The Week Off

Entry by: Seaside Scribbler

29th December 2017
How we Lived - A Collection
Edited by Josh Black

Chapter 11

The Week Off, or, as it is known now, 'Miller's Week'
By Dawn Cooper
A Record of What Happened in April 2035

This is how things got better. I was there; I was one of the reporters who picked him up. I mention this as I am immeasurably proud of this fact and I want to show that this is an authentic account. An eye-witness account, if you like. I helped spread his message and I'm writing it now so we never forget who solved one of the worst catastrophes humankind had faced. A multitude of catastrophes. However well you think you know your history, here is a short report by someone who was there.

It was billed in the newspapers as 'Earth's Last Chance'. I'd been watching - and writing - the headlines with dread; every month they got more serious. All the predictions about climate catastrophes came true, plus some that we'd never even dreamed of. Sea levels rose. People died, in their hundreds of thousands. And new extinctions seemed to happen every week. Mass suicides were reported; people tried desperately to escape, but there was nowhere to escape to.

My children asked me over and over what was going to happen, and I couldn't tell them anything.

And then an almost forgotten scientist - who'd, many years ago, been in the news almost daily, warning the world that danger was imminent, that we'd reached crisis point - was back in the spotlight all at once, saying he had a solution.

A solution? said the world.

'We need a week off from using any power sources at all,' he proclaimed. When everyone had stopped booing him, they listened. He was old, he was clever, he'd been warning people for years about what was going to happen.

Big news companies went crazy, calling him mad, telling people not to listen, trying to silence him. But certain leaders did listen. They listened hard. And they realised that if they were to stay in power, if they were to avoid absolute anarchy, they needed to do something. Slowly, every one began to listen to him. And I mean, everyone. He was everywhere on social media and the young, who didn't know him, soon did. The old, who'd known him before he went into obscurity, rolled their eyes a little but, they agreed, he was talking sense. About the only one who was.

The scientist's name was Dr Miller. Nobody seemed to be quite sure what his speciality was, but he'd been famous - incredibly famous - in the past and every single one of his predictions had come true, as time went on. Now in his 80s he seemed to be more knowledgeable than ever and he went from being an old man quietly living in the middle of nowhere to worldwide fame once again. If books had not become briefly banned during the paper crisis, we'd know more, but I've been unable to find much digital trace of his very early work; I'm relying on my memory.

I was lucky enough to interview him when he first reappeared. I went to his bunker where he was completely off the grid, and recorded every word he said. The interview ended with these words:

'If we have a week off,' he said, 'two things will happen. We give the Earth a tiny break, a small moment just to draw breath, so to speak. We let her breathe, just for a few days. Not much will change - we've messed it up too much already - but the air will be clearer. That much, people will be able to see. That will make them think. When power is allowed on again, people won't use so much.'

'Won't they? I'd asked.

He'd shaken his head. 'Once you've lived without something for a bit, you value it more. Nobody in the world has had to worry about lack of electricity or machines for years. Even the poorest have had access to power during the last years. It has been called progress. Progress my arse.'

He took a drink and looked at me. 'Help me,' he said, as the interview came to an end. 'Otherwise it will all just end.' It all sounded too simplistic to me, but I didn't see anyone else doing anything. Heads in sand. Heads in the sand...

There were exceptions, of course. As each government began to listen, they took control. They began to work together. Certain organisations were allowed to use power for essentials, such as hospitals - but only for life support - certain suppliers, such as farmers who had to get their crops in that week. Others, too. But everybody else had to make arrangements to live without power for a week. It was planned to be in April, when the Southern hemisphere was in Autumn, and the Northern, in Spring. Nobody got too cold or too hot who wasn't already used to it. I helped to write the guidelines which some newspapers in the UK and US printed. Samantha Clinton, whom everyone expected to bow to industrial pressure and ignore some of the warnings, took the most stringent view and imposed the toughest punishments for those who protested.

And so, on April 12th, 2035, The Week Off happened. Power stations shut down. The internet - for the first time in history - was switched off. Power stations were halted. Trains, ships, cars, tractors, planes - anything that used power - stood still. And people took a holiday, from life.

Many things happened. As Dr Miller had thought, the air cleared up in a matter of days. People could be seen out walking, cycling, blading and running, breathing sweet clean air. Life slowed down. People started being nicer to each other. There was an atmosphere of 'we're in this together' around Bath, where I lived, and I later learned it was like that everywhere. I interviewed as many people as I could, already planning a book called 'Miller's Strategy'. People didn't travel, everyone took a holiday. Nobody needed to do any shopping because we'd all planned for this, arranged for those who needed help to have it, to invite older relatives to stay, to take care of our neighbours. Even those who'd protested were silenced because The Week Off was such a huge success. It was a domino effect of successes. People took responsibility for their world. Properly.

When the lights came back on, on April 19th, it lit up a different world. People were more rested, more relaxed, happier and gentler with each other, and the world. Inevitably people had forgotten to buy certain things so they just did without, or borrowed. One of the strangest - and most heartening - things was that there was no looting. Even with every alarm not working, there was no robbery. It took me only a few moments to work out why, and report it. People were scared. They'd seen the news. They'd watched the world slowly choke; watched their friends by the sea get flooded, watched relatives die of asthma. And so, for an entire week, people pulled together.

It was such a success, that governments immediately planned for another Week Off in the Northern hemisphere's Autumn. And following that, one day each week was taken as a Day Off. Slowly, slowly, things got better.

Today it is A Day Off. I write this by candlelight, to be typed up tomorrow.

Don't ever forget Dr Miller, the man whose idea sparked a shift in attitude so huge that we are still benefiting today. Because of him, Climate Change has slowed down to manageable levels. People have been given more time to find solutions. We live in a cleaner, greener, safer world because of one man. We are better people. We are more peaceful people. We will live, and so will our planet

Never be afraid to have ideas. And never be afraid to act on them.

Editor's Note:

Dawn Cooper played her part in spreading Miller's message, so it is fitting that I've included her record of Miller's Week. Dawn died in 2051. Her grandchildren have become journalists, too.

- JB, 2076