On a day deep in the 21st century, Rohan Manocha awakes and reads the newspaper on the Internet. He eats a capsule for breakfast, takes a hydroelectric bath and then goes for a walk on the moon.
His children, meanwhile, are at school, using laptops instead of notebooks and writing to pen pals on Pluto. Their clothing is air-conditioned and protects them from pollution. After school, they go to movies at malls in outer space.
That evening, Rohan takes his kids to a carnival on Mars. He knows the Red Planet well; a lawyer, he fights "cases for the Martians on Mars."
Of course, foresight is rarely 20-20. In 1999, Rohan is just 11 years old, a student at the Amity International School in the New Delhi suburb of Noida, where he likes to study and play tennis. Maybe he will walk on the moon. Maybe not.
But a boy can dream.
The dreams of the third millennium are being dreamed now, by children at Kyobashi Tsukiji Elementary School in Tokyo, at Narciso Mendoza Elementary School in Nezahualcoyotl near Mexico City, at Fernbank Elementary School in Atlanta, at Olympic Primary School in Nairobi, Kenya.
Ten, 11 or 12 years old, they have every reason to believe that they will see the bulk of the 21st century; with luck and some medical advances, they may very well see the dawn of the 22nd.
And as Associated Press reporters learned while visiting their classrooms, from India to Israel, they see tomorrow vividly--expressing their visions in tumbling words and hopeful drawings that show themselves grown up and smiling, the sun rising over secure neighborhoods, the earth as the bright flower on a healthy green stem.
As you might expect, when they look into the future, many imagine a Jetsonian world--a Hovercraft in every garage and robots everywhere, split-second trips to other planets, pills that fill your stomach.
But their future is a reflection of their present. Around them, many see war, lawlessness, disease--and, especially, a world that is poisoning itself. Reflecting on that, they veer from youthful optimism to bleak pessimism.
Listen to Tomoka Hayashi, 12, of Tokyo:
"We will use too much power and one day we can no longer use any electric appliances and there will be an explosion and people die. . . . Then we will start living with nature and start cooperating."
But perhaps, she adds, we can change--switch paper milk cartons for glass and slow the cutting of forests. "There may be a chance that people will become more aware of nature and our problems and start recycling."
Gosha Khusainov, a 10-year-old student at School No. 57 in Moscow, just a couple of blocks from the Kremlin, doubts it: "I think the world'll be worse, because it'll be very cold. It'll be less trees and grass, all days will be like evening, and only at night it'll be like now."
As the natural world shrinks, Anat Avraham, a 10-year-old fifth-grader at Frankel Elementary School in Jerusalem, sees a time when people will share their homes with bears ("bears who don't eat people," she explains).
"My children will have lots of animals but they will barely see any nature. In my opinion, there won't be any [nature] then. I will try to help animals, especially panda bears who are endangered. I will try to prevent the death of fish."
When fifth-grader Ethan Sawyer of Atlanta grows up, he expects to study Amazon rain forest ecology "on an acre of land, all that is left of the world's rain forests."
Not that tomorrow will be entirely bad. Ethan says he will sleep just two hours a day, because "some gizmo" will make his sleep more efficient. He will eat "little pills filled with energy frappes. I don't think anyone will work in factories because robots will do all the work."
But he agrees that wildlife will be imperiled, and Ethan loves animals--"I adore otters. I'm obsessed with otters." He hopes "that we will be able to save the animals. We may have to create new species. I don't know how, but there may be a way."
Dasha Marynova of Moscow thinks it can happen. "I want to study zoology and become a biologist because I'd like to deal with new animals, study them and meet tiger-leopards, mouse-owls, elephant-cockroach-spiders, snake-frog-crocodiles," Dasha says.
Dasha sees a sunny future, full of airborne electric trains and special machines "that collect snow from the roads and don't sprinkle them with salt, which ruins your shoes."
"Someone will invent a time machine, and people can be in the past, in the future, in the present. It will be much more interesting than simply going to school or playing. I also hope the time machine will return my grandfather, who died a few years ago," she says.
Dasha is 10 years old; she has a 20-year-old sister, Masha, and a 14-year-old brother, Alyosha. In the future according to Dasha, Alyosha will not go into the army--now enmeshed in fighting in Chechnya.