Atlantic Monthly (Grove), Apr 2009, $24.00
In a short period of time the world can change and not for the better as 9/11 proved. By 2033, carbon emissions have ruined the environment while sea levels have risen at catastrophic rates leading to mass evacuations of people from what were once coastlines. The Florida Peninsular is going underwater with Miami on the verge of becoming a modern day Atlantis. The newly elected President Joe Benton plans to build an infrastructure so those displaced don’t fall into abject poverty and consequently take others down with them; the massive relocation will be destructive enough.
When Benton meets with the incumbent POTUS he learns that secret climate change talks with China produced nada. Benton knows an arrangement between the superpowers is critical to save the world. He is determined to partner with China, who has displaced America as the top polluter, in finding a global solution. China remains obstinate and uncooperative; reneging every time it appears a deal is set. Benton’s advisors tell him the Chinese will never sign a treaty, but the resolute president tries something new that he believes they want as he knows humanity is at stake even as the obstinate Chinese leaders demand more as if extinction is impossible with their population.
Joe Benton is a good person trying to be a good president after a dozen years of Republican denial behind the no tax and no negativity to the economy even as the ocean was coming ashore. Thus China assumes he is just another status quo buy American first. This cautionary tale is fast-paced with a frenzy desperation to Benton’s efforts to turn around the environment before we reach the point of no return of humans becoming the twenty-first century dinosaurs. Although the ending feels required and rants about failed governments and media to take the environment issue seriously feel intrusive, Matthew Glass provides a deep look at what a world leader who strongly wants to make change must overcome the legacy of his or her predecessors.