A History Assignment from the Future

Found in a reverse time capsule dated January 20, 2200.

History of the future

What do I appreciate most about our ancestors?

Jaime Chavez (age 16)

El Norte History

What do I appreciate most about our ancestors? This is a difficult question. My initial answer was that the best thing they did was invent green chile. Maybe that’s still the thing I appreciate most, but there are so many ties for second place. I will just pick a few to discuss in this essay.

No. 1) They planted trees, especially the fruit trees. When the world began heating up, our Albuquerque ancestors chose to hope in the future by planting thousands of trees. Today, our homes and streets are shaded, the air is cooler and cleaner, the soils are more fertile and can retain more water, and — best of all — there’s free fruit in the summer everywhere you go in this city. There are nuts as well, and, in the spring, Albuquerque smells like apple blossoms. 

They didn’t have to do this. In fact, it was probably really stupid for them. They spent all that effort and money and they didn’t get to enjoy any of it. They didn’t even know if the trees would live. Back then they didn’t know how much trees affect their environment, that trees can create their own environment. So our ancestors planted all these trees when science told them that Albuquerque would soon be too hot for any of them to survive. This was an amazing leap of faith. If they hadn’t taken that jump, our city would be unbearable now. It would be a ghost town like so many others. And I would not be here to write this essay for a class in a school that also wouldn’t be here.

So I appreciate that they planted all the trees.

No. 2) They rebuilt most of the city to retain water but shed the heat. Of course, planting trees was part of this one, but they went much further. They built adobe walls with water piped through them to warm up the winters and cool the summers. They tore out concrete and replaced it with permeable cobblestone. They did this so water would filter into the soil and not just run down to the river or evaporate before it could go anywhere. They fixed homes to have thick walls and smaller windows. They made grey-water systems to use water over and over. They put up all the shade structures to prevent evaporation. Then they covered up most of the arroyos and channelled water underground as much as they could. They put ovens and bath houses in the backyards of all the homes they fixed so that heat would stay outside in the hot months.

This is another thing they didn’t have to do, but they got to benefit from this one at least. They had buildings that stayed warm in the winter and cool in the summer with almost no energy. They made microclimates all over the city with the walls. The walls helped retain moisture and kept soil temperature from swinging to extremes. They could use grey-water to get the trees they planted off to a healthy start even when there was drought, and the cobblestone streets allowed water to soak down to the roots of those new trees. There were places all over the city that blocked the sun and wind for people as well as the soil. And they could cook outside. This helped keep the kitchen cool, but it’s also really fun!

I appreciate that they rebuilt the city.

No. 3) They converted the city’s infrastructure to be low waste, sustainable and low energy. They built the trains, put up the small wind generators everywhere and covered all the buildings with solar panels. They then took over control of energy distribution, “nationalizing” the energy grid. They used existing cable to make a communications network that could run on very low power. They replaced flush toilets with composting ones that not only reduced water use but made great fertilizer. They banned the toxic stuff called plastic. They converted everything to electricity and made gravity and heat batteries wherever they could. They also banned cars that ran on gasoline.

This was really hard on them. Everything was made with plastic back then. Everyone had to drive cars to get anywhere and nearly all the cars ran on petroleum. There were no generators in the city and no battery storage centers. There were some solar panels, but they usually weren’t tied into the city grid. Most of the heating relied on burning gas or wood, even when they didn’t have as many trees to burn! And huge corporations controlled everything, giving people no choice but to be wasteful polluters. All this was very expensive. Much of it was hardly even possible when they made these changes.

I appreciate that they made my city sustainable.

No. 4) They made everyone equal. They changed the way they treated each other so that no one felt bad about being different. They made it wrong to oppress other people for any reason and helped those who had been colonized to get out from under that weight. They changed the way people get houses. Back then houses were private property, and most owners used these houses to make money by driving the price of these houses so high hardly anyone could afford a home. They made the Registry so that every household could be matched up with a home that met their needs. They got rid of money and started the city credit system so everyone would have the food and clothes they needed. They made the city belong to all of us and yet nobody owned anything. Or anyone. They took away any incentive to pile up money for yourself so everyone shared both all the resources and all the work that needed to be done. They also abolished the police and the prisons, even before crime fell off because it didn’t pay anymore.

Back then there was such inequality if I’d lived then I probably would already be dead or something. I wouldn’t have much hope for my future because I’d never get away from how others saw me, and I’d never be able to make enough money to support myself. If the ancestors hadn’t made this change to their society, we probably wouldn’t have a society. 

I really appreciate that they made everyone equal. 

There are so many other things our ancestors did for us. Many of those things were expensive and difficult and didn’t even benefit them. They couldn’t even know that any of it would work. But they did it anyway. They placed hope in the future so that we could have a future. I appreciate everything they did. I wish there were time machines so I could go back and tell them how grateful I am. And to let them know that everything worked out well, that it wasn’t all for nothing. It was all for us.

© Elizabeth Anker 2021