Friday, June 10, 2016

Kim Stanley Robinson Says 'Either You're A Climate Activist, Or You're Not Paying Attention'


Kim Stanley Robinson Says 'Either You're A Climate Activist, Or You're Not Paying Attention'

Award-winning writer Kim Stanley Robinson discusses cli-fi's role in helping us understand the world.

Kim Stanley Robinson (Courtesy Hachette Book Group)

Think of the Anthrocene as a cli-fi thought experiment. We imagine future geologists looking back into the rock record, and trying to pinpoint when humans became the dominant geologic force. In many ways, cli-fi is the perfect genre for exploring environmental issues – running out scenarios and “what ifs” to their extremes, and imagining how that world would look and feel.
Award-winning author Kim Stanley Robinson does exactly that in many of his works. In this episode of Generation Anthrocene, producer Mike Osborne sits down with Robinson to talk about his creative process and environmental thinking, what makes for good cli-fi, and the rising new genre’s capacity to imagine future societies shaped by climate change.

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Do you think that some cli fi writers and theorists try to distance themselves from Science Fiction? is it necessary? 
Is Cli Fi being used as a form of subterfuge to prevent literary types from unwittingly catching Sci Fi cooties? Only the paranoid would think so. it’s more complicated than that. Both utopian and dystopian literature are regarded in some quarters as being altogether separate genres from SF and there is an argument for Cli Fi to be considered as a genre of its own.

The Water Knife

The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi (Orbit, 2016)

“Sweat was a body’s history, compressed into jewels, beaded on the brow, staining shirts with salt. It told you everything about how a person had ended up in the right place at the wrong time, and whether they would survive another day.’

the water knife

This quote from page one of The Water Knife gives the reader a taste of the desperation of people struggling to survive in a world where water is a precious commodity. Those cities with ‘senior water rights’ are building archologies (self-sustaining environments, with clean air, plenty of water and all the amenities the modern world takes for granted), while the majority of the population buy water from Red Cross pumps and wear masks against the constant dust-storms (well, those that can afford to—a dry, hacking cough is the norm outside of the archologies).

Set primarily in the state of Arizona, more specifically Phoenix, the three main protagonists are drawn into the battle over water rights—rights that will give the owner power of life and death over thousands as the water supply to whole cities can be cut by the stroke of a ‘legal’ pen.

This book depicts a world after the devastating impact of climate change. The characters take this fact as a given, and so the only reference is an advert on bottled water: “Your purchase helps us mitigate the impacts of climate change on vulnerable peoples around the world.”

In the struggle between California, Arizona and Nevada for valuable water rights, it seems that there is no ‘right’ thing to do (despite Lucy’s protestations). No matter who wins, there has to be losers. As Angel says: “Someone’s got to bleed, if anybody’s going to drink.”

This is a masterful depiction of a society fighting to survive in a world damaged by greed and wilful blindness—another strong theme in the book.

Bacigalupi takes us on a journey where we are confronted by the filters through which we view the world, and brings us face-to-face with difficult truths.

My favourite quote:

“If I could put my finger on the moment we genuinely fucked ourselves, it was the moment we decided that data was something you could use words like believe or disbelieve around.”

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