My 1970s future world. Takes inspiration from QuantumBranching's Defunct Futures: quantumbranching.deviantart.co…
To say that the world has had a rough 20th and 21st centuries is an understatement. The societal changes of the 1960s showed a darker side in the 1970s. As the moderates of the Civil Rights movement were killed or pushed from the limelight, radicals replaced them and by the 1980s many American cities were engulfed in riots initiated by those who wanted more change and those who wanted to stop them at all costs. The American government, under the increasingly paranoid and autocratic Richard Nixon, would remain fighting in Vietnam until both sides agreed to a lasting ceasefire in 1985. The Federal Republic of Germany was forced to withdraw from NATO after student demonstrations threatened to throw the entire country into communist revolution. France joined soon afterward.
But across the Iron Curtain, Moscow's control over its Warsaw Pact puppets loosened, as demonstrations against the Soviet armies occupying those countries grew. Crime became rampant throughout the world, feeding off the growing insanity of the world. The Iranian Revolution consumed the Middle East, leading to opposing Shia and Sunni blocs that eventually excised itself from Cold War politics when both sides used oil as a way of keeping both Washington and Moscow out of their affairs. All throughout the world, the proxy conflicts of the Cold War grew more frequent and more violent. By the 1990s, India fractured and became another front for the Cold War, which had already engulfed almost all of South America and Africa.
With more coal soot being thrown into the atmosphere, global temperatures cooled, and even the richest countries in the world were in danger of starvation as crop yields became lower and lower with every passing year. In the chaos, it seemed only China stood strong, although this structure was only held aloft by increasingly autocratic and inhumane measures after a brief experiment with opening up to the West.
The painful decline of human civilization reached its nadir in 2008. The Soviets had decided to enlist their East German allies in helping quell the Polish Revolt, a decision which fanned the flames of nationalism in Poland and reminded the rest of the world of 1939. Events escalated quickly. The United States, itself suffering from near-civil warfare between various organizations, declared war on the East Germans in an attempt to drum up patriotism. Their remaining allies followed suit. Although the Americans never intended to follow up on these declarations of war, the paranoid Soviet government believed that a nuclear attack was imminent, and launched their arsenal. The Americans responded, as did the Chinese, which launched a conventional invasion of Central Asia in an effort to seize Soviet grain depots. For a few hours, the world was bathed in more explosive energy than all previous human wars combined.
But it was not the end of the world. The great powers had been preparing for a nuclear war for decades, and so humanity survived in some respect. The Soviets "won" the nuclear exchange by virtue of their heavier arsenal, which by sheer fortune and their decision to launch first managed to cripple much of the American counterstrike. Indeed, the Soviets managed to absorb the entire Warsaw Pact directly, save for the irradiated remains of the GDR. The Soviets did lose the Politburo, which was replaced with a military government. Likewise, the Chinese elite and significant portions of their “Home Army” survived by retreating mountain fortresses, and the nuclear weapons “solved” their famine problem. The United States and Western Europe, however, were bathed in nuclear fire and collapsed; even the “neutral” states of Germany and France were not spared from the Soviet attack.
After the Atomic War, the world licked its wounds, but it could never go back to the comparatively utopian times of the 2000s. The environment changed further, and for the worse. The already-cooling environment became even colder as nuclear winter set in. The Atomic War had initiated a new ice age, which along with the damage from the war caused more famines, plagues and mass migrations. It is a miracle that any societies survived the chaos, but those that did were utterly monstrous in nature. The Soviet Union was transformed as its military leaders sought more legitimacy and became the Union of Sovereign Eurasian Republics, a pseudo-fascist state which placed Russians and other Slavs above the Sovereign Union’s other subjects. The People’s Republic of China kept itself isolated and, while it retained the name and the trappings of a socialist state, effectively became a new Empire, complete with a Mandate of Heaven. Communist organizations rose to dominance in the ruins of Western Europe, while the United States fragmented under various rival governments.
By 2070, the world has suffered immense damage, but humanity has persevered and adapted. The air is filled with radiation and chemical pollutants, making breathing the air in some areas outright deadly. As a result, most surviving cities are domed, with those exiting being forced to wear gas masks at all times. Those too unfortunate to have access to neither have mutated to adapt, and it is not uncommon to see wastelanders with “gills” or external lungs. Sea levels have dropped thanks to the new ice age, an event which has also increased desertification around the world. Crop yields have recovered somewhat thanks to hardier, mutated and genetically engineered crops, but the world population still stands at just under a billion.
The world is again split into various power blocs. Perhaps the most powerful is the Sovereign Union, which has been rebuilding its nuclear arsenal in case the Chinese try to destroy them again. Communism has been totally renounced in the Sovereign Union, blamed for the Atomic War. Although impressive to its external opponents, the Sovereign Union is rotting from within, due to its Islamic populations rebelling against the influx of favored Russians coming down from the frozen north. The Sovereign Union also suffers from nationalist rebels in the formerly independent Warsaw Pact states, and the Moscow-mandated population transfers have not helped matters. The Sovereign Union has two main allies in the world: the United Arab Republic and the Union of South Africa. Both states are the most powerful and stable countries in Africa, a continent dominated by the Sovereign bloc. Like the Sovereign Union, the UAR and South Africa are very nationalistic, the former taking pride in Arab superiority (to the detriment of Islamic identity), and the latter having adopted a loosened yet strange form of apartheid whereby individuals could increase their racial status through sociological and biological modifications.
The next most powerful bloc is that dominated by the Chinese. Under the Red Dynasty, the People’s Republic of China is an oppressive, isolationist state with very limited interactions with the outside world. Mao Zedong and his immediate family are worshiped as avatars of the Red Dragon, the center of worship for China’s new monotheistic religion. China’s allies are varied, as the Red Dynasty takes a very pragmatic view of world affairs. Some are communists disgusted with what China has become but are willing to stomach them for lack of other options, while others have actively copied China’s model for their own countries.
The New Socialist International has come to be the greatest resister to the Sovereign Union and China. Founded by communist organizations that survived the Atomic War, the states composing the New Socialist International were initially very anti-authoritarian, but the demands of governance in a post-apocalyptic environment allowed the most ruthless men to take power. Now, the states of the New Socialist International resemble the old and despised Soviet Union far more than they would care to admit. The Federation of Workers’ Republics and the Sixth French Republic are also conflicted with one another, as each seeks to be the dominant member of the bloc. Meanwhile, the Japanese and the “Workers’ Helper,” their AI overlord, feel that the Europeans are not doing enough to help them resist China and are thinking of aligning with the Sovereigns.
The remains of the United States are dominated by the Christian Republic of Texas. Formed by groups of preachers and surviving military garrisons after the Atomic War, the Christian Republic of Texas seeks a return to America before the “dark times.” For the Texans, this means America before the 1960s. A twisted idea of a Fifties paradise dominates the more developed areas of Texas, where noncompliance is punished with exile to the badlands. The Texans also claim that the “cleansing flames” of the Atomic War served two divinely-ordained purposes: first, to punish the wicked, and secondly to give the Texans the golden opportunity to turn America back to Christianity. Naturally, Texan Christianity is quite fundamentalist, and it is not unheard of for the “godless” to be burned at the stake. Naturally, many American groups resist this, from the communes of the West Coast to the Native American nations.
The Australians have inherited America’s sphere of influence in the Pacific. The last major democracy in the world, Australia still suffers from its own problems, such as the growing desert and the raiders patrolling the highways between the country’s major cities. Perth has become so isolated that it is effectively its own state, the only safe travel between it and the rest of Australia being over the air. The Australians have also involved themselves and the rest of SEATO in the renewed Vietnam conflict, which has been raging since the ceasefire was broken in the 2040s. Increasing discontent with the war has made Australia’s military leaders consider a coup in case an anti-war government gets elected; after all, how can Australia gain the empire it so deserves if it cannot even win a guerrilla war?
The Middle East has, rather surprisingly, survived the Atomic War relatively intact. However, the region is still dominated by the three-way conflict between Israel, Iran and Saudi Arabia. All three states have become theocracies, although Iran and Israel have elements of ethnic supremacy (for Persians and Jews, respectively) over Arab populations. Perhaps most worryingly, the Middle Eastern powers have their own nuclear arsenals, which they have preserved and built up since the Atomic War. The possibility of a more limited nuclear war is out there, one that could further lower global temperatures and turn Earth into one giant snowball.