“Come in Mr Jones, come in and sit down. Coffee? Help yourself to sugar and milk. I must say I admire your tenacity and detective work – you know you’re the first journalist to secure an interview with me in 30 years. Many have tried of course; some of the biggest news organisations in the world have been trying to track me down ever since it became apparent that there had to be a guiding hand behind the changes that the world was going through. And here you are, a freelancer, with your portable recording device.
“You won’t mind if I also record this interview for posterity, will you? After all it is an historic occasion.
“Enough of the preliminary chatter. I’m sure you’d like me to tell you how it all started. One of the triggers was a report in the Cape Times on February 14 2003. I still have it here, encased in plastic. The headline reads: SA must prepare for a cauldron climate – expert. A few days later another headline read: Climate change could hit share prices. And then on March 6 a story headed: Lack of fresh water may be 21st century’s biggest crisis – UN report, appeared. At the time we were going through one of the longest hottest summers Cape Town had ever seen. Every day temperatures soared into the 30s. Occasionally long-range forecasts gave hope of a rainy day in a week’s time, but when the day came there was only a little light drizzle near the mountain, and then we were back to the unrelenting heat.
“I realised that something had to be done. I studied the causes of this climate change and what was being done to stop the overheating of the world. It seemed that a lot of scientists knew that the main cause was the emissions of global warming gases, but precious little was being done to eliminate the problem. In a survey of the world’s 500 largest companies only 35 % had taken action to mitigate the dangers of climate change (this report appeared in the Cape Argus of 18 February).
“The solution came to me in a blinding flash of clear, radical thinking. All the problems of the world were caused by human beings. They are the ones that built the factories and motor cars that spewed out their polluting gases; they are the ones that cut down and burnt the forests that supplied the atmosphere with life-giving oxygen; they are the ones that wiped out whole species of animals, fish and plants, turned grassland into deserts, and changed the face of the earth by introducing alien species that overwhelmed the native species; they are the ones who bred the ever-growing population that consumed the goods and services which the factories produced. The only time animals or plants caused a problem was when human beings had interfered with the natural order of things beforehand. If human beings could be eliminated, or drastically reduced, the world would soon heal itself.
“My first step was to envisage the sort of world that I wanted to live in. My vision wasn’t very different from various utopian societies that had gone before. I wished for a place where people lived in harmony with nature and each other, did not waste natural resources, walked or used bicycles instead of cars, and so on. The difference between other utopian societies and my dream was that they were content to have a community following a certain way of life while the rest of the world carried on around them in its own sweet way, whereas I wanted the whole world to change. The next step was to gather a few likeminded wealthy people together to work out a drastic plan that would get the world well on its way to being right, within a few years. We knew that time was very limited, and that with every month that went by the world was getting hotter and more barren.
“We formed a society called Brave New World, or BNW for short. With the help of one of our founder members, Edward de Bono, we did a lot of lateral thinking about defining our aims and how to achieve them. To cut a long story short we drew up the following action plan:
Reduce population of world from 6 billion to 1 billion in 10 years.
- Earn sufficient money to achieve this.
- Dispose of bodies in an eco-friendly way.
- Dismantle and dispose of unwanted factories and houses in such a way that land can be returned to its natural state.
- Train remaining population of world to behave in a responsible fashion towards the land and fellow creatures; and to not get any bright ideas about ‘increasing and multiplying and filling the earth’.
“We arrived at the figure of 1 billion by asking several scientists what they thought the ideal maximum population level was. This was the world’s population level in the year 1850 when the world was still in pretty good shape. It was fairly easy to arrive at an ideal figure; the hard part was going to be getting there. We knew that it was no use trying to persuade people to limit the number of children they gave birth to. Stable or negative population growth only occurred in wealthy, well-educated societies; whereas the poor believed that children represented wealth, and nothing except actual wealth would shift them from this idea. We planned to make everyone wealthy, or at least have the illusion of wealth, once the world had come right, but there wasn’t time or enough capacity in the world to do it in the limited time available to us before the world was ruined by climate change.
“I should mention that we didn’t plan to become dictators, or try to rule the world. We knew such plans always ended in tears. We simply wanted to get the world right. If we could do it by persuasion, or letting the population think it was their idea, well and good. But first and foremost we needed to reduce the population fast. We considered frivolous ideas like sending our minister of health on a world tour to teach the rest of the world how to destroy a system of teaching hospitals and achieve inaction in Aids control; or getting Dullah Omar to share the secrets of his Drive Alive Campaign with countries whose annual road-death rates were laughably low. We brainstormed ideas like, ‘stop mollycoddling people – if they want to eat, drink and smoke themselves to death, let them get on with it; don’t force them to wear seatbelts; let them go out in the midday sun without protection; let them have unprotected sex if they want to’ and so on. All these thoughts were amusing, but weren’t going to solve the problem we faced. It would all be a case of ‘too little too late’.
“Then the thought occurred to me: we’ve got the answer right on our doorstep – Dr Death himself – Dr Wouter Basson. I’d heard him being interviewed about the ‘weapons of mass destruction’ in Iraq, and gained the impression that here was a highly intelligent man who knew, more than anyone else in the world, how to go about reducing this planet’s population. You’ll excuse me, Mr Jones, won’t you, if I don’t go into too much detail? We don’t want to be here all day and all night do we? More coffee? Just help yourself at any stage.
“I must say, Wouter didn’t need much persuading to set to work devising what I called Dr Death’s Druppels (DDD for short), and various ways of dispersing them over selected targets.
“Before we went ahead and eliminated 83.3 % of the planet’s population we debated long and hard about where we should start, and how we should go about selecting each successive target. We also did a lot of lateral thinking on funding the venture. We decided that previous bids to ‘rule the world’ had gone wrong partly because some zealot such as Hitler tried to selectively eliminate those he didn’t like. Even we enlightened ones weren’t immune to such thinking: some of our group wanted to get stuck into America, others wanted to relieve the starving masses of India of their burden, and so on. One man hated the Aussies so much for their lousy accent, uppity attitude, ‘Wogga Wogga Wine’ and sporting superiority that he wanted to start there (even though logically Australia was the last place that needed our attention). But fortunately reason prevailed, and we decided to select a diverse group of targets, where a relatively small dose of DDD would eliminate either large numbers of people or depopulate regions of great atmospheric pollution. We just wrote their names on slips of paper and drew them out of a hat whenever we were ready for the next strike.
“The interesting part of the exercise was working out how to fund it. We were all wealthy people and knew how to make money, and were each prepared to donate a large portion of our pile to the cause. But if you knew how the world was going to change, then why not use the heaven-sent opportunity to make even more money (which could all be used for worthy causes of course). What we did was, each member deposited $10 million dollars worth of cash, securities and property deeds into our separate BNW account, and a committee of three (C3 for short) was selected to manage and grow the fund (and authorise expenditure as required).
“The first thing C3 did was sell all the stocks and shares held because they knew that there was going to be a massive stock market collapse once the industrialised nations started being attacked. Then they started selling shares they didn’t own, and buying them back later at lower prices so they could deliver them to the suckers who had bought the shares (you’ve probably heard that the technical name for this is ‘bear sales’). They also sold all spare property while prices were still high because they knew they’d be able to buy it back later at much lower prices. Then they bought up selected undertaking firms, butcheries, offshore fish farms and abandoned mines throughout the world (you’ll soon see why they did this). At all times at least 50 % of funds were kept as ‘near cash’ in such interest-earning entities as call accounts, fixed deposits and government bonds. (As C3 were fond of saying, ‘never underestimate the power of compound interest’.)
“We were a bit worried about the effect of our ‘final solution’ on the world’s economy. We knew things would be dire for a while. Markets for goods and services would shrink drastically, but then the numbers of firms supplying those goods and services would also shrink rapidly. Hopefully the two would balance each other out in the long term. No one could be sure how it would all pan out. But we knew that it was worth taking the risk if it was going to save the population of the world from itself.
“I’ve dealt with parts one and two of our plan. Now, let’s talk about part three: ‘dealing with the bodies’. I must confess that the ‘cool cannibals’ campaign was my idea. I knew it would be a hard sell, but it seemed a pity to waste all that fresh protein through sheer prejudice. (That’s why we bought up all those butcheries, incidentally.) Fortunately the idea was partially saved by the advertising geniuses among us with their above- and below-the-line campaigns promoting ‘eco-beef’ and ‘eco-lamb’ as economical, eco-friendly and delicious. A side effect was that a lot of land previously used for grazing, and growing crops for animal consumption became available for rehabilitation and returning to the wild.
Another benefit of DDD was that it immediately solved the problems of housing shortages, and overcrowded prisons, schools and hospitals in the relevant areas.
Of course, there were too many dead bodies for the remaining live bodies to eat, so we devised some novel ways of disposing of them. Burying them in graveyards was contrary to our preservation-of-land principles, and cremating them would only add harmful emissions to the atmosphere. Here my knowledge of mining, and the disgusting habits of crayfish and other denizens of the deep came in handy. I knew that crayfish who had been grazing on a dead body tasted just as delicious as those who had been consuming the contents of the nearest sewage outfall. So we promoted the cheap and eco-friendly new fashion of burial at sea (using our undertakers who knew that our fish farms, and places where crayfish, lobsters and crabs congregated was where to drop the bodies).
“Inland, our previously purchased abandoned mines with their mine shafts and tunnels came in handy. Did you know that you can easily drop a million bodies into every kilometre of mineshaft? And if you add a little compost accelerator and a sprinkling of soil on top of each layer, you hasten decomposition and keep everything sweet-smelling, compacting, and oozing into the tunnels leading off the shafts. Our eco-friendly inland internments (complete with hard hats) soon became the rage. Those who insisted on coffins had to pay the earth. But most people saw the light and used simple shrouds ‘as was done in biblical times’.
“The abandoned mine-shafts and open-cast mines were also useful for disposing of the unwanted buildings (of no historic or architectural significance). Once the DDD campaign stopped and people started getting their confidence back, they were more than willing to tear down buildings so that those clever all-terrain skimmers could whisk them away. The land then became available to those who had helped, so that they could turn it into farmland, recreational areas, or back to the wild.
“As you know, when the DDD campaign first started there was an almighty fuss. And investigators all over the world tried to find out who was responsible, and put a stop to it. But of course, the sleuths kept on dying along with everyone else. So, no sooner had an investigation started than it fizzled out. I must say that Wouter and his cohorts were amazingly inventive in the ways they found of dispersing the various forms of DDD, from simple firecracker rockets, to drones, kites, old-fashioned Roman catapults, and ‘putting it in the water’. And they had of course previously taken the relevant antidotes so that they would not be harmed if some DDD came their way.
“Now, we’re involved in phase five of our plan: ‘Train remaining population of world to behave in a responsible fashion towards the land and fellow creatures; and to not get any bright ideas about “increasing and multiplying and filling the earth”‘. I think it’s going rather well; don’t you? Of course, it helps that there is always the hidden threat that we’ll sprinkle a little DDD on them if they get out of line.
“Now I think it’s time for you to be heading back to earth. The view from this satellite is rather grand isn’t it? And things are so comfortable in this special gravity section. But it is fun to float around in the weightless section from time to time. Jenny will show you around before your connecting craft leaves. And if a whisper of where we are ever reaches the outside world then we won’t send you an antidote to the poison you’ve been drinking in your coffee. Be sure to keep us informed of your whereabouts. We’d hate anything untoward to happen to you, unnecessarily!
“Goodbye Mr Jones. I’ve really enjoyed our chat.”