So, Bea decided, it was actually happening, but what to do? Now Bea, neither a scientist nor a particularly sharp cookie, had made up her mind. She was not entirely convinced, but given an element of doubt, she decided to err on the side of caution.
Even if the planet did not overheat she was more than convinced of the need to husband the natural resources, which were not infinite, and do something about her carbon footprint. She wasn’t quite sure what this involved but cancelling her annual holiday to the Caribbean was no great sacrifice, if it made life possible for future generations. Of course, the future generations were nothing to do with her. She had decided six months ago that it would be irresponsible to produce any small creatures of her own to add to the overpopulation problem.
Selling her small cottage by the coast was the first step. The rise in sea level would make this a very bad investment. Having decided that it was foolish, if not positively life threatening to hold onto it, she had contacted various estate agents and specified that her new house should be at least 200 ft above sea level and preferably on a bus route, thus enabling her to dispense with her car. Her carbon footprint was looking good.
Sitting in the study of her new cottage, and trying to ignore the noise of the wind farm on the hillside close by, she suddenly felt chilly. The solar heating system was proving to be a mixed blessing. It had rained for months and the clouds were lurking ominously, with no sign of the promised spring.
She added another log to the fire, and pulled on her hand knitted sweater, which had taken her six months to complete. She had carefully unravelled some of her ten year old cardigans and cast on. The fact that it was oddly misshapen and exceedingly unattractive was nothing compared to the virtuous feelings it engendered. No small child had suffered in the making of this garment! She did worry a little about how these third world victims would survive without her patronage now. It was not a comforting thought somehow that their misery would be curtailed by starvation.
Anyway, time to start the recycling, which now took about two hours a day. Carefully avoiding the thought of the two hour bus journey into the nearest town, she started to sort out the paper, glass and composting. Now, the composting: if she was honest, was not going well. Dispensing with the refrigerator in her new home, she found she was throwing away rather more than she would have believed. A serious attack of food poisoning was now a distant memory, when confronted by the rats which now were invading her garden, and growing bolder by the day. Poisoning them was out of the question of course; they were an essential part of the ecological scheme of things. Symbiosis, she thought; she just wished they would sod off somewhere else.
Of course, living in the middle of nowhere had necessitated her resignation from her job in London, but all that commuting was seriously detrimental to the health of the planet. The lack of a mobile phone signal was a bit of a blow but she thought that writing letters would be a joy, forgetting of course, that deforestation would be the inevitable result.
Her new found delight in vegetarian cookery was all but destroyed when she discovered that her vegetables had to be washed, and de-bugged. Pumping more water from the well seemed to be defeating the object of the exercise and with the best will in the world, she couldn’t salvage much from the ravages of the slugs and rabbits, bless! All this digging was hard work on a diet lacking in protein. Oh, all right, she thought to herself, it would be easier after a rare steak! Stop that, Bea, an irritating voice advised.
As she waited at the bus stop the next morning, she felt on the whole, a certain smug superiority, which lessened as the rain poured down, and the normally uplifting view disappeared into the gathering gloom. The daily bus was not just late, it didn’t appear. Walking the two miles back to the cottage, she was lost in reflection. What was it all about; did she really want to save the planet? Was this all worthwhile?
Not much given to introspection, she nevertheless felt curiously disconnected from reality. When she first arrived, she had imagined she would feel closer to nature, and her life would naturally acquire a spiritual dimension which had always eluded her before. Instead she felt empty and painfully lonely. On the few clear nights, she watched the skies; the moon and stars seemed closer, but she felt their cool indifference rather than their beauty and it terrified her. She was one small, insignificant dot on a small planet in a universe she couldn’t imagine, or even contemplate
Looking in the mirror, after a cold bath, she was horrified. Forgoing any cosmetics had taken its toll. She couldn’t bear the though that any animals has suffered in the production of such fripperies. Her hair looked a mess, for much the same reasons. Dedicated to the cause, her ragged cuticles were yet another reminder of her dilemma. Her deep but secret regret was her principles involved the sacrifice of her weekly manicure.
The noise of running water distracted her. The stream at the end of her garden, one of the features of her upland retreat, had been swollen by the relentless rain. Peering through the window, she could see her vegetable garden was now covered in a raging torrent. Missy the cow, who had mysteriously failed to produce any milk thus far, was marooned on an island, which was all that remained of her field. Bea, without further hesitation, opened the front door and dashed to the rescue. Her last thought as she lost her footing in the raging torrent, and was dragged under by the weight of her sodden knitwear, was how could she have got it so wrong?