Parched Earth Article

What happens when we run out of water? Dry is the latest novel in the craze for dystopian teen thrillers—but it has a very real message for the world today. Part two of our focus on climate change.

 

Day One

The kitchen faucet makes the most bizarre sounds.

It coughs and wheezes like it’s gone asthmatic. It gurgles like someone drowning. It spits once, then goes silent. Our dog, Kingston, raises his ears, but still keeps his distance from the sink, unsure if it might unexpectedly come back to life, but no such luck.

Mum just stands there holding Kingston’s water bowl beneath the faucet, puzzling.

 

Paramount Pictures has just bought the rights to Dry, the bestselling teen novel by father and son Neal and Jarrod Shusterman. And it’s not hard to see why—I read it in 24 hours straight.

Part way through reading, I determined we needed to move out of Auckland immediately. Complete self-sufficiency, in a rural area where we could store our own water in large quantities, being the number one goal.

Okay, so I might have just totally freaked myself out reading Dry. But it wasn’t just the result of a gripping plot line. Dry might be fictional, but climate change is not.

Set in America’s Southern California, rising temperatures have resulted in a drought—or ‘the tap out’—as everyone calls it. Long showers and the watering of gardens have long since become things of the past. But one fateful day, in the height of summer, the situation reaches catastrophic levels and the real tap-out begins. Running water to suburban homes is cut, with city reservoirs all but dry. Water is re-routed to essential services like hospitals only.

Supermarket riots begin, with bottled water at the top of everyone’s shopping list. But within a day of the tap-out starting, the shelves are completely empty. Main character Alyssa cleverly buys a bath tub’s worth of ice to keep her family hydrated—surely the water will be back on soon? For the characters in Dry, it’s not long before thirst becomes a very real threat.

Alyssa has endured living next to oddball Kelton and his weird family all her life, but it turns out they are the only ones who are prepared for this very type of scenario. Luckily for Alyssa, Kelton has always had a crush on her. He just needs to convince his dad she’s worthy of sharing in their precious water supply.

 

Day Three

‘They’re our neighbours!’

‘When it comes down to survival you don’t have neighbours!’

‘We’re going to have to live with these people when this is all over.’

‘Live is the key word here! If this is as bad as I think it is, not everyone’s going to make it—and if we’re going to remain among the living we need to stick with our survival plan and keep a tight lid on our supplies.’

 

Kelton’s father is a pseudo-Noah figure in the novel. Until the tap-out, everyone thought he was a paranoid lunatic. Now—even though he has the resources to help save others—protecting his family, the perimeter of their home and its precious resources, becomes his sole focus. The measures he goes to are drastic, the outcomes tragic.

It’s not long before the ‘water-zombies’ emerge. The human body can only go without water for about 5–7 days. We need both food and water to survive. But while we can go for more than three weeks without food—Mahatma Gandhi survived 21 days of complete starvation—around 60 percent of the adult body is made up of water. Every living cell in the human body needs water to keep functioning.

 

Day Four

‘We saw him hide a bottle of water in his car! He won’t share a drop of it!’

‘So?’ I counter. ‘It’s his water! You have no right!’

‘We have every right!’

Only now do I see how dry his lips are. Not just dry but parched and chapped to the point of bleeding. None of these kids look right. Their skin is thin and almost leprous grey. The corners of their mouths are white with dried spit. And the look in their eyes is almost rabid.

 

This is Our Future

This may seem like scaremongering, but in the last issue of War Cry, Colson Verdonk reminded us that ‘the evidence for climate change is overwhelming and substantive’.

Climate change is real, and as Christians our response matters. Some might suggest that the priority is simply to know Jesus, so that whatever the future holds might be found in him. But this limits our role as stewards of creation and our responsibility to future generations.

As designated stewards of the planet and its resources in Genesis, we should be the loudest voices and most passionate proponents of climate change activism. Faith and action are not opposing forces, but one and the same. As General William Booth famously said: ‘Faith and works should travel side by side, step answering to step like the legs of men walking.’

Young people across New Zealand chose to strike in March and again in May, leaving the classroom behind and standing up for what they have dubbed ‘the issue of our generation’. On the steps of Parliament, students like Isla Day spoke out about the threat of climate change, to a crowd of more than a thousand. ‘We need adults to listen to young people and to the facts—this is our future.’

The early Salvation Army was full of passionate young activists wanting to change the world. When Catherine Booth said, ‘If we are to better the future, we must disturb the present,’ she was doing so much more than giving future generations a cool slogan for the back of t-shirts! She was raging against the injustice of the day and campaigning for systemic change.

That same DNA exists in our movement today. The Holy Spirit is still calling young people today to make a difference—to stand up and be counted! To speak out and lead the way where the courage of adults has failed, or the lure of money has prevailed.

If climate change really is ‘the issue of our generation’ (and the science tells us it is), then characters like Shusterman’s Alyssa and Kelton could provide the kind of inspiration needed to motivate us to action.

And if faith is driving that call to action, we could literally change the world!