Monday, March 27, 2017

Meet Mark Mann, author of the cli fi YA novel THE STONE GATE

Meet Mark Mann, author of the cli fi YA novel THE STONE GATE

I've also written a YA novel about climate change so I've given this some thought ... and I think there is a key lesson here for climate activists.

Most people now 'believe' in climate change intellectually yet still essentially ignore it (it doesn't rank as an election issue for most, for instance).

The reason, I suspect, is most people can't actually imagine climate change.

What will this warmed world be like? So it's just abstract facts and figures with no emotional impact or engagement. The argument may be won (no credible scientist doubts warming) but we also need to engage people's imaginations, because humans fundamentally don't care about things they can't imagine.

That may be through fiction, or imaginative non-fiction, such as the brilliant ''Climate Wars'' by Gwynne Dyer, or in general finding more emotionally engaging ways to talk about warming and what it will mean.


( SEE ''The Stone Gate'', Mark Mann, www.goodreads.com/book/show/23198091-the-stone-gate

REVIEW

 I love cli-fi. It scares the pants off me because it buys into my deepest fears, but most cli-fi also has messages of hope. Given my deep seated anxieties around what climate change will mean for children's, and my children's children's futures, that message of hope is one I need to hear. Particularly given I'm blessed with a Prime Minister who believes climate change is "utter crap" (that's a real quote, by the way), and is steadily undoing all progress made by the previous government. Anyway, enough of my politics.

This book has a wonderful concept. Two kids come across a portal that takes them into three alternate realities. The first being a reality where indigenous Australians are living traditional lifestyles, and maintain their deep connection to the land. In the second, our main characters are transported to a dystopian, but likely realistic, vision of what our future will be should immediate action on climate change not be taken. The third and final alternate reality is a utopian vision of what society could be like if immediate action is taken to address climate change. The author is realistic in this vision; life as we know it will have to change. But for the things we lose, he envisages a society that - for me anyway - is very appealing. There is less waste, less plastic fantastic, more connection, more thoughtfulness. Woven through each of these are threads of Aboriginal Dreamtime.

This is a book aimed at a younger YA audience. My kiddiwinks are years away from being old enough to read it. I hope by the time they do read it, the messages it contains are no longer needed because we are on the road as a nation, as a planet, to living more sustainably.

Jake Swearingen tweets: ''talked to Kim Stanley Robinson about 'New York 2140', which is basically a leftist tract disguised as a v. good book''

 
 

Kim Stanley Robinson’s cli-fi novel ''New York 2140'' --  [To Save the City, He Had to Drown It]

 
''It would be like taking LSD and wandering around going, “I can’t believe they built this place.” I still feel that.'' - KIM STANLEY ROBINSON
 
by Jake Swearingen at New York magazine, who tweets: ''talked to Kim Stanley Robinson about New York 2140, which is basically a leftist tract disguised as a v. good book''
 
EXCERPTS from online interview:
In New York 2140, Kim Stanley Robinson, one of the towering giants [of the American fiction,] envisions [Manhattan]   after it has been vastly changed by [man-made] global warming. The sea levels around New York City are about 50 feet higher than before; Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, and the Bronx are shallow, toxic seas; and what life remains is mainly in the skyscrapers, which are firmly sunk in the bedrock. The natural rise of Manhattan’s landscape means the Cloisters are the new Wall Street, and lower Manhattan is the “intertidal zone,” where the water washes up to 46th Street every 12 hours and washes back down.
 
Sounds grim, right?
 
But the book is, at heart, more an adventure novel than anything else, with a cast of characters — all living in a modified version of the MetLife building — making their way through a few years in a New York City that sounds a lot like New York today.
 
There’s traffic, bad smells, and trying to figure out the shortest route to anywhere. They just happen to do it all by canal boat, diving suit, and sky bridge. [For an interview for New York magazine,] I talked to Kim Stanley Robinson about his new book, why neoliberal capitalism was the only real villain in the book, and what it was like walking around modern-day New York City.
 
JAKE: So, you look at the cover of this book. It’s set in New York in the year 2040. It’s a drowned city where the sea has risen 50 feet and every part of the city below 46th Street is underwater.
 
STAN: Approximately. Depends whether it’s high tide or low tide, right?
 
Right. The tides come in to 46th Street, the tide goes back out to the bay of New York.
I was expecting this very dystopian, grim novel. But it’s remarkably cheerful! It’s like one of Dickens’s happier novels, or Les Misérables where it’s this exploration of a city from the sewer system up, through all these different characters.

I thought of the book eventually as a comedy of coping, and to do that I picked a time, or perhaps 40 years after the disaster itself. If it was set in the midst of the catastrophic flood in 2100, the disaster would have dominated that work. It would not have been the comedy of coping — it would have been the disaster of refugee creation.
 
But I think, at some point, ....[climate] fiction has to imagine the people who come after, when the situation will be natural, whatever it is. If that natural situation that they’re coping with is that new part of Manhattan that resembles Venice, there will be good parts to that as well as bad parts. There will be beautiful parts as well as moldy, horrible parts. So I wanted to convey that as part of the vibe of this novel.
 
It was also odd because, according to the book, my office [at New York Magazine] would be underwater, my home [in Queens] would be underwater, and yet it’s a New York that I’d still like to live in. It almost seemed like a more humane city, a city that still calls to people, even if it’s a lot wetter.

I think if you don’t have some kind of radical-/-social-/-financial change in the near future, then you get a New York in the real world that becomes a rich person’s simulacrum, especially Manhattan.
So, I was invoking a somewhat nostalgic, more romantic New York of the imagination that’s more human scale, more neighborhood-focused, more localized, and more kind of hand-crafted, you might call it. And that involves social relations — going back to the neighborhood sense of solidarity where your neighbors are a kind of extended family and you help them out. It was part of my notion of the comedy of coping that 40 years later a flood might not be such a bad thing for New York — even if during the flood itself it would be a tragedy.
 
As I was reading it, I got the feeling this was a book you could have written in present-day New York [of 2017] The canals and the airships and the intertidal zone in lower Manhattan wouldn’t make as much sense, but so much of it is actually about the money and the power and the community of New York.

STAN CONFESSES: Yeah, there were two goals going on that forced me to choose the date 2140, and those two goals cut against each other. I needed to put it far enough out in the future that I could claim a little bit of physical probability to the height of the sea-level rise of 50 feet, which is quite extreme. A lot of models have it at 15 feet, though some do say 50 feet. So I did have to go out like a 120 years from now.
 
Cutting against that future scenario, I wanted to talk about the financial situation we’re in, this moment of late capitalism where we can’t afford the changes we need to make in order to survive because it isn’t cost effective. These economic measures need to be revised so that we pay ourselves to do the work to survive as a civilization facing climate change.
 
I wanted a finance novel that was heavily based on what lessons we learned — or did not learn — from the crash of 2008 and 2009. [All my] novels are about the future and about the present at the same time.
 
There’s a bit where, for the average person, our needs are all illiquid — you know, I need food, I need health, I need home. There assets that are illiquid. While the needs of finance are liquidity: You need to be able to move money very quickly, and the faster you can move money, the easier it is to make money.

It’s a contradiction of goals. Finance can predate on ordinary rent payers because in a battle between liquidity and illiquidity, the way the rules are written now, liquidity always wins. The banks and investments firms that are parasitical on us are actually vulnerable to the promise of us paying our loans as promised, but what if we didn’t? They’ve all over-leveraged themselves; given out in loans or borrowed out to 50 times as much as their own assets at hand. Promises are being treated as money, but when there’s a crash, only money works as money. A lot of paper turns to vapor. Firms crash. The economy crashes. Finance crashes. And the banks run to government, to the federal reserve, to bail them out for their bad gambling, their losing. And then we the people are paying them off.
 
The title is New York 2140, but you could’ve called it The Drowned City or The Sunken Metropolis or all these sort of grim titles but really, the book it’s almost picaresque. It’s all of these fun characters having these sort of small adventures. You have these two sort of street urchins who — not to spoil the book too much — but they find treasure.
 
You have a character who is essentially a high-frequency trader. In a lot of other books he would be the villain. He would be the guy that the other characters work against or figure out some way to take down. And instead you made him not the hero of the book, but he’s a tremendously sympathetic character.

I did that on purpose. People who succeed by using the currently shifting rules of capitalism are not villainous, nor have they broken the law or cheated. They don’t even really have to push against the boundaries of the law as it exists right now. You can indeed become enormously wealthy and still be a good person just playing the game.
 
That point needed to be raised because, as Orson Welles once pointed out, everybody has their reasons. Very few people are thinking as a sociopath might think, that nothing matters to me.
 
And yet we still get a bad result by way of the rules in capitalism being bad for environmental sustainability and bad for equality and adequacy for the people that don’t win at the game.
 
So I wanted the financier — I must admit, in the first draft he was more of a jerk, but he began to step on the toes of the citizens.
So with the changing of frighteningly few sentences I made him more of a geek.
 
Not that different than my scientist characters who are funny because they try to evaluate social life as if we’re nothing but a theoretical problem in physics or sociobiology. I like my finance guy.
 
To truly spoil the end of the book, it ends on a tremendously optimistic note. The global finance system has for years and years created these bad outcomes because bad incentives allowed for sea levels to rise, to drown coastal cities around the globe. At the end of the book that system is, for the moment, destroyed, or at least back on its heels thanks to a political and economic revolution. And I was curious, did you feel like you needed this sort of disaster to put the global finance system in a position where it could actually be taken down?

That’s a really good question, because the novel does seem to suggest that, and I don’t think that it is a proper conclusion to make in the world at large — despite what that one book seems to say.
I don’t say it should be cause and effect. It’s just that it made for an interesting way to present it as a novel for me. I think in the world at large it’s best if we do that — takeover of the banks and nationalization of finance — sooner rather than later.
 
Things are relatively stable environmentally, so it’s a novel to suggest that’s the kind of action that hopefully we would do right now. It’s just as easy to have a fiscal strike right now as it would be in 2140, and maybe in some cases easier because you’ve have less of a police-state, refugee-response-type situation.
But it’s a beautiful question to ask because it leads into, you know, what else could you do? Can you legislate fundamental change? Essentially we need fundamental change, we have to hope the answer is yes. Because the alternatives to legislation are all terrible. Legislation is by far the best method for big social change. Get the right congress in and the right World Trade Organization technocrats in and you change.
 
I guess the other thing I want to suggest in terms of these changes — what Thomas Piketty suggested as one solution in his Capital in the 21st Century — was we have a progressive taxation. Well that’s an old idea, but what made his idea shocking and scandalous for places like The Wall Street Journal or The Economist, was to suggest that you don’t just tax incomes progressively, you tax assets progressively. If you were to progressively tax capital assets and you combine that with a bit of a nationalization of finance, you get a very, very different world where government, which you then want to redefine as of the people, by the people, and for the people, government would be wealthy. And that would mean you could get universal health care as just ordinary. Social security, free college education, public education through college. And all the good things that sit there as possibilities if you could afford to do it. And that includes landscape restoration and environmental stabilization, which is very labor-intensive and very expensive but also very necessary.
Jeff, [a character in the novel who is] one of your quants who wants to crash global capitalism, actually uses Piketty as a verb. He says, “Oh, I tried to Piketty the system.” His idea is that he would just break everything to the point where everybody can get out with ten million in assets and that’s it.

What I wanted to say with that part of the plot is you can’t hack the system, you have to legislate the system. Because hacks are reversible and they are too secret and they’re kind of like a desire for a technical, silver-bullet solution like you might get out of Silicon Valley people but in fact these are laws, global laws. So what you really need is legislation to change them and Piketty-ing the tax code.
But also what Jeff was saying, which I think is clever in terms of its human wisdom, is that there’s going to be resistance from the one percent saying, I’ve got wealth and I’m not giving it up. It would be bad for me and my kids. That’s arguable. But if you said to everybody, “No, you’ll always be left with $10 million,” then those people have a cost-benefit analysis to make. Is it worth risking their lives and their political careers and all of their moral energy in fighting for more money than they really need as human beings? Or do they take the $10 million and say, “Yeah, we’d like to share the wealth.”
 
What was it like creating the world for you and how much research did it take?

That was a lot of fun. Sea-level rise is coming so it’s worth thinking about because we’ve already initiated it. I took a graph of a map of Manhattan and of the greater New York region and U.S. Geological survey’s print then looked at the streets and the contour levels and I simply marked the 50-foot intervals to see what kind of an island was left, what kind of a bay.
 
And then I walked around town with a tourist-map version of that that I had altered so that I could have a smaller version of that. I wandered around and I looked at the terrain and I looked at the streets running from like Fifth and Sixth avenues between the Empire State Building and say 20th — there’s a 10-foot drop there that would [in a 50-foot sea-level rise] be the tidal zone that is actually several blocks of the wetland at low tide, but underwater at high tide. Even though it would be the shallows with waves breaking.
 
               
But meanwhile there’d be all these fantastically expensive and very well-built buildings, although they’d be real bad on the first three floors. So you have the old MetLife [where most of the characters live]. It’s a tower, like 45 stories tall. Only about two to three stories would be underwater with this 50-foot sea-level rise.
 
The reason I chose that building is because that building was modeled on the Campanile in San Marco Square in Venice, so it’s a joke. The architect, Napoleon LeBrun, used the Campanile as his model and the old MetLife tower is about ten times bigger than the Campanile in San Marco, but they are visually identical. I was amazed when I found out Manhattan had a Venetian building there already. So that’s why I chose that building.
 
You’re a California guy, right? So you came out to New York and you kind of did these walking tours where you just imagined our poor city destroyed and underwater. What’s that feeling like? What were the emotions that you felt walking around?

It was a lot of fun. I took a boat tour that leaves from the Hudson River up in the 70s. I took one of the boat tours that goes all the way around Manhattan. I walked a whole lot. I went to Hell Gate where the HMS Hussar really did go down in 1780. It’s very fun to think that what would be about $2 billion of gold somewhere under the South Bronx. It’s really there but we can’t find it.
 
And I went to the Cloisters, I went to Coney Island, and I went to peculiar places compared to where tourists go because I wanted to see the sea level risings, see the New York Bay as a bay. And I would say that although it was very fun and I was laughing my head off most of the time, it was also very beautiful. I sort of fell in love with New York, not just as a city but as a physical space. And there’s a reason that it’s one of the greatest cities on Earth, maybe arguably the greatest city on Earth. It has to do with its physical landscape.
 
The whole thing is fantastically, interestingly beautiful and the infrastructure that’s been put into it is also like an Andy Goldsworthy landscape installation. How many generations — at this point, 200 years, certainly 150 years, of very intense construction work has been done and nobody ever planned it to be beautiful, but it ended up being beautiful. And also when you come from somewhere else, you don’t have to live with the hassle. I came in from California, and I would come here and it would just be like a …
 
It would be like taking LSD and wandering around going, “I can’t believe they built this place.” I still feel that.
 
 

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Why James Bradley in Australia decided to write a cli-fi novel for Australian teenagers about catastrophic climate change

Why James Bradley in Australia decided to write a cli-fi novel for Australian teenagers about catastrophic climate change

Part 1 of the trilogy titled THE CHANGE, is titled "The Silent Invasion" and is set in the age of environmental apocalypse, where even the landscape is frightening. But writing about climate change matters – most of all for those who will inherit the world, Bradley, a noted novelist and literary critic writes in this oped in the Guardian:

Excerpts:

''These sorts of ideas [about climate change issues] were very much on my mind across the summer of 2013-2014. Although it would be a year until it was published, I had just finished writing my novel, Clade, which sought to capture something of the disruption and convulsion of the coming century through the experiences of a single family.''


''People sometimes describe ''Clade'' as a hopeful book, but I’ve never been sure that’s quite right. For while it deliberately resists the seductions of despair, emphasising instead contingency and the depth of time ahead of us as well as behind, it is still a book that is suffused with grief.

''Yet as that abnormally long, abnormally hot summer stretched on, I found myself imagining a different kind of book, one in which the worst had already happened. As is often the case with my work, the story really began with an image: that of a girl and her sister making their way through a flooded landscape, in which all traces of our world had been washed away, replaced instead by crowding rainforest. I didn’t know who they were, or where they were going, but I knew them.

''The bond between them; the older girl’s determination to protect her sister. And – perhaps just as importantly – I knew the landscape they were travelling was both ours and not, its alien strangeness a reflection of a world in which the environment had begun to metamorphose into something alien....

''As I wrote ''The Silent Invasion,'' other pieces began to fall into place ....And perhaps most importantly, the idea of a natural world that was no longer passive, but connected, sentient, its mind distributed not just through animals and humans, but plants, bacteria, all living things.

''I also realised I was writing a kind of book I hadn’t written before, one aimed as much at younger readers as at adults. The notion that I might write something for teenagers had been at the back of my mind for a while, partly because having [two young daughters] of my own had led me back to the books I loved when growing up.

''There was something liberating about this realisation, and the emotional and narrative directness it demanded of me. But as I followed my characters deeper into the altered world of the novel, I began to understand the decision to write for younger readers also mattered because it is younger people who will inherit the world we are making.....''
     

Saturday, March 25, 2017

La utopia verda de Kim Stanley Robinson: L'escriptor, convidat a Kosmopolis per parlar de la 'climate fiction', planteja escenaris utòpics després del canvi climàtic

UN CLÀSSIC DE LA CIÈNCIA-FICCIÓ, A KOSMOPOLIS

La utopia verda de Kim Stanley Robinson

L'escriptor, convidat a Kosmopolis per parlar de la 'climate fiction', planteja escenaris utòpics després del canvi climàtic

La utopia verda de Kim Stanley Robinson
JULIO CARBO
Dissabte, 25 de març del 2017
                                             
Quan Ian Watson va anunciar, en la passada Eurocon, que Kim Stanley Robinson seria un dels convidats a Kosmopolis, va llançar una pregunta. Si el canvi climàtic és potser el problema número u de la humanitat, i la ciència-ficció és l’únic gènere que l’ha abordat a fons, potser la seva rellevància és més gran de la que se li concedeix. Robinson, autor de Marte rojo, Marte azul i Marte verde, referent de la ciència-ficció amb intenció ecologista i consciència socialista, ha visitat finalment Barcelona. «La ciència-ficció tracta del futur, el pitjor de l’impacte del canvi climàtic es veurà en el futur, així que la ciència-ficció és la manera natural de parlar del canvi climàtic», confirma Robinson.
Fins i tot si s’escriu del passat cal incloure el canvi climàtic constant que ha marcat l’evolució de la terra. Ho ha fet en el seu últim llibre publicat a Espanya, Chamán (Minotauro), una història que es desenvolupa fa 32.000 anys, en plena edat de gel. «Sempre escric sobre la relació entre les persones i el seu planeta, el seu entorn», recorda.

NOVA YORK SOTA L' AIGUA

Tot i això, el seu últim llibre publicat als EUA, New York 2140, ens porta una sorpresa. Sí, Manhattan s’ha convertit en una espècie de Venècia. Però no es tracta d’una distopia climàtica, de la crònica d’un desastre. «El capitalisme global castiga el treballador, augmenta la desigualtat, no paga pel mal que fa a l’entorn i no pensa en l’impacte que tindrà en el futur. Però potser tot vagi en la direcció oposada. New York 2140 és una novel·la utòpica, descriu d’una manera pràctica una revolució financera d’esquerres».
¿I la climate fiction? «No m’agrada l’etiqueta. Cada vegada que la ciència-ficció es torna interessant s’inventen un nom nou per a ella. Per a mi, sempre és ciència-ficció».

"Hem d'acabar amb la idea que podem viatjar a les estrelles; és ciència-ficció convertida en fantasia"

A 'Aurora' (publicada l'any passat per Minotaure) Kim Stanley Robinson recull un tema clàssic de la ciència-ficció (una arca espacial, amb un viatge multigeneracional per colonitzar un planeta en una estrella més o menys pròxima) però el subverteix, per arribar a la conclusió que deixem de pensar a viatjar a altres planetes i ens centrem a salvar el nostre. "Això és ciència-ficció convertida en fantasia. Volia acabar amb la idea que podem viatjar a les estrelles; que podem utilitzar una segona Terra com a rescat. Tenia una altra motivació, la de tractar què passa en un microbioma. Per motius genètics, és un error pensar que una població pugui viure en un espai restringit com una nau espacial i seguir sana". Però no es pot negar que la imaginació es dispara davant l'onada de descobriments d'exoplanetes, o la possibilitat d'enviar petites sondes robòtiques a estrelles pròximes. "Sí, aquests planetes són allà però massa lluny perquè podem visitar-los. I un petit robot podria arribar-hi i fer unes fotos... en el millor dels casos després de trigar 60 o 70 anys. Les implicacions pràctiques de tot això sense pràcticament inexistents".

La Climate Fiction, aka Cli-Fi situada en un futur proper, és la ficció realista del nostre temps, i Kim Stanley Robinson n’és el practicant principal.

  1. La Climate Fiction, aka Cli-Fi situada en un futur proper, és la ficció realista del nostre temps, i Kim Stanley Robinson n’és el practicant principal. Ian Watson, autor veterà de la ciència-ficció, conversa amb KSR sobre la seva carrera, sempre compromès i amb propostes constructives per comprendre com la raça humana pot sobreviure a les crisis que s’estan produint ara mateix.
  • 25 marçh, 2017
  • 19.30 - 20.30 pm in SPAIN
  1. Kim Stanley Robinson: "La ciència ficció és com unes ulleres de 3D"
  2.  

    1. "Sólo tenemos La Tierra. No hay plan B. Marte y otros planetas hoy no son viables". Kim Stanley Robinson. -- "THERE IS NO PLANET B!"
    2.  
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    UN CLÀSSIC DE LA CIÈNCIA-FICCIÓ, A KOSMOPOLIS

    La utopia verda de Kim Stanley Robinson

    L'escriptor, convidat a Kosmopolis per parlar de la 'climate fiction', planteja escenaris utòpics després del canvi climàtic

    La utopia verda de Kim Stanley Robinson
    JULIO CARBO
    Dissabte, 25 de març del 2017 - 21:16 CET
    Quan Ian Watson va anunciar, en la passada Eurocon, que Kim Stanley Robinson seria un dels convidats a Kosmopolis, va llançar una pregunta. Si el canvi climàtic és potser el problema número u de la humanitat, i la ciència-ficció és l’únic gènere que l’ha abordat a fons, potser la seva rellevància és més gran de la que se li concedeix. Robinson, autor de Marte rojo, Marte azul i Marte verde, referent de la ciència-ficció amb intenció ecologista i consciència socialista, ha visitat finalment Barcelona. «La ciència-ficció tracta del futur, el pitjor de l’impacte del canvi climàtic es veurà en el futur, així que la ciència-ficció és la manera natural de parlar del canvi climàtic», confirma Robinson.
    Fins i tot si s’escriu del passat cal incloure el canvi climàtic constant que ha marcat l’evolució de la terra. Ho ha fet en el seu últim llibre publicat a Espanya, Chamán (Minotauro), una història que es desenvolupa fa 32.000 anys, en plena edat de gel. «Sempre escric sobre la relació entre les persones i el seu planeta, el seu entorn», recorda.

    NOVA YORK SOTA L' AIGUA

    Tot i això, el seu últim llibre publicat als EUA, New York 2140, ens porta una sorpresa. Sí, Manhattan s’ha convertit en una espècie de Venècia. Però no es tracta d’una distopia climàtica, de la crònica d’un desastre. «El capitalisme global castiga el treballador, augmenta la desigualtat, no paga pel mal que fa a l’entorn i no pensa en l’impacte que tindrà en el futur. Però potser tot vagi en la direcció oposada. New York 2140 és una novel·la utòpica, descriu d’una manera pràctica una revolució financera d’esquerres».
    ¿I la climate fiction? «No m’agrada l’etiqueta. Cada vegada que la ciència-ficció es torna interessant s’inventen un nom nou per a ella. Per a mi, sempre és ciència-ficció».

    "Hem d'acabar amb la idea que podem viatjar a les estrelles; és ciència-ficció convertida en fantasia"

    A 'Aurora' (publicada l'any passat per Minotaure) Kim Stanley Robinson recull un tema clàssic de la ciència-ficció (una arca espacial, amb un viatge multigeneracional per colonitzar un planeta en una estrella més o menys pròxima) però el subverteix, per arribar a la conclusió que deixem de pensar a viatjar a altres planetes i ens centrem a salvar el nostre. "Això és ciència-ficció convertida en fantasia. Volia acabar amb la idea que podem viatjar a les estrelles; que podem utilitzar una segona Terra com a rescat. Tenia una altra motivació, la de tractar què passa en un microbioma. Per motius genètics, és un error pensar que una població pugui viure en un espai restringit com una nau espacial i seguir sana". Però no es pot negar que la imaginació es dispara davant l'onada de descobriments d'exoplanetes, o la possibilitat d'enviar petites sondes robòtiques a estrelles pròximes. "Sí, aquests planetes són allà però massa lluny perquè podem visitar-los. I un petit robot podria arribar-hi i fer unes fotos... en el millor dels casos després de trigar 60 o 70 anys. Les implicacions pràctiques de tot això sense pràcticament inexistents".

    Thursday, March 23, 2017

    There is a Chinese-language idiom ...''TÁNG BÌ DĀNG CHĒ'' [螳臂当车] which means ''a mantis trying to stop a chariot''. It means to attempt the impossible!

    There is a Chinese-language idiom ...

    ''TÁNG  BÌ  DĀNG  CHĒ'' [螳臂当车]

    which means ''a mantis trying to stop a chariot''. It means to attempt the impossible!


     TÁNG = praying mantis
    BÌ = arm
    ...
    DĀNG = to be
    CHĒ = car, or chariot/cart

    In terms of humankind trying to stop runaway climate change, is this a noteworthy idiom to learn and remember? Are we humans the mantis and global warming is the chariot we cannot stop?

    Wednesday, March 22, 2017

    Today, with the steady rise of dystopian literature, ecofiction and climate change fiction (otherwise known as “cli fi”), we see similar artistic responses to environmental change which steer readers away from complacency. As authors seek to express the gravity and severity of ecological crises, their literature holds the potential to inspire radical change

    Victoria Tedeschi is a PhD candidate studying English and Theatre Studies in the School of Culture and Communication at the University of Melbourne in Australia. Victoria has tutored literary studies at the University of Melbourne and Deakin University. Her research has been published in international, peer-reviewed journals and has received numerous accolades such as the Australian Postgraduate award, the Gwenda Ford English Literature award and the Percival Serle prize.
    Victoria is currently compiling a dissertation which employs an ecocritical methodology to identify how Victorian-era editions of Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale literature represented the ecosphere to a newfound child audience during a period of environmental upheaval. She is primarily interested in ecocritical research, ecofeminist discourse and representations of the environment in popular culture.
    =====================================

    Today, with the steady rise of dystopian literature, ecofiction and climate change fiction (otherwise known as “cli fi”), we see similar artistic responses to environmental change which steer readers away from complacency. As authors seek to express the gravity and severity of ecological crises, their literature holds the potential to inspire radical change

    Nathaniel Rich and Elizabeth Kolbert discuss cli-fi on stage at the New York Public Library lecture series a few years ago.......

    Subject:  listen video re Nathaniel Rich | Elizabeth Kolbert discuss CLI FI and SOME MAN IN TAIWAN at 45.35 into NYPL video:

      http://www.nypl.org/node/261377
      Nathaniel Rich | Elizabeth Kolbert discuss cli-fi

    ELIZABETH KOLBERT: What do you feel about the whole cli-fi, is it?
     NATHANIEL RICH: There's a new term called "cli-fi" that I started tohear ....(laughter) .....after my book came out if you're not familiar with it,there's a man in Taiwan who invented it and is its biggest promoter. I'm surprised you haven't heard from him.
     ELIZABETH KOLBERT: I know, I know.
    FULL TRANSCRIPT HERE: NATHANIEL RICH: And yeah and the novel got wrapped up in the>>> discussion of this genre, there was like an NPR story that I think>>> started. So the idea is fiction about the climate and I think there's>>> very little good fiction about the environment.

    There are a couple of>>> examples that come to mind. I think Ian McEwan's book Solar is very>>> good as an example of it's not didactic, it's not preachy, and it's>>> about sort of a convincing story about these issues.

    And there's a>>> good T. C. Boyle novel, Friend of the Earth, Barbara Kingsolver has>>> written about it, and some other. J. G. Ballard, I guess it's his>>> first or second novel, The Drowned World is a good early example, but>>> there's very little. And I would say even--I love Boyle and I love>>> McEwan, but I would say--and I love those books but they're not their>>> best books, those writers' best books, and I think there's a real>>> opening there, but I think, yeah, but I do have a wariness about--like,>>> anything, whenever anything crystallizes into a genre it's going to>>> have its clichés and its forms and I think if you want to do original>>> work, you have to resist that.

    VIDEO -- At 49-minute mark, Margaret Atwood gives her IMPORTANT NBCC lifetime achievement acceptance speech

    VIDEO -- At 49-minute mark,  Margaret Atwood gives her IMPORTANT NBCC lifetime achievement acceptance speech


    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A8LxJNslFVg

    How one professor is finding the funny in climate change

    SOCIETY

    How one professor is finding the funny in climate change

     
    And "climate fiction," or "cli-fi," is a budding field of literature, increasingly being taught on college campuses across the country.
     
    BOULDER, Colorado USA — We have rising sea levels, world-record warming, acidifying oceans, an approaching food crisis and a president who is determined to cut any federal budget that is aimed at mitigating climate change. Is there anything that's funny about this?

    That's a question about human behavior that Maxwell Boykoff, an associate professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder, is studying because he thinks humor may bring more people closer to understanding the threats and potential solutions to the problem of climate change.

    He and a colleague, Beth Osnes, have produced "Creative Climate Communications," a class for graduating seniors majoring in environmental science that probes their fears about climate change and stresses the need for explaining policies that can cope with it.

    Much of the literature about climate change is focused on the year 2050, a time when scientists predict rising oceans may begin to threaten many of the nation's coastal cities and states like Florida. By then, graduating seniors will be 55 years old, squarely in the middle of this mess, perhaps struggling with a collapsing economy and wild weather while trying to put children through college.

    Boykoff, who is 43 and has a doctorate in environmental studies, wanted to set up what he calls a "living laboratory" to examine what his students think about this. So he built a course that involves producing annual comedy shows involving stand-up comics, skits and short videos to explore the humorous side of climate change.

     
    "At first there was almost mutiny," Boykoff recalled. "They felt you're [tasking] us to take a very serious issue and find funny in there." To talk lightly about "scientifically grounded evidence"? This is impossible, they told him.

    But Boykoff insisted that they would all learn something because communicating with other people about solutions to climate change is becoming extremely difficult. "Expressions of doom and gloom don't help open conversations" that are increasingly necessary to finding solutions.

    He cited statistics showing newspaper coverage of climate change is declining, except for stories about the Trump administration's latest actions. He argued that people use climate denial to avoid thinking about needed changes and told students, "You may be able to use humor to meet people where they are."

    Taking aim at ski bums, Inhofe and weather reports

    The class comes at a time when scientists and other advocates for tackling climate change are seeking new ways to communicate catastrophic threats to the planet. The Showtime series "Years of Living Dangerously" featured big-name celebrities, including comedians like David Letterman, to tell the stories of how rising temperatures are affecting the planet. Some have sought to draw parallels between global warming and the HBO hit "Game of Thrones."

    And "climate fiction," or "cli-fi," is a budding field of literature, increasingly being taught on college campuses across the country.

    Change in attitudes among Boykoff's students and other participants in his show came slowly — some of them had no idea they were going on stage — but it came. One example is a short video that appeared in this year's show, "Stand Up for Climate Change: An Experiment With Creative Climate Comedy."

    The video features a talking baby explaining to President Trump, who will be 71 in June: "You won't be around to face the consequences of climate change, but I will. So please, Mr. Trump, planet Earth first!"
    In last year's show, the class took on three presidential candidates in a skit where they posed as bachelors and bachelorettes on a mock version of the television show "The Dating Game."
    In another, three students walk into a dorm carrying ski gear while another keeps trying to light his bong. A woman reminds the would-be skiers that it hasn't snowed for months. "We've got to do something about this," says one of them, who seems surprised. The student smoking the bong looks up in glassy-eyed despair: "Shit. We're fucked."

    Luke Campbell, one of last year's students, started with a stand-up routine that mocked Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) for walking into the Senate and throwing a snowball during a late-spring snowstorm, as if that proved climate change to be a hoax. But then Campbell seemed to drift off script, admitting that it was unfair to blame Inhofe or any other single person for climate change.
    "Blame yourself and everyone else," he told the audience in a small campus theater. "Climate change is bad news. Eventually something terrible is going to happen, and everyone is on their phones saying we probably shouldn't do that," he said, referring on a common reliance on gasoline to drive for even short errands in their cars. "And they do and they do and they keep doing that."

    Perhaps the funniest moment of Boykoff's first two seasons as a comedy impresario came in a short video from Vancouver, British Columbia, where Heather Libby, a writer and graphic designer, was inspired by years of hating local television news programs to produce one of her own. It was titled "Weathergirl Goes Rogue."

    The announcer, played by Libby's partner, a former CTV bureau chief, kicks it off: "It's the Labor Day weekend, last chance to lounge by that pool and wrap up your summer reading list," and then summons Pippa, the weather girl, to explain why "the nice warm weather isn't quite ready to leave."
    Pippa replies sarcastically, "I don't know why you would imagine that. We've broken thousands of temperature records across the country and the planet this year. In fact, we're heading into the 329th consecutive month with a global temperature above the 20th-century average."
    Announcer, looking puzzled: "Well it's definitely time to light up that barbecue." He invites Pippa to give her seven-day forecast.

    Pippa starts with the weather "way up north." The Arctic is missing 4 million square kilometers of ice. "That's bigger than India," she points out. Instead of a white ice sheet reflecting the sunlight back into space, there is "dark water sucking up even more heat, making it warm up faster and faster!"
    The announcer, frowning, reminds Pippa he asked for a weather report.
    Pippa screams at him, "You think all this is a coincidence? You want a weather report? This is a reality report!" She predicts "total mayhem if it continues."

    The announcer has the control room turn off Pippa's sound. "So all and all, it looks like a great Labor Day weekend," he says, smiling, "and good times for the air conditioner industry."
    Pippa: "Until the power goes out, you moron!"

    As the announcer turns to celebrity news, the weather girl lunges at him from across the studio, knocking him off his chair.

    An 'aha moment'?

    According to Libby, there were quite a few other people who shared Pippa's rage. Her video went viral on the internet, getting half a million views in the first two weeks. That whetted Boykoff's appetite for more guest videos. Last year, there were nine entries for his comedy show, where judges select the top three. This year, there were 18 entries that will be shown next fall by Rebecca Safran, a biologist, who teaches a separate course about film and climate change.

    Osnes, an associate professor of theater studies, joined Boykoff in teaching this year's course on communicating climate issues. Environmental science majors are different from her usual students, she explained. "They've got deep content knowledge," she said, but getting them up on stage just to do public speaking is often daunting, let alone trying comedy.

    Osnes patrols the rehearsals, prodding people to keep their lines short, stay near the front of the stage and use portable microphones.

    She thinks the time is ripe for audiences to connect with climate change. "More people are having their own physical experiences with extreme weather. There is a kind of aha moment."
    Comedy, especially parody, she says, can "explode some of the inconsistencies and hypocrisies with which we're all living in a way that we can kind of laugh at." The format, she pointed out, goes back to ancient Greece, where Aristophanes wrote "Lysistrata," a comedy that suggested women deny their husbands sex until they stopped the destruction and killing in the Peloponnesian War.

    "We're just trying to give them ideas they can riff off of," she explained.

    So that is how Pablo Laris-Gonzalez, a student from Mexico City, wound up on the stage this year in a golden robe and a crown. He was "Sol," portraying the role of the sun.

    Students dressed as bugs, plants and animals came on stage with him, but they were covered with a blanket simulating dirt, rocks and debris that compressed them for millions of years until the pressure and Sol's heat produced "Fos." This is a raffish character in a scaly, black costume worn by Larry Gumina from New Jersey. He roamed around the stage bragging about the beauties of having coal and high-powered cars.

    Sol and Fos, who represented fossil fuels, had a kind of love-hate relationship. In one scene, Fos came out on the stage to sleep off a drink and Sol mentioned something about a strip, which made Fos happy. But then Fos woke up to find Sol running a toy bulldozer over his body.
    "Wait a minute, I thought you were going to do a strip," said Fos.

    "I said strip mining," explained Sol.
     

    Monday, March 20, 2017

    In Kim Stanley Robinson's NEW YORK 2140, the character named Gen Octaviasdottir is an homage and show ot respect and shout out to SF pioneer writer Octavia Butler!

    In Kim Stanley Robinson's NEW YORK 2140, the character named Gen Octaviasdottir is an homage and show ot respect and  shout out to SF pioneer writer Octavia Butler!

     

    WHY? Well....

     

     

                Genevieve Valentine · explains a few things about the character named Gen Octaviasdottir in Kim Stanley Robinson's new novel titled NEW YORK 2140, where many readers are now suspecting (guessing) that the character's name is quiet homage and show of respect and shout out to the pioneering SF author Octvia Butler.

     

    Professor Ugo Bardi in Italy asks: ''Zombie Apocalypse: will it be our future? ''

    Monday, March 20, 2017 from his blog post:

    Zombie Apocalypse: will it be our future?



     Caution, this is probably the most catastrophistic post I ever published: famines, cannibalism, mass extermination and more. But, hey, this is just a scenario! (Image from "teehunter").


    For those of us who delight themselves in studying long-term trends, the rise of zombies as a movie genre is a fascinating puzzle. There is no doubt that it is a strong trend: look at these results from Google Ngrams.


    The term "zombie" was wholly unknown in English before the 1920s, then it slowly started gaining attention. In the 1970s, it exploded, mainly after the success of the 1968 movie by George Romero "The night of the Living Dead." The term "zombie" wasn't used in the movie, but the concept became rapidly popular and it created the genre called "zombie apocalypse".  Today, the idea is widespread: it involves the sudden appearance of a large number of undead people haunting suburbs and shopping malls, searching for live humans to eat. They are normally the target of the fire of heavily armed but much less numerous groups of people who have escaped the epidemics or whatever has turned people into zombies. 

    Now, if something exists, there has to be a reason for it to exist. So, why this fascination with zombies? How is that we have created a genre that has never existed before in the history of human literature? Can you imagine Homer telling us that the city of Troy was besieged by zombies? Did Dante Alighieri find zombies in his visit to Hell? How about Shakespeare telling us of Henry the 5th fighting zombies at Agincourt?

    I think there is a reason: literature always reflects the fears and the hopes of the culture that created it; sometimes very indirectly and in symbolic ways. And, here, it may well be that zombies reflect an unsaid fear of our times, a fear that is present mainly in our subconscious: hunger. 

    Let's start with a typical feature of zombies: the black circles around the eyes.
    Zombies are supposed to be "undead," cadavers that somehow returned to a semblance of life. But do cadavers have this kind of eyes? I must confess that I don't have much experience in autopsy (actually, none) but, from what I saw on the Web, it seems to me that it is rare that cadavers have those dark eye sockets; that is, unless they had developed bruises before dying. It is true that a decomposing cadaver will slowly lose the soft tissue and, eventually, the eyes will disappear leaving only dark holes in a mummified skull. But that doesn't seem to agree with the facial aspect of the zombies that appear in the movies. (I know, this was a ghoulish search, I did it in the name of science).

    Instead, for what I could find, dark eye sockets may be a characteristic of undernourished people, often as the result of the development of a facial edema. Here is, for instance, a photo of a Dutch girl during the famine of 1944-1945 in Holland.

    This is not always a characteristic of malnourished people, but it seems to occur rather frequently. Another example is the Great Famine in Ireland that started in 1845. We don't have photos from those times, but the artists who drew pictures of starving Irish people clearly perceived this detail. Here is, for instance, a rather well-known image of Bridget O'Donnell, one of the victims of the Great Famine. Note her darkened eyes. 

    So, we have some idea of who these zombies could represent. They are starving people. And it is clear that they are hungry. In the movies, they are described as stumbling onward, desperately searching for food. They seem to be the perfect image of the effect of a famine. Look at the memorial of the Irish famine, in Dublin:

      
    Do they look like the zombies of a modern movie? Yes, they do. This doesn't mean a lack of respect for the Irish men and women who perished in one of the greatest tragedies of modern times. It is only to note how, in our imagination, real starving people may be turned into imaginary undead zombies. 

    Now, imagine that a famine were to strike our society, today. It is true that the world hasn't seen major famines for the past 40 years or so, but that doesn't mean they can't appear again. Today, our globalized commercial system is fragile, based on a long supply chain that involves maritime transportation and road distribution. The system needs low-cost fossil fuels to function and, more than that, it needs a functioning global financial system. If food travels all over the world it is because someone is paying for it. A currency crisis would make the whole system collapse. The consequences would be, well, let's try to imagine the unimaginable. 

    People living in suburban areas have no other source of food than their shopping centers. Now, imagine that, suddenly, the ships and the trucks stop running. Then, the shelves of supermarkets can't be replenished anymore. The suburbanites would be first surprised, then angry, then desperate, and, finally, starving as their home stocks of food run out. Even before that, they would have run out of gas for their cars; the only system of transportation available to them. Now, assume that the elites would decide that it is easier for them to let the suburbanites starve and die rather than attempt to feed them. Suppose they decide to wall off the suburbia and instruct the army to shoot on sight anyone who tries to escape. Who could force them to do otherwise?

    We can imagine what the results would be. The inhabitants of suburban areas would become emaciated, blundering, hungry people haunting the neighborhood and the shopping malls in the desperate search of something to eat; anything. Would they turn to cannibalism? Possibly, even likely. Some of them may be able to put their hands on a good supply of guns and ammunition, then they could play king of the hill, gathering most of the remaining food and shooting dead the poor wretches who still lumber in the streets, at least until the run out of food and ammo, too. It would be the zombie apocalypse, nothing less than that.

    This is, of course, just a scenario, Nevertheless, I think it is interesting as an illustration of how the human mind works. In a previous post, I noted how the "overpopulation" meme disappeared from cyberspace as a result of how people gradually developed a kind of "infection resistance" to it.  The zombie meme seems to be related to the same issue, but it is a much more infective meme and it is still growing and diffusing in the world's population.

    There are reasons for the success of the zombie meme. Fictionalized catastrophes ("it is only a movie!") are surely less threatening than those that are described as likely to happen for real. So, the concept of "Zombie Preparedness" is making inroads in many areas. Apparently, preparing for a zombie apocalypse is more socially and politically acceptable than preparing for the consequences of resource depletion and climate change. This is a curious trait of the human mind but, if this is the way it works, so be it. It makes the concept of "climate fiction" (cli-fi) an attractive one for generating preparedness for climate change.

    It may be that the only way for our mind to understand catastrophes to come is to see them as tales. In Ireland, before the great famine, there was some premonition of the incoming disaster. Here is what the Irish poet Clarence Mangan wrote in 1844 about an undescribed "event" that he expected to take place in the future.

    Darken the lamp, then, and bury the bowl,
    Ye Faithfullest-hearted!

    And, as your swift years hasten on to the goal
    Whither worlds have departed,
    Spend strength, sinew, soul, on your toil to atone

    For past idleness and errors;
    So best shall ye bear to encounter alone
    The Event and its terrors.




    The Irish may have had some kind of premonition of the "event" that was going to hit them, the Great Famine of 1845, even though that didn't help them much to avoid it. Is a similar "Event" coming for us, too? Maybe it is already starting.