The sky was grey but at least today it was just grey – without the slight green tint that it so often had lately. The weather man rated today a 472 on the Copeview scale – not bad – A pleasant day for the family outing. Ron loved taking his grandson out exploring and sightseeing when he could, and as his grandson Max had passed toddler age and entered into the ever curious world of a preschooler it was even more fun to help him learn. Today they were exploring the new “virtual forest”. Deemed to be one of the technological wonders of the world, Experimental Oxygen Farm 277.3, or “The Forest” as it was more commonly known, was a sight to behold. Stretching far into the horizon, it was all one could see in every direction from the viewing platform. Speakers built into the platform railings played a continuous loop of a monotone voice that boasted the technology and ability of The Forest.
“…using technology that was first tested on the surface of Mars, we are able to capture the CO2 and break it down into…”
Ron knew the computer generated audio description would be over his grandson’s head, heck it was over most adults comprehension too, but the wide eyed wonderment on his grandsons face at the mere sight of The Forest made him smile. The ability to mimic how plants could produce oxygen was one mankind’s greatest achievements to date. To put that technology to use on such a grand scale was even more astounding. Using recycled plastics and fibers to make it look like a real forest was purely genius. Ron wondered if his grandson could tell how fresh the air smelled here. The voice continued on in the background.
“…energy efficiency was the key to making this project viable. Before our patented system of using the waste hydrogen to power itself, the system relied on outside energy to…”
Ron pointed out a bird sitting on a tree branch off in the distance. “See Max, they even made birds so it is more natural. If you listen close you can hear them chirping.” Max turned his gaze in the direction his grandpa’s pointing finger indicated and his eyes grew even wider at the sight of the Stellar Jay perched upon a limb. Even knowing it was not a real bird, it was still exciting to spot; Up until now the only birds Max had seen were in pictures online.
“I SEE IT I SEE IT!” Max squealed, pointing excitedly. Ron’s smile grew broader. These are the kinds of memories his grandson would have forever.
“SHHH” Ron warned him, “You don’t want to scare it away!” Of course, no noise would scare away a fake bird but the nostalgia of pretending to be quiet was too much fun to ignore. Max covered his mouth and giggled quietly. The computerized voice broke the magic of the moment.
“…7 billion tons of Carbon per year from the atmosphere, adding in…”
Annoyed, Ron lifted Max onto his shoulders so he could have a better view. He continued to tell Max how lifelike the artificial trees were and how much they reminded him of when he was a young boy.
“They feed us the oxygen we need to breathe” he told the child, “and if the world builds enough of these then one day we will be able to spend more time outside!”
Thinking back to his own childhood, Ron had wished he would have spent more time outside. Had he known how precious a resource simple air had been he certainly wouldn’t have wasted so much time indoors back when he had the choice. Maybe one day technology would allow Max to have the freedom he had taken for granted.
The voice again interrupted:
“…The Forest is closing in 15 minutes – please make your way towards the south exit…”
Max’s smile dropped and he turned towards Ron
“Yes Max?” Ron knelt down to be eye level with the now serious child’s face.
“Why didn’t we just keep the real trees that we used to have?”
Ron closed his eyes. There were no words to describe the previous generation’s failures.
“Sometimes people make mistakes.” Ron finally said. “Come-on buddy, let’s get you back to the city.”