Storyboard by Abby Baumgard.
Eco-Fiction | A road trip through the end of the world
The above storyboard is made up of nine frames or scenes that illustrate an idea for “A Road Trip Through the End of the World,” a short story about family and climate change. The text in each frame is as follows:
Our story begins in a classroom. 16-year-old Wren sits in her Earth science class at Buffalo High School. It’s her last period. There are two more weeks until summer break and they’ve just started their last unit on climate change. Mrs. Weaver has assigned all of the students different topics that contribute to climate change for their end-of-term papers. Wren was assigned ‘Generating Power: Coal’ and winced as she read it.
When Wren gets home she lets out the dog and starts researching for her paper. She already knows everything there is to know about coal, her dad is a second-generation miner. She also knows that the coal he mines is sold and burned to generate energy and that the process of burning coal contributes to global warming. He knows she doesn’t like it, every time the topic of work comes up he sees her disapproving frown but they’ve never talked about it. She can’t stand looking at the graphs and figures one more minute so she decides to go to bed early.
At the end of the week, Mrs. Weaver begins to lecture on global warming. They had already covered deforestation and conserving water but this was the topic Wren dreaded most and not because of her dad’s occupation. She tried to tune out her words, “over the past 50 years US average temperature has increased more than 2*F. Heatwaves and droughts have also become more frequent and intense, and the arctic ice…” Wren’s attention drifts to the window, the sun is just visible at the top of the frame, she stares at it unblinking but she sees something else.
She was six years old when they heard the news. Her dad had taken the week off to look after her while her mom visited her sister in California. He held it together in front of the officer but after he shut the door, her dad dropped to his knees in front of her and held her tight. They sat like that for over an hour but then her dad wiped off both their tears and put on her favorite movie to watch. She could hear him on the phone in the other room, her eyes were still running. The funeral was a week later, and by then she saw had heard the newscaster on TV, a massive heatwave in California, and the death toll was up to 85. Apparently, Wren’s aunt had been at work and her mom had just opened the door for a minute when the dog slipped between her legs and ran, she ran after it, and apparently, they found her a quarter mile away off the trail slumped against a tree, like she was sleeping. They moved into the small trailer a month later.
When she got home from school that day she sees the heavy dust-covered boots outside the trailer door which means it was one of her dad’s off days. She walked in wanting to pick a fight, she told him she hates that he was a part of it all. He was confused so she went on. She brought up her mom and their voices got louder. He didn’t like to fight with her but he was upset. He had no other skills or experience, it was the only way he was able to pay the bills. He called her ungrateful and then she stomped off and slammed doors. He immediately regretted it. He knew it wasn’t not true and if he was being honest, he hated working in the mines. He hated knowing that his employer had been destroying the planet for decades and he hated knowing the heat is a result of that, the heat that killed his wife.
Two days later and he’s been laid off, they all were, and the mine was shutting down. They were calling it the Great Recession, people were losing jobs and companies were going bankrupt. He was relieved but terrified, having no idea what to do next. Wren knew something was wrong when she saw his boots, he was supposed to be on for three days. They talked and they decided to move, his grandparents lived in Florida and he remembered making the drive every winter. Wren was devastated to leave her friends but she remembered her dad’s stories of the white sand and turquoise water, she didm’t mention it but she was also happy that he was finally done with the mines.
The drive took them three days. As they drove, her Dad talked to her about how the land has changed. There had been a bad drought again this year and they drove past entire fields of wheat dried up and dead in Kansas. As they drove through towns in Missouri, Wren watched as people lay out sandbags in preparation for flooding that was rumored to hit in the next few weeks. On the radio “Despite Repeated Warnings” by Paul McCartney began to play. Wren and her dad shared a look and shook their heads simultaneously. Her Dad told her it never was this bad before, that there were always natural disasters but it was different now. Wren told him what she learned in Earth Science, that these events have steadily become more frequent and more intense. They drove in silence for a while, it felt like mourning.
They decided to get a trailer in a small park outside Bradenton on the West coast of Florida. They spent the summer working part-time jobs, Every night her dad would scan different sites and send in applications, he got one interview but it never went further than that. One hot July night though their luck finally changed. He got an email from a company called Sun-Tec, they explained that they were a nonprofit organization and had a program that focused on transitioning those who worked in fossil fuels to start working in the renewable energy industry. They paid for his training and within the month he began his new job of installing solar panels all over the state. Wren had never been more proud.
Our story ends in a classroom. It had already been a month since Wren started her Junior year at Palmetto High School. She stood at the front of the room with a paper in her hand, the entire classroom staring back at her. The assignment had been to write about their heroes and how they have inspired them. Wren wrote about her dad, she decided she was going into a career in conservation work, they were both going to make the world a better place. When she showed him the paper that night, he cried for the first time since her mom died.
My story focuses on a family that is deeply affected by climate change in the US. I wanted climate change to drive the story and be part of the setting. This is why I included a heatwave killing the mom to give the dad and daughter a past affected by climate change and motivation for the dad to leave the fossil fuel industry completely. I also used the Earth Science class to drive the daughter’s actions and give her the knowledge to explain their observations on their drive to Florida. I decided to try to make this a very realistic story and set it in America to potentially make a voter who doesn’t believe in climate change realize that they have already seen it with their own eyes at home. I also wanted to end the story with hope and love, having them work to make the world better. These emotions are humanity’s driving force, and I wanted to use this to inspire the reader.