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Agenda 2020 -- flashback

Some time ago, our predecessor magazine german.pages.de -- Deutsche Rundschau wondered what life would be like in the still distant year 2020. Staff author John Wantock, writing under his pen name J.P. Eckermann, summarized his expectations in a letter to his old friend John W. Goethe.

Johann P. Eckermann to John W. Goethe

February 29, 2020


Dear W,

A brief update on our life in poor old Germany where all forces of nature seem to combine to make us more miserable. However, let me assure you that we don't pity ourselves; instead we remain cheerful and continue enjoying life to the fullest!

Our new house is now almost finished; we are already occupying the ground floor. I am so glad my son and my granddaughters agreed to share servicing the 70-year mortgage of 4 million euro. That's what it costs today to build a small passive house even though the land is provided free by the city as a subsidy to modern home construction.

The contractor assures me that the insulation of our passive house will be so perfect that not only we don't need any heating but that we will be able to sell energy to the city circuit resulting from cooking and our body heat radiation. Selling up to 10,000 calories/day to the city will nicely help pay the mortgage.

I am again mobile because I managed to purchase a second hand diesel Vespa which consumes about one liter (1 quart) of rapeseed diesel per 100 kilometres (about 55 miles). I am confident we can make ends meet because I have applied for a garden plot on the former Munich-Garmisch autobahn where we can grow some rapeseed.

Sorry, I forgot to mention that one track of the autobahn is being removed because there is not enough traffic anymore. Instead, they are putting in an underground pipeline to bring rapeseed oil from the countryside to Munich. Since truck transport of oil has become too costly, Europe is now criss-crossed by pipelines put underground to prevent theft. The land above the pipeline is leased out as private gardens to single parents, former industrial workers and other needy people like me.

This will be a tremendous blessing for us because the overpopulation of Germany starts threatening our bare survival. Don't forget that after the dykes broke due to the recent fast rise in ocean levels, Germany lost some 20 percent of its territory to the North Sea and the Baltic. All those refugees from the densely populated sea shores are now living in slums circling the cities. In addition to the Germans there are millions of poor wretched Dutch who lost the entirety of their country. Flemish from former Belgium, Danes, Poles and lots of Russians from former St. Petersburg are also living here.

You blessed Americans with your vast oil reserves in West Africa and the southern Caucasus (sorry for the victims of the recent Chechen ambush on the Batum pipeline) cannot possibly imagine what it means if most land must be used for energy production rather than food. Our forests are being slashed at high speed; a new coal mine is opened every month. Despite burning all these primitive fuels we have no environmental problem anymore because of the virtual disappearance of industry, automobile and air traffic. Also, modern railroad coal engines and home coal furnaces are much more efficient than the 20th century types. Most of the remaining trucks are now wood-powered, a World War II invention which generates gas from wood pellets to run a combustion engine.

In many areas of Germany there are still plenty of old windmill electricity generators which are now being restored to serve local communities. Many more of the wind generators, unfortunately, were lost to the rising seas. People lucky to own such a windmill have adapted to living during doldrum periods. New types of fridges can store cold for up to seven days without being recharged. Supermarkets are also selling rechargeable 48-volt batteries which can provide xenon lamp lighting for a home for about a week.

As you can see, most of this is relatively manageable. What is really hard for us is the shortage of food. Since rapeseed oil is the most profitable crop, most farmers are growing food only for domestic and local consumption. A lot of oats is also grown for the horses now poisoning our city streets with their repugnant odors, not to mention of the noise of their hooves on the tarmac.

Lucky those who own a small garden. Compost is the fertilizer of choice since mineral fertilizers, pesticides and the like have virtually disappeared as a consequence of the energy squeeze and the resultant de-industrialization. In the absence of mineral fertilizers, the nutrients stored in the soil have been consumed in a few years and farm yields returned to 19th century levels. People have nostalgic dreams of the old days when food was plentiful and Germany seemed to be in danger of over-aging and depopulation because of its low birth rates.

With a larger than our present population of 65 million in the remaining territory, Germany could never have absorbed the 25 million environmental refugees. And, imagine, 5 million Italians from Padania are said to be on their way northbound. They think Bavaria is an Italian province. If they really come, then buona notte, dear W.

Next time I shall report to you on progress at the Cologne wharves in building a modern wind powered ocean liner which promises to make trans-Atlantic travel again possible at reasonable rates. Maybe I could visit you and remain there.

Kind regards,

Johann P.


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