Return of the Dude
Story by Tom Peifer
“Some men are born into times that they cannot change” Arab Proverb
(Note: regular readers of this august journal may perhaps remember my account of a chance encounter with an intrepid surfing/investor type who was scouting out land to buy. Convinced of the inevitability of sea level rise due to global warming, he was negotiating purchase options on land with access to the waves of the future.)
You ever get that feeling of déjà vu, but somehow, something is definitely wrong with that picture?
Emerging from an early morning body surfing session at Playa Junquillal, that is exactly what happened. Needless to say, if you wear glasses and open your eyes under water a lot, as I do, it takes a while for your sight to adjust back to reality. All the same, as I headed to my truck for my lenses and a cigarette, I was dead certain that my eyes hadn’t been playing tricks on me. As it turned out, sure enough, the dude was back in town.
It all came back in a flash. A few years ago, the guy had appeared on the beach and up into our valley, armed with an impressive array of mysto-techno-gimmicks and stressed me out no end. Waving his hands and talking a mile a minute he basically explained how my precious bananas would be in the impact zone of a right point wrapping around my neighbor’s hill. Another friend’s home would be an offshore reef break and that my best bet was to build a new home further up on the hill. It was him all right, a few pounds heavier, seemingly surrounded by even more gadgetry than last time and, was it possible, a shiny new Humvee with 3 antennas in the parking lot. Resolving to get an update, I meandered a bit closer to see what was shaking.
“Dude”, he said in a flash of recognition, “you got some nice barrels this morning. Just getting some baseline data here before heading up into your valley a bit. ‘Sup, my brother?”
I must have mumbled enough in the exhaled cloud of mentholated smoke to allow him to feel justified in carrying on.
“Sure enough, your coastline appears to have jumped up a bit in that last quake. Notice any difference in the sandbars out there at low tide?” As I recalled from our previous encounters, a question from the dude was not necessarily predicated on eliciting a response. The guy seemed even more hyper than the last time.
“Dude, things are happening fast, I’m on a whole new mission. Ever since NASA went public with that guaranteed 10-foot sea level rise from Antarctica, big time money is looking for more secure investments in the future. And I’m talking big time. Just take a look at my new wheels, you get the picture?”
I told him flat out that my main experience with the world of investment had been losing other people’s money. After a few sips out of a steaming thermos, he was ready to resume the rapid-fire delivery.
“Dude, the last time, I had the right idea, but the wrong time frame and was totally off in terms of the market niche to go after. Man, the way money is moving around worldwide, and concentrating in fewer and fewer hands, you can write off the remnants of the middle class. I’ve moved waaaay beyond the primitive surf camp concept, I’m going for the uber rich, and thinking that the best approach is going to be offering ‘a safe port in a storm.’ If I do say so myself, that is a catchy marketing hook.”
I told him, my marketing savvy was a notch or two below my expertise in investing, but asked what was the connection between ‘ports in a storm’ and, you know, like getting barreled.
“Dude, do you have any idea what is going on? I have friends who work in shipyards. Not your every day oil tankers, shrimp boats, that kind of thing. These guys are working on the ultimate trend in the kind of huge luxury cruisers you see on CNN, FOX News, etc. But, you never see what’s going into these monsters. Dude, I’ve got the inside scoop, and not just from one dry dock, I’ve got guys all over. Man, it’s like the super rich dudes are getting ready for “Water World.” You gotta’ understand, most of these guys are heavy weight investors. Some of them have entire departments of nerds plugged into climate models. When NASA says 10 feet, unlike some of your lame friends, these guys sit up, take note and plan accordingly. And every time something happens before it was predicted to, you know, like the ice-free Arctic 84 years ahead of schedule, they factor it all in and place their bets accordingly.”
I held up a hand, signaling him to pause for an instant or two while I gulped a Xanax without bothering to cut it in half, lit up a cigarette, and managed to pull a couple of thoughts out of the whirling maelstrom that the Dude had once again set off in the calm of my normal transcendental state.
“But why here,” I asked. “What’s going to keep all these mega-floating bunkers running if the world is going to hell in a hand basket?” And finally, “Why don’t they just stay out in the ocean, what’s the big deal about our valley?”
“Dude, sometimes I wonder what you do on the computer all day? Facebook? Don’t tell me you haven’t noticed that the Pacific, you know, like, right on your doorstep, is like, acting up a bit? First you had that weird storm a few years back that went raging right up the coast almost like a hurricane? Now, just this year, two different category 4 hurricanes, the earliest ever in the Eastern Pacific. With most of the global warming going in to the ocean, when it all starts turning over and up to the surface, the storms are going to go bonkers, just like they’ve been saying all along. This valley, obviously once it’s flooded, is going to be like a long fjord, with lots of nice side valleys to offer even more shelter. And that’s where the coconuts will go.”
“Coconuts.” I replied quizzically, “say what?”
“Dude, you asked specifically about fuel. These vessels are going to be beyond state of the art. Wind, solar, built in redundancy galore, but there is only so much space. Most of the solar arrays will be dedicated to keeping on board electrical stuff going, and, of course, plenty of solar distillation for water when they need it. But, if we can fuel up occasionally in an area that can produce bio-diesel, ‘mo bettah brah’ as they say in Hawaii. So we’ll figure on coconuts and oil palm plantations retreating up the hillsides as sea level rises over time. Remember, even the recent report from the White House says 2 feet in 30 years, and they’re probably way too optimistic. And I haven’t even mentioned the nukes.”
Any uncertainty about opting for more meds evaporated. This latest bombshell had me grappling for the Xanax and ripping open a new pack of Marlboros in spite of a full set of the shakes. “Nukes? I stuttered. “As in Fukushima you mean?” I had seen the reports of relatively high levels of radiation in West Coast tuna, a top carnivore in the ocean food pyramid.
“No way dude! Remember, we’re thinking medium to long term here. Remember, most power stations are located near water sources, the oceans, lakes or rivers to help them cool down. The ones near the ocean are going to get flooded, sooner or later, and anything that’s hot, and not moved out to higher ground, is going into the ocean. You’re lucky to be right here. The only ones along the Pacific coast, like San Onofre, are pretty far north of here. Our global circulation models show that stuff getting swept out to sea quite a ways north of here. OK, sure, you can always argue that some of the bad stuff has a half-life of 50,000 years, but, hey, I don’t like to focus on the negative. Man, even a mushroom cloud has a silver lining. Dude, the way I see it, if there’s anything I learned from a lifetime of surfing, it’s usually easier to, you know, go with the flow.”
Tom Peifer is an ecological land use consultant with 19 years experience in Guanacaste. 2658-8018. firstname.lastname@example.org