Extracts from the diaries and blogs of Adelaide Grant from the unpublished novel 'Looking Back:
At the end of 2030 Adelaide summed up what she saw as the major external changes that might affect Australia in the following decade:
The biggest change that will affect us is undoubtedly the way China split into two separate countries in 2027; South China centred on Shanghai, and North China based on Beijing. Despite China's fast growing economy, an economy that is already bigger than the US , the Chinese Communist Party was simply unable to cope with the immense social problems facing the country. They had concentrated on modernizing the infrastructure and ignored the social problems that were building up. Despite building clever Olympic stadia, fast bullet trains and freeways, half of the country's five hundred biggest cities lacked safe drinking water or a sewage system, half of the urban and eighty percent of the rest of the population had no access to medical care, millions of peasants were illegally flooding into the cities looking for work with no housing available, the judicial system was unable to maintain the rule of law, the education system couldn't cope and there was widespread corruption. The government also locked up Liu Xiaobo the human rights campaigner who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010 and tried to maintain control by censoring the internet to stop access to western ideas and news. The disparities and inequities were such that it became impossible for a one party government in Beijing to run such an enormous, diverse and populous country, and after a series of disasters associated with the three dams project, a general in the Peoples Liberation Army seized control in South China and the Middle Kingdom split in two. Although they thunder at each other, they have the same fixed common currency and still deal with the rest of the world with one voice so there's not that much change as far as Australia is concerned.
But the political change that will affect Australia most in the long run was the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Afghanistan and the waning of US power. This started soon after the assasination of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan in 2011 and was completed by the end of President Obama's second term in 2016. A Republican of the Christian Right was elected President at the completion of Obama's second term, but by 2019 the US economy was still not responding to attempts to revive it. The two China's were blamed because their common currency was maintained at a level that made it hard for US products to compete in the global market. The US debt situation became so desperate they closed their military bases around the world and brought the troops home in order to save money, shunned the UN (always seen as a drag on US special interests) and more or less re-adopted the isolationist Monroe Doctrine of the thirties, retreating to a more inward looking society. They continued to subsidise their agriculture for a while and to protect their cutting edge technologies until their government was forced to stop in order to reduce such high debt levels. Mumbai has now replaced California as the place where the best innovations take place, and although (in the sense of absolute power and wealth) the United States still remains the biggest military, technological, financial and cultural power in the world, their attempt to direct and bend what should happen everywhere in the globe to suit their own interests, started to come to an end. Called US exceptionalism, the doctrine that anything was permitted to the US because of the way the US had been created with such an idealistic Declatation of Independence (even things like Guantanamo Bay and torture, rendition and assasination) and the idea that the normal rules therefore didn't apply to them started to come to an end.
Since the Second World War, Australia has always placed great importance on its relationship with the US, some like me would say it was a subservient relationship, and these shifts in the US, along with us becoming a republic, has caused a fundamental rethinking of our position in the world and our relationship with both the USA and China. At long last Australia is being forced to take responsibility for its own destiny, and in my opinion that's a good thing.
Adelaide explained again in March 2033 how things had changed climate wise:
So far, except for the flooding along the bayside, and being a bit warmer and higher food costs, the effects of climate change haven't been that great except it's clearly warmer. The weather was always unpredictable in Melbourne, but it's got more so. Just after we moved to near Ringwood there was a firestorm in the Dandenongs, another Black Saturday with fifty people dead; we could see it from our new roof terrace, pretty scary. Despite these weather changes, a lot of my old mates think I'm exaggerating the situation by moving out of St Kilda.
All the dirty coal fired power stations have finally been converted to being fired with natural gas to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and although we still have our dirty big secret, selling all that polluting coal to the rest of the world, it looks as though this might be forcibly curtailed as the increasing cost of oil impacts on sea transport. There are more wind farms and the economy is starting to become more sustainable and there is more focus on import replacement activities rather than exports, so why am I over-reacting, they ask? Well, I'm convinced the oil shock hasn't really hit us yet and I'm concerned about our total dependence on coal fired electrical power. We simply can't continue as before, and I also don't think things are changing quickly enough. I'm convinced there's much worse to come in terms of the adverse effect of climate changes, not only on agriculture and every aspect of our lives, so I'm trying to act out that saying of Gandhi; 'Be the change you want to see in the world,' or 'putting my money where my mouth is', as my grandfather would have said.
However barely eight years later in 2041, Adelaide observed that things had got much worse in a climate sense. Droughts were becoming longer and more persistent, and violent storms and flooding was happened more frequently;
The cumulative effect of climate change has suddenly become more obvious in the last decade. Not only did the IPCC determine that average world temperature had risen in a sudden jump of just over one degree (more in some parts of Australia), the arctic ice cap had really started to melt and this had accelerated the rise in sea levels. A more ominous effect here was that the drought has returned and there has been much lower rainfall in most of the inland growing areas. Even in areas where the total rainfall hasn't changed that much, it's happening in a different way, there is less steady rain in the growing seasons and more violent storms that erode the land and damage crops. As a result some growers have accepted that these changes are permanent, and started moving closer to the coast where the rainfall, although reduced, appears to be more regular and reliable. As a consequence, vegetables and fruit have become harder to get and are more expensive. The move towards allotment gardens has increased in all the inner city areas, and people in the suburbs have started growing vegetables in their backyards, even filling in their swimming pools and turned them into gardens to grow food.
Wheat growing areas in the Wimmera and rice growing areas in southern NSW have also been affected by these changes in rainfall distribution. Most of these areas were still able to continue (rice production in particular has become very efficient with the use of much less water) but yields were reduced and increasingly there hasn't been as much left over to export. And in any case the cost of transporting wheat and rice across the sea was starting to be uneconomic as oil prices skyrocketed. In a throwback to the past, a container ship with three masts and sails had been designed in the hope that the wind assistance would substantially reduce the cost of the diesel fuel, but it's still in the design stage. Imports became scarcer, delivery was unreliable and they were so much more expensive, and this led to the growth of local industries making things that were now too costly or unavailable from overseas. Together with the 'green' industries fostered by the drive to sustainability, these two factors have stimulated the economy and created new jobs just as more baby-boomers started to retire from the workforce.