images, but like most members of Aire, she had never gotten to see it with her own eyes.
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