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7 Stories That Imagine Life in Climate Change-Altered Chicago

What might the Great Lakes region look like in a future radically altered by climate change? That's the question explored in a radio project called "After Water," produced by the Chicago radio station WBEZ, which brought a dozen U.S. fiction writers together with climate scientists, policymakers and activists.

The result is a series of short stories with imaginative takes on climate change-related issues spanning invasive species, limited water reservoirs and water rights. The stories were transformed into individual radio pieces. The following slides feature seven of the stories here.

MORE: In 'After Water' Project, 12 Writers Imagine Life in Climate Change-Altered Chicago

Image: Chicago skyline.
Credit: get directly down, flickr

"Poison Fish" by Nnedi Okorafor

Synopsis: Racial and social tensions reach a tipping point in this short story about Udara, a girl who lives in the slums of Chicago. A year after her parents' death, Udara visits Rainbow Beach, where she is joined by family friend, Ondo. Together they watch as their entire world changes in an instant.

Science Topics: Genetic engineering and human adaptation.

Listen to "Poison Fish" here.

Image: A populated beach in Chicago.
Credit: Chicago Fire Rec Soccer, flickr

"Thirst" by Max Andrew Dubinsky

Synopsis: The end of the world is a slow, drawn-out affair. Rather than fight their fate, the unnamed characters of "Thirst" fall victim to their own indifference. By the time they decide to act, it may be too late.

Science Topics: Drought and drilling for water reserves.

Listen to "Thirst" here.

Image: A dried up lake in Texas.
Credit: Texas Parks & Wildlife Department

"The Floating City of New Chicago” by Tricia Bobeda

Synopsis: Eddie, a Wet Collar Worker stinking of algae, spouts off about the mysterious floating city again. He's convinced it is an Eden with real lemons, avocados and fresh eggs. He believes the island is everything the crumbling city of Chicago is not. But as far as anyone knows, the island is just a myth. Or is it?

Science Topics: Technology, invasive species, shifts in food availability

Listen to "The Floating City of New Chicago” here.

Image: Zebra mussels, an invasive species to the Great Lakes region.
Credit: Andres Musta, flickr

"World After Water" by Abby Geni

Synopsis: Four orphaned brothers venture to a nearby town to steal that which is crucial to their survival: drinkable water.

Science Topics: Flooding, pollution and toxins

Listen to "World After Water" here.

Image: Two kids drinking water.
Credit: Hamed S, flickr

"The Last Cribkeeper" by Peter Orner

Synopsis: Walking the beaches with a cane, Harry Osgood reminisces about his life. Years ago his job was to safeguard the city water supply. Living alone on his island four miles from the Chicago shore, he was King of Loneliness, Mr. "Half a Month," a solitary cribkeeper.

Science Topics: Technology and pollution

Listen to "The Last Cribkeeper" here.

Image: A fuel leak at Chicago's Burnham Harbor.
Credit: Damon Taylor, flickr

"Straws" by Rebecca Adams Wright

Synopsis: Silently and covertly, Olivia takes a stand against corporations draining water from the Great Lakes through private pipelines.

Science Topics: Water preservation, water diversion and policy

Listen to "Straws" here.

Image: A pipeline in the Hoover Dam, which sits on the Colorado River straddling the border between Arizona and Nevada.
Credit: Andreas 06, Wikimedia Commons

"Water Men" by Tim Akimoff

Synopsis: From before the massive eastward migrations, to the first water war of 2042 to the secession of the Basin states from Canada, the Murrel family's fate has been tied to the Great Lakes for generations. They are the water men who shaped policy and industry in the region.

Science Topics: Water policy, water basins and conservation

Listen to "Water Men" here.

Image: A satellite image of the five great lakes.
Credit: NOAA