Imagine the Year 2060

Ecolution reporting made possible by Seward Co-op, which has been a community-owned grocer since 1972: Together, we continue to cultivate a cooperative economy.

Graphic Camilla Breen

Priscilla Trinh is a newly graduated college student with a University of Minnesota degree in sustainable systems food management. She is director of communications with the Post Growth Institute and farm share assistant with The Good Acre. As an occasional contributor to Minnesota Women’s Press, we asked her to write a fictionalized version of what she sees in a potential future.

The cart lurched forward. Priscilla held on as horses pulled the empty wagon over potholes. Her partner, PK, bounced alongside her, urging the beautiful beasts around an even more craterous asphalt crack. They continued on, veering off the road towards hundreds of hoop houses.

Priscilla’s chest swelled with pride at the sight of the not-so-white anymore caterpillar-esque structures. Their establishment before global plastic production shut down was one of the biggest small victories in her life. Inside, dozens of harvesters filled crates with heirloom tomatoes and slightly withered strawberries. She grimaced thinking about the heat wave coming next week.

As she waited for the harvesters to stack crates onto the wagon, a small voice shouted out. “Miss P!”

Priscilla swung her head to the right, squinting into the sunny forest. Brandishing a wild plum excitedly was one of her students from Movement School. She gave a thumbs-up approvingly. Bent between plum trees, other children were plucking anise hyssop and yarrow. The children ran up to pet the horses, dropping their plant-laden baskets and tattered tote bags branded by companies long gone.

After the wagon was loaded, the two turned once more down the cracked, faded road. They stopped by a repurposed warehouse near the corner and rounded out their delivery list. Only one industrial cooler was running while a solar panel repair was happening.

With an intermittent power grid, many buildings had aggregated facilities and tools to reduce transport and resources expenditures. Inside the warehouse, makers bustled about preparing portable meal boxes while herbalists ground their medicines in the kitchen. Priscilla quickly threw reflective car sun shields up to keep the heat at bay as the crates of carrots were shuttled out from the cooler.

Once the wagon was covered and resembled a square disco ball, they were off again. Their six mile trek towards the Mississippi River from Saint Paul was uneventful, minus the usual challenge of maneuvering horses down ramps to merge onto the highway.

They finally pulled up to East River Flats Parkway. Sloping towards the river, a blur of activity was unfolding. Tent stations had been set up to prepare for the city’s dinner — or what was left of the city.

After the Great Simplification, when energy grids had shut down all across the nations, urban residents embarked on a mass migration to nearby towns where well systems and agriculture offered more food and safety.

Those with cabins fled to them, those with family farms took refuge closer to relatives and gardens, and those who had neither remained in the cities — predominantly the elderly, people of color, and allies determined to seed a new world in the wake of uncertainty.

At first, people emerged from their homes with shocked, confused stares, like deer emerging from forest wildfire. Movement leaders swiftly rallied around community gardens but quickly realized it was advantageous to also build a food hub near the river as a water source.

Today, a long row of pumps flanked the river bank. What could be mistaken as large showerheads the size of lampposts, they were instead a way for residents to pump water out of the river. The ingenious design was manually powered (children had fun jumping on the pump) with a solar-charged light affixed to the top. Combining filtration and faucet mechanisms, the water fell into barrels for later use.

Every tent was absorbed in the meal prep: washing stations, cutting stations, kneading stations, seasoning stations, and cooking stations. Long gone were the days of individual homes with their individual kitchens and fridges. Each house was retrofitted with a pit for reheating food again. The food hub was the main provider, and the central location of energy and water.

Priscilla and PK unloaded their wagon at the washing station. A friend at the spice station gave them two meal boxes for the road, including tonight’s dinner and four day’s worth of food. They gave her an appreciative hug before hopping back onto the wagon. Munching on their to-go dinner, the pair bumped along to the next city on their delivery route.