September 2007 Archives
Upstate 2050 is an effort to get Upstate residents to think about what our future might hold. Pondering the future often leads to navel-gazing, committee reports, and strange boondoggles, but I hope that some fictional writing in a variety of different voices will help us past that.
These fragments reflect possibilities that could emerge from Upstate's past and present. They can't all happen - many of them simply conflict! - but hopefully all of them contain enough truth to provoke some hard thought.
If you have your own ideas about what might happen to Upstate and want to share them, you can leave comments on individual postings or email new stories. All stories accepted for publication will be published under the same license as the rest of the work here.
Unfortunately, I can't pay for stories, but I will definitely credit them. (I can credit stories to "anonymous" if you'd prefer.)
ITHACA, NY - Cornell University celebrated the retirement of its president, Dr. Waclaw Czerwinski, whose 2013 accident at the University's Synchrotron led directly to the low-cost fusion power the world enjoys today.
"Luck was with me that day," reiterated Czerwinski. "My mistakes in setting up the experiment produced a small but strange amount of unexpected energy. and it only took five years to move from that error to a surprisingly practical source of energy."
Czerwinski, who grew up in Buffalo's East Side, seized the opportunity to help his hometown and the surrounding area. He described his childhood in his farewell address:
"When I was a child, I was very angry to see what seemed like everything leaving Buffalo, both people and businesses. I almost went into politics, but my parents kept pushing me toward the sciences. As it turned out, I've been able to do much more as a scientist than as a politician."
Czerwinski's successes, both in his initial (and repeatable) discovery and later in his rapid drive toward commercial implementation, led him quickly to a platform where he could control the way his ideas were used: the Presidency of Cornell.
"The Trustees were pleased to invite me, much to my surprise, and I'm not sure they quite understood why I was interested in the job. I'd been lucky enough to be doing that work on university funds, so the university had clear control of the patents. I wanted to ensure that those patents helped the area I care about, in addition to easing the world's energy problems."
Czerwinski's vision extended beyond Buffalo to include much of central and western New York. The primary assembly point for the fusion reactors is an enormous facility in Buffalo, but ceramic components are made in Corning and Rochester, and electronics in Jamestown, Syracuse, and Binghamton, with fuel processing in Oswego. Cornell itself, in Ithaca, remains the main center for research on the practical side of the field. Other universities have established centers, but focus mostly on the theoretical side.
"These reactors produce so much energy so cheaply," said Czerwinski, "that we could have set nearly any price for them. That would, however, have invited price-based competition. Instead, we set prices at a level that comfortably covers manufacturing costs, including a fine living for all of our workers with money left over to help Cornell reach more students. We know how to make these reactors reliably and safely, and they are so incredibly cheap relative to other forms of energy production that we can help this area tremendously while easing the burden of the world as well. That may not last forever, but hopefully our current lead will last another thirty years."
In his conclusion, Czerwinski thanked university founder Ezra Cornell for his confidence that "Cornell University could produce practical results, helping its students, its community, its state, and the world. His founding of 'an institution where any person can find instruction in any study' has brought us to a wonderful new world where we can help more people find more studies."
My opponent will tell you that I found the idea of electing a negotiator to be a foolish one - that is, a foolish one until I learned of the terms he will accept, the limits he will accept on our sovereignty.
The boundaries of the states to be seem clear now, with the Hudson Valley and Catskills counties going with New York City and Long Island, and the Adirondacks, Mohawk Valley, and New York west to the Pennsylvania border preparing to become the brave new state of Niagara. Freed of that which was rotten in New York State, we will finally be able to find our own destinies.
In any separation there will be compromises. I understand that, and accept it. It makes sense that this new New York, centered on the city of that name, wants to ensure that the transportation corridors which nourish it will survive this change. And as deeply as I regret the loss of Delaware County, where I grew up and where many of my relatives still live, I recognize that New York City cannot bear to have its water supply in unsympathetic hands.
On a number of other issues, however, we must stand firm - and my opponent has proven himself weak. The division of existing debt, a very basic question, is slanted wrongly against us, and will hobble us unless corrected.
Looking to the future, maintaining works jointly, especially the university system, is an invitation to spend far more money than is wise. Of course we appreciate the universities, but we need the freedom to chart our own course.
Far worse, though, is my opponent's willingness to compromise the freedom of our fellow Upstate taxpayers in the Adirondack Park. His meek acceptance of plans hatched by environmentalists in New York City to retain and even augment the rules limiting development inside this ever-expanding park is a disgrace. We appreciate the Adirondacks, but must be free to help others enjoy them in the ways they want to enjoy them. The state's recent binge of purchases there was money poorly spent, aiming to prevent Upstate's economy from growing.
My opponent's acceptance of their plan for rapidly removing their prisoners from our prison system is another strike against him. We in Upstate have maintained a sacred trust in accepting their criminals in return for a shockingly small amount of money. While claiming to have built our economy, they have spent as little as possible on the prisons Upstate, pouring money and attention into the Downstate system for decades. Their sudden withdrawal of prisoners and the cash needed to sustain them would be an immediate blow against our economy, in the very period where we are still striving to build a new economy as we throw off the chains of taxation with which they have burdened us.
Our new state, our glorious Niagara, must not be forced to carry these weights of the past. Our future growth depends on freedom from the poisonous thinking downstate has forced on us for over a century, on our rights as citizens to set our own course without interference and disruption from a partner that has lost interest in us.
On Tuesday, vote for a free Niagara! With your vote, I will help freedom pour down upon our new state as water pours down the falls of our glorious namesake.
15 miles a day it is again. My mule's not named Sal, but somebody's mule probably is. I'm very happy to have a job, any job, and this job comes with some benefits, like full exposure to a wide variety of weather conditions, plus a long unpaid vacation in winter when I'd really like some heat.
It's not that bad, though. The Barge Canal stays busy the whole time it's navigable, filled with grain to keep New York City and the coast alive. There's some other stuff on there too, mostly things that don't need to go anywhere fast. If something needs to move fast, it rides the rails, right? Every once in a while I take a detour down the Seneca-Cayuga Canal to send things that way or pick things up, and the change of scenery's a good thing.
I know every bar in every canal town along the way, though the cities are huge and I can't be expected to know everything there, can I? If it's within a mile of the canal, though, I probably do. Unless maybe it's a boring bar, too dull for a canal man.
Yeah, I grew up in Lockport. Never thought this was my future.
Time to get back to work. Thanks for the drink!
Onondaga Lake, NY - Governor Clifford Doubleday officially turned most of New York State west and north of the Catskills over to the Haudenosaunee Confederacy at a ceremony this afternoon.
Tadadaho Thomas Lyons of the Onondaga, thanking the Governor for his work toward a clean transition, remarked that "we never gave up this land, and it never left us. Even when we were far away from it, it was never far from us."
"We seized this land from your ancestors, and abused it horribly," replied Doubleday. "We realize now that 250-odd years of unlawful occupation is more than enough, and sadly we return it to you in much worse condition than it was in when we took it."
New York State may have had little real choice in the matter, and in the end it was economics more than anything else that drove the decision. The Supreme Court had unanimously overturned City of Sherrill v. Oneida Indian Nation of New York in 2023, calling it "the worst jurisprudence since Bush v. Gore" and championing John Paul Stevens' dissent as "plain logic applied to a difficult situation," thereby allowing the Haudenosaunee to purchase land and add it to their existing (and sovereign) reservations.
In Upstate New York's depressed economy, those purchases were relatively cheap, making it easy for the Confederacy to rebuild an empire within the Empire State. While residents had been deeply skeptical of their growing neighbors, Haudenosaunee calls for an enormous zone free of most New York State taxes proved resoundingly popular. As legal action gave further definition to the tax-free status of sovereignty, residents frequently sold their homes, businesses, and farms to the Confederacy's business agents, on terms which allowed them freedom from state taxes while retaining control for periods ranging from the lifetime of the owner to seven generations.
Haudenosaunee leaders emphasized the need to restore the land and water to its original condition, with an initial focus on Onondaga Lake, the site of the founding of their Confederacy. While seven separate previous cleanup efforts have tried to restore the lake, it has remained largely lifeless.
The 2030s were a bad decade for New York City and Long Island. A two meter rise in sea level, supposedly caused by melting icecaps, combined with three Category 3 hurricanes were just too much for the metropolitan area. New York City's sewer system, always on the edge, collapsed in two of those hurricanes, and tunnels and bridges sustained major flooding and damage. Long Island suffered massive erosion, with two one-mile channels cut across the south fork of the island and major damage elsewhere. The Port of New York and New Jersey was devastated.
Connecticut and New Jersey sponsored major legislation to move homeowners from their coastlines to deeper in their interiors, covering costs for people who never realized they might be in a floodplain, and building new high-speed trains to help those people reach their workplaces in almost the same time it had taken them before.
That cost those states a fortune, but New York had a much harder problem: the destination where all those people were supposed to be headed was itself in danger of washing away. By 2042, the outlines of a plan began to emerge:
A new Manhattan would emerge, three stories higher than the old. Existing buildings less than five stories tall would be demolished, and Central Park would become an enormous pond with built-up islands. Tall buildings would be required to move all critical infrastructure to their new fourth-floor basements, and subways - newly laid out inside the elevated area - would run at the old third and fourth floors. Only about 30% of the island would remain in use, but it would gain much stronger connections to Connecticut, New Jersey, and Upstate.
Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, and Long Island, would shrink drastically, with neighborhoods above 100 feet in elevation surviving but the rest converted to agriculture and other similarly non-permanent uses. The south shore of the island would be largely abandoned, turned into parkland served by hotels on relatively higher ground.
New restrictions on the lower Hudson Valley similarly required construction to move to the higher ground.
The Port of Albany, already benefiting from growing Erie (Barge) Canal traffic and the survival of its railroads, would be massively expanded to replace a significant part of the former Port of New York.
As in Connecticut and New Jersey, the State of New York built massive high-speed rail down the Hudson Valley and along the Thruway Corridor to help relocated residents connect to their former center of business.
All of this cost a fortune, with little assistance from the beleaguered federal government, which was already dealing with the near-complete relocation of Florida residents to other states. Leaders in the key finance and media industries rallied to raise private funds for the redevelopment of Manhattan, easing the burden on the state government. Land values along the old Thruway corridor skyrocketed, though the state used its powers of eminent domain to break several logjams that threated redevelopment.
As of March 2050, the resettlement is almost complete. Residents who refused initially to leave their homes have mostly surrendered to continuing weather problems and the decay of their surrouding infrastructure. The rebuilt Manhattan is widely praised, though the use of the Port of Albany has limited New York's access to the largest freight shipments. Both wealth and population are much more evenly distributed across the state, and the upstate-downstate divide that many feared would create catastrophe rarely emerged.
BATH, NY, June 3, 2050--The Northeast Chapter of the Ku Klux Klan announced today its full support for the extension of so-called NY Proposition 19 (A/S 273218), due to sunset at the end of 2050.
"Do not repeal this law," urged Assembly-Senator Farley Kuhn (RTL-53/136), Exalted Cyclops of the Central New York Chapter of the Klan, in a YouTube address. "It has successfully closed our borders to the illegal aliens who threatened our way of life for so many years."
The Klan is only one of many well-funded groups who have lobbied Albany in favor of the extension. On the other side, a smaller but equally vocal group of agriculturalists and BigBox™ spokespeople met last night with Speaker-Leader Joseph Bruno III to review statistics on the losses they claim to have incurred since the law first passed in 2026, with a clause that allows it to be revisited every four years.
Bruno will, of course, have the final say on whether the law receives its sixth extension.
Welcome to your first training session. I'm not going to be very nice to you today - I just can't be when the subject is so serious. I know you think you're here to learn about how to disassemble houses for best reuse, but our first subject is not vinyl siding: it's your lives.
The first rule of salvaging is that you're either a salvager or a looter. If you're a looter, and a patrol finds you, you'll be dead within an hour. If you're a looter, and you shoot back at the patrol, you and everyone they think you might have liked will be dead soon enough.
What's the difference between the two? It's simple. Salvagers have licenses - which you're here to get - and permits for specific sites. You can have a salvage license but work on the wrong site, and then you're suddenly a looter. Honest mistakes in neighborhoods where all the houses are identical might happen once in a while, and maybe a patrol will listen - but maybe they won't.
It's up to you to remember your job, and who your boss is. You do the work the city asks for, and we pay you a lot. Salvaging building products from suburban housing isn't easy, but it's the best option we have at the moment for housing everyone now that we've reconcentrated. Disassemble the houses carefully, transport the parts into the city, hand them over to the Metropolitan Carpentry Center, and spend a few weeks enjoying the proceeds. Or head back out to make a lot more money.
Some people find visiting the old houses spooky, like they're visiting something awful or wrong. That's fine - you can come back to the city and build in the city instead of going out on salvage runs. A few people find the quiet out there appealing. If that's you, you might think about transferring to farm work. Both of these are safer, but a lot less lucrative.
We salvagers are the few, the free, the proud, the rich. Step out of line and you're done for. Stay in line and you'll do well - very well.
I was talking to the grandkids the other day, reminiscing about going with my mom and dad to pick apples in the local orchards, but I realized fast they were tuning out, because, after all, the apples they know come from South America, or, if their folks are willing to pay the price, from the local Gen-Crop.
But there was a time, I'm sure of it, when my folks even had apple trees on our own property, before we were rezoned for nodal development and had to sell those acres or lose them to eminent domain. Of course, from about the '20s on, our trees didn't produce, because the Bee Virus made most fruit trees sterile, except for the ones in those orchards big enough to afford their own robo-bees or some other kind of self-propagation tool from the university. So at that time, we still got apples locally, I'm pretty sure, but it didn't take long for that to end. NYS Proposition 19 closed our borders to the migrant apple-pickers, and in no time at all, the big orchards went under, followed in the '30s by the local wineries, or at least the few that still grew their own grapes. You can still go on a wine tour today around one or two of the Finger Lakes, but the wine is made entirely of grapes from Calexico. I took our oldest granddaughter to one of the wineries, and she liked the rides, the arcade, and the gift shop, but I have to say that the wine was not what I remember.
If I close my eyes in October and think really hard, I can conjure up that smell of apples rotting on the ground in the crisp fall air. I can picture the way the Monarch butterflies would hang around the milkweed, until the hot years came and the butterflies stopped migrating south. The sudden November frosts just killed them dead, and since then, I don't recall seeing Monarchs outside the museum. I asked my grandson what kids study now in school, now that they can't take chrysalises in a jar and watch them open up. Or tadpoles, for that matter, I guess; haven't seen a tadpole in what seems like forever.
He said they do a unit on mosquito larvae.
Welcome to Upstate Park! The largest park in North America includes a wide range of activities and places to stay for visitors. A few of the many highlights include:
The Genesee Country Village and Museum showcases how New Yorkers lived in the early 19th century, as the area was settled but still rural.
The Farmers Museum in Cooperstown demonstrates classic farming technology, and serves as a training area for people who want to take one of New York's many pastoral vacation options.
Oil City, in Wellsville, shows how petroleum extraction used to work, starting back in the 1860s. A variety of wells are still operating, showing oil well technology from the 1860s to the 2030s. Exhibits explain how oil used to drive the area's - and much of the world's - economy.
Image City, in Rochester, demonstrates old-style film, and demonstrates technologies from the earlier photography through the latest holographic projection. You'll be able to make a mini-movie on one of their hundreds of sets, and learn about how much easier all of this has become.
Lakeside Port, in Buffalo, shows off this city's old glory as a key transfer point from the Great Lakes to the Erie Canal and beyond. You can watch the bustle or even join it, operating a grain elevator or helping move cargo for a day.
The Industrial Zone, in Syracuse and Auburn, showcases many of the industrial technologies that made Upstate New York great in the 19th and early 20th centuries. You can watch salt mining in action, spend a few minutes on an assembly line, and watch an iron foundry and machine shop at work.
The Fabric Center in Utica shows the transition from homespun to manufactured textiles, how New York Mills got its name, and different kinds of fibers from classic wool and cotton to the latest synthetics. You can visit the sheep farms of Oneida County or design your own carpet, weaving it by hand or by computer.
Crystal City, in Corning, demonstrates the art and industry of glassmaking, offering tours of the Steuben Glass factory, glassmaking walks, training in glassblowing, and options ranging from day trips to multi-year training in working with glass.
The Old Mill, in Moravia, shows visitors how grain turns into flour and related products, and also includes a museum of waterwheels demonstrating old-style power production.
Railtown, in Hornell, gives visitors the chance to experience life in a city where the railroad provided the foundation for prosperity, demonstrating the use of steam locomotives and their repair. Excursions visit the surrounding area, and the park's fleet of trains is based here. Visitors can even take charge of a locomotive for a fee.
Please remember that while the state owns 70% of the property within the park boundaries, much of the land is still private property. Even much of the state land is still in active agricultural use, often in small and intensively-worked plots that can be damaged easily by even the best-intentioned visitors.
Please obey all signs and be cautious in exploring areas you aren't familiar with. Guides are readily available for a reasonable fee. Intercity railroads are your best choice for transportation, as roads outside of the most populated areas are no longer maintained. All of the old state parks within the larger park remain open from late spring to early fall, and are also accessible by train, as are the many colleges and universities within the park boundaries.
My grandparents were from Upstate New York, around Cazenovia, but they'd left for Phoenix in 1982, when Grandpa's job transferred there. My parents lived in San Diego, but moved back to my grandparents' place when they moved on to Lake Havasu City. My father's brother moved back to Syracuse in 2005, and it always seemed like a joke, moving to the land of harsh winters and taxes. The one time we visited in 2008 it was just too lushly green for me.
I grew up in this arid place and loved the desert - the sand, the cacti, the way it all looks the same until you look closely. When we had to stop watering my parents' lawn, I didn't mind - it seemed more real to me, and my brother and I had a good time trying to replace that grass with something that could last in the desert. I wound up using those skills as a landscape designer, helping people adjust to an ever-drier world while guzzling bottled water and turning up the evaporative cooler whenever I had the chance.
After a while, though, I had fewer customers. Somehow living in the brown didn't really appeal to people, and a lot of them headed for the coasts and for points north. In some ways that was a good thing, taking a lot of pressure off what little water we had left. We'd used up the aquifers a lot faster than we'd recharged them, and there wasn't more water coming in. A few wet years in the 2030s eased things a bit - actually kind of messed up some of my landscapes, but not permanently - but the 2040s have been miserable.
Phoenix is emptying out now, down to 200,000, and maybe there will still be a city there when they figure out how many people can live there permanently. There's not a whole lot of water left there.
I brought my family to Upstate in 2047, not too far from where my uncle used to live. It's strange, looking around and seeing not just rain, but waterfalls. Everyone knows about Niagara, but who knew about Chittenango Falls, or Taughannock, or Watkins Glen? Water, even drinking water, is everywhere here.
The last few years of landscaping in Phoenix were pretty much a loss, so it looks like I'll be working here for a lot of my retirement, like a lot of us who moved back. The house is small and old, but it will do, and I have a lot to learn about gardening in a place where it's supposed to be easy.
After the 2020 census, it was painfully clear that most of Upstate was losing most of its population rapidly. Businesses had left cities, and people had followed. The only stable institutions seemed to be universities, which remained as attractive as ever, but weren't generating new jobs.
One group of residents was growing rapidly, however. Amish communities had started moving into New York in large numbers around 1970, and continued immigration from Pennsylvania combined with their ability to make tired farmland prosper and a high birthrate to create new agricultural communities. They weren't the only farmers in New York, but their numbers grew and grew.
The combination of collegetowns and Amish produced some cultural conflict, but the two groups agreed quickly on food: the Amish produced mostly organic food that fed their neighbors and even a substantial chunk of Downstate.
Amish communities had less demand for social services, reducing the need for government in some parts of New York, and as their numbers grew, the places where they lived were able to reduce their service levels and even their taxes. Roads decayed quietly under the wheels of buggies, and small towns returned to their historic role as centers of agriculture. A few roads and railroads connected the old cores of the Thruway cities with the collegetowns in the countryside, but even they were much quieter, returning to levels of traffic not seen in a century, back in the 1950s.
After the federal government let NYRI make a fortune punching a new powerline through from Upstate to Downstate, other companies looked over Upstate's relative proximity to New York City and did the same, giving the growing metropolitan area much more direct access to power. Con Ed celebrated by getting rid of its waterfront diesel emergency generators and closing the incinerators, celebrating the availability of new power supplies. There was also talk of finally decommissioning the Indian Point nuclear power plant.
The temporary drop in energy prices thanks to the new power lines encouraged the creation of some 'bubbles' - multi-block indoor malls - were developed in Lower and Midtown Manhattan, creating huge 24 hour zones freed of weather and traffic, daytime and nighttime, though residents on the upper floors could still see the outside world. The bubbles were financially successful, but a major new consumer of power.
There were also problems on the demand side. Even at the start of the new connection, Hydro Quebec and the New York Power Authority couldn't grow their hydropower to fill the metropolitan area's growing power demands. Over several decades, the declining quality and quantity of coal available made old coal-fired power plants less attractive and more expensive to run. The price of natural gas spiked up 500% around 2015 as several large fields depleted quickly, making it an especially expensive source for electricity. Rapidly developing wind power helped, but the continuing growth of energy demand Downstate drove prices higher and higher.
In 2025, the state attempted to balance the environmental issues of coal with the economic issues of high energy prices. To meet Downstate energy needs, promote safety, and lower the cost of energy Upstate, the State of New York authorized the construction of 15 nuclear power plants, to be built between 2030 and 2050.
All of New York State's existing nuclear plants would be decommissioned, and the new plants would be built in relatively low-density places. Upstate New York's continuing population decline made it the home for all fifteen plants, with two on Lake Erie, eight on Ontario, and one each on Canandaigua, Keuka, Seneca, Cayuga, and Oneida lakes. Hazardous waste would be stored and reprocessed at several under-used facilities: West Valley, the former Seneca Army Depot, and the former Griffiss Air Force Base.
The plants were built by a consortium of investors, with all of the engineering and turbine construction performed, as required by the state authorization, by General Electric in Schenectady. All workers on the plants had to have lived in New York State for the previous five years, a provision that had garnered additional support for the plan. The temporary boost from the jobs created in building the plant had a mild effect on the Upstate economy, though Schenectady in particular revived substantially.
Protests against the plan were muted by the pain of $1.50/kilowatt-hour (kWh) energy in an area with an aging population, though the plants in the Finger Lakes especially were slowed by efforts to halt or block construction.
In March 2050, the last of the plants, Milliken Station II on Cayuga Lake, opened for business. Electrical rates had fallen back to 89¢ per kWh over the previous ten years as new plants came on line. Despite numerous construction quality scandals and general concerns about the level of regulation the plants received, there has not been a serious accident at any of the plants yet.
"Why are you still living up there, Mom?"
"Because it's my home. I'm not leaving."
"It was my home too, and I left. Marie left, and John, and Joe. Dad kept saying the taxes were killing him, and I'm afraid he was right."
"Don't talk about your father that way. He's still here. I visited his grave this morning."
"Mom, if you came down here we could take care of you. Everything's cheaper here, everything's easier. You could have your own place, your own car - it's easy to get around. You don't need to call that stupid bus and hope they show up."
"They do show up, most of the time."
"Most of the time, maybe. And if they do show up, it's a bunch of junkies on board, the people you keep paying taxes to support."
"They're not all..."
"Mom, you know who's left up there. Old people who won't move and people who like the benefits. You know that's why your taxes are destroying your retirement account."
"There are lots of us left here. Nice people."
"Sure, Mom. Lots of nice people whose children are trying to get them to leave a place with no industry, no future, collapsing bridges, and the same lousy winter it's always had. The nice people who pay everything so that other not-so-nice people can sit around and do nothing."
"When are you going to come visit me?"
"Soon, Mom, soon."
Upstate New York? Sure, I lived there. I lived lots of places, driving that combine and then trying every other way we knew to get corn out of the ground.
Ethanol sure was tasty - I don't mean the corn whiskey, though that was fun after a long week, but the appetite everyone seemed to have for energy. My dad had planted just corn his last few years, occasionally doing some soybeans for biodiesel, but the price of corn just kept climbing once folks realized that gasoline wasn't going to be forever.
Early on, every time the price of gas went up, we knew we were in for a bonus. They said ethanol was just a tiny energy increase over the gas we had to put in the machines, and in the fertilizer and pesticides, but once they got it up to 20%, things were good. When they got it up to 120% with that cellulosic stuff, things got even better.
You know what the problem was, though - our cornfields started drying up like the oilfields did. I had a reputation for keeping the fields going, so that kept me in demand for a lot of years. Mix the right set of fertilizers, figure out which chemicals to spray on which bugs that were going to cause the worst problems where, and figure out which other plants might mix well in the fields and machines once we went to cellulosic. Rotate crops once in a while, when you had to.
I could have kept it going too, but the more we made, the more they wanted. Sure, the government was happy to talk about how energy use was declining, thanks to improved efficiency, but the basic problem seemed to me that when you don't have energy, you just can't burn it.
I'd never really gone east until 2035, when the Feds created those "energy sacrifice zones", where we'd be able to rearrange the countryside however we needed to get the most energy out of that soil. The government paid people off and they left, or were supposed to leave. The National Guard proved awfully helpful a few times.
Where was it you were asking about? Upstate New York? Yeah, that got us a few years worth of gas. At least they had water. The northwest was okay, but too much of it was hills. Sure, we tried the hills, but that got us a lot of mudholes and not enough corn. It seems that the people who'd farmed that way back when hadn't done a great job of taking care of the soil, and even a century of forest didn't fix it. So there wasn't a whole lot there.
What's that? Oh, yes - there's less there now. When we couldn't get decent yields out of the soil, the government sold it cheap. I don't know what those people are going to do with it - there's nothing much there. Starve, I guess.
In 2015, when the Hudson Valley had filled in with growth pouring out of New York City, and as the rest of Upstate continued its dramatic population decline, the State of New York decided it was time to make the rest of Upstate New York as accessible to New York City as the Hudson Valley had been.
The state purchased railroad rights-of-way and tore up roads where necessary to build two high-speed rail lines connecting Buffalo to New York City, one following the Thruway and the old New York Central, and the other following the old Erie line and Interstate 86. A third line climbed up to Plattsburgh from Albany, and then ran south along the St.Lawrence, where it reconnected with the east-west line south of Oswego.
While the distances, even with burst speeds around 200 miles per hour, were still too long for an easy commute from Buffalo, the trains, powered primarily by windfarms all over Upstate, made parts of Upstate into convenient vacation homes for those living Downstate, and provided new (and cheap) permanent homes for people who could telecommute most of the time - something New York City's media and finance jobs could support easily in an age where videoconferencing was normal.
Unfortunately, mixing New York City culture with Upstate produced conflicts, including a few riots at schools as newcomers and older inhabitants came into conflict. Upstate's generally poorer residents and the wealthier newcomers had little in common, resentment between 'natives' and 'colonists' peaked in the 2030s, when several trains derailed because of damage to the tracks. Conflicts emerged over issues from styles of speech and dress to religion and ethnicity to local taxation and spending. State police crackdowns on theft, vandalism, and the more dangerous problem of train derailments led to the arrests and imprisonments of thousands of 'natives', reducing resistance to newcomers except for occasional outbursts.
In 2050, Upstate New York is thriving, with active cities along its high-speed rail lines and tourism and farming along its branch lines. Rochester, and Syracuse have grown into engineering centers, while Buffalo has become an important hub for finance and legal work, a gateway between similar work done in New York City and that done in points west. A generation of change, as well as steady accumulation of wealth, has calmed the conflicts between old-timers and newcomers.
(The title for this entry comes from a 2001 book by David Brooks.)
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