Author: Taylor A

We can make a difference

Attempting to end the semester on a happier note, human beings can absolutely still fix the climate issue. A new study published recently by Nature Climate Change, claims that by addressing climate change the world could save 500,000 lives each year. That number will continue to grow the longer the planet focuses on combating global warming. The study intends to address the lives that are being lost as global warming is still being ignored. By showing the massive amount of lives that taking action against global warming could save, the authors of the paper intended to weigh on society’s conscience. This article from National Geographic is a great read on what the future could possibly look like if Earth get’s its head together and makes the steps towards curbing climate change.

As the land becomes unlivable, so does the sea

As the temperatures continue to rise on the planet, it is not just the surface dwellers that will need to adapt. The University of California has conducted a study on what had happened the last time the environment took a hit this badly and how it affected the oceans. The rising temperatures and human interference has caused the oxygen levels in the ocean to fall creating dead zones. It has been estimated that almost 10% of the ocean is made up of dead zones and that number continues to rise. This is not the first time in history that dead zones have torn across the ocean killing a large amount of species. Dead zones can destroy entire aquatic ecosystems and are a massive cause of species becoming extinct. The problem with these dead zones is that the ocean takes much more time to recover environmental damage than any other area on the planet. Checking out this article gives a much more in-depth look at the problem.

After all of the ice is gone

An interesting video from Business Insider Science shows the Earth after all of the ice has melted due to global warming. The video gives a global tour of what cities would be under water after the oceans have risen by 216 feet. You will have to watch the video to see if Philadelphia survives!

One in Six

A study published today in Science has estimated that by 2100 we will lose one out of every six species on Earth. The paper sites South America, Australia, and New Zealand will be the worst areas for extinction. This paper is a call to action for people to realize the changes that have already been occurring. The paper gets into very specific details on the timeline for the changes and also addresses how a majority of species will suffer a major population loss. The information is chilling and will hopefully get the peoples attention that can make actual change.

Final Audit

How did knowing you’d have to write a Review on the blog change the way you read our books? How did it change the way you prepared for class?

Knowing that I had to write a review about the book made reading more of a chore than it usually is for me. I realized that I would have to be thinking much more in depth than I normally would because I would eventually need to articulate my thoughts to other individuals. It made me pay more attention to detail and focusing how best to explain what I was thinking while reading the book. I prepared much more for class and spoke more carefully because I knew that everyone was feeling exactly how I was and did not want to embarrass themselves.

How did writing in this format affect your writing process and writing style? I’m really interested to hear how writing in a blog format was different from writing you’ve done in other classes, whether English classes with more traditional papers, other courses with online writing (blog, discussion board, etc.) or otherwise. Did the possibility of a wider audience – your classmates, or anyone who stumbled upon our blog – change the way you wrote?

I really enjoyed writing in a blog because I just got to write as myself without any proper formatting or things like not being able to use the word I while writing an assignment. I definitely was always remembering that some random individual would be able to read my writing so once again I was more careful about what I wrote and trying not to sound unintelligent. This class made me realize how I feel about exposing my work to others.

How often did you read the Reviews posted by your classmates? Did you gravitate towards reading particular writers?

I always read a couple of the most recently published articles whenever I checked the blog so if someone’s review happened to be in that group of postings I ended up reading it.

Did knowing that you had to post on the blog affect the way you read (and watched) stuff unrelated to the course readings?

Posting on a blog did not affect how I read or watched stuff unrelated to the course readings but it did make me pay attention in that I was looking for climate issues and climate fiction in passing. Before this class I had never thought about the environment or climate change at all but now I think about it a ton (which just makes me depressed most of the time).

I’d be excited to hear you reflect on whether and/or how your experience with and attitude towards the blog changed over the course of the semester. Did it live up to its promise? Was the blog element of the course better or worse than you hoped or feared?

My attitude towards the blog did not change because I enjoyed it from the start and still enjoy it more than writing a regular term paper. The blog was definitely more enjoyable than I thought it would be and I may try to do more blog writing because of this class.

Snowpiercer Review

Snowpiercer was a highly anticipated movie for me as soon as I heard the plot and the cast. Claiming science fiction as my favorite genre, a climate fiction movie composed of high action beats and intense dramatic ramifications meant that Snowpiercer may have been made just for me. As a forewarning this movie is graphic, violent, and has many scenes that may force you to look away if you tend to be squeamish. I attempted to avoid spoilers as much as possible but things slip out in a review.
The plot of the movie is best left simply explained, as the twists and reveals are what give Snowpiercer its constant barrage of emotional gut-punches. The extremely diminished population of Earth is living onboard a train in constant motion. The world outside of the train is a barren and frozen tundra caused by scientists attempting to avert global warming, succeeding but throwing the process in reverse, causing a new Ice Age. On the train the people are segregated by class with the malnourished commoners in the back and the rich elite occupying the front. The train and plan to save humanity was all orchestrated by a visionary named Wilford, but getting into any more than his name takes away a central mystery to the movie. The desolate in the back of the train are led by the strategic Curtis and his old decrepit mentor Gilliam. Forced to eat disgusting protein blocks and live in squalor, Curtis bides his time waiting to lead a revolution.
There is a grotesque torture scene near the beginning of the movie that perfectly encompasses the brutality of life on the train. Describing this movie as a blood bath does not do the fight choreographers justice. Once the action and plot get in motion it rarely slows down as Curtis accompanied by other characters rebel and crawl their way to the front of the train. Lots of characters die, children are constantly in danger, and you will see and hear taboo content that is rarely touched upon in other movies. Snowpiercer is an Indy film that was only screened in selective theaters, explaining how it gets away with a few of its more noteworthy scenes. All of the grizzly scenes would be excessive had they not been backed up by the fantastic acting that makes this world feel all too possible.
The movie touches on a multitude of complex sci-fi issues such as geoengineering, eugenics, and “big brother” controlling the masses. Class exploitation and self-sacrifice are a main focus and while the film expresses that mankind is responsible for its own downfall; Capitalism is also to blame for the predicament that the train goers find themselves in. Curtis has a choice to make at the end of the movie with no clear cut answer. Is it better to attempt to change and fix the oppressing society, or burn the whole thing to the ground and begin anew? The ending of the movie did not go where I expected it to, but the revelations in the end of the movie justify Curtis’ decision and emotional journey whether you agree with his decisions or not.
In the secondary reading I chose for Snowpiercer, “A Snowpiercer Thinkpiece, Not to Be Taken Too Seriously, But For Very Serious Reasons” by Aaron Bady, I agree with a lot of the points that he made. I mentioned Curtis choice already and Bady had the same thought if the world “Is it worth sustaining? This is a question that the movie raises at several points, particularly when we learn why so many of the passengers lack arms and legs”. I had been confused during one scene in the movie when the rich train-goers and partiers are seemingly happy to have the opportunity to tear the lower class citizens limb from limb, and Bady gives a good explanation on why that may be, “Without occasional violence, there would be only pleasure, and pleasure fades when there is nothing but pleasure. At a certain point, you need blood; the revolution provides that blood, as does counter-revolutionary violence against the bare-life tail-section passengers”. I had not thought about it myself , but Bady makes a great point when he says that, “Snowpiercer is not about the revolution we might have today, then; it’s about the time after revolution has ceased to be possible”. I believe that the previous quote is a much better way to describe this film after the revelation in the end.

Overall the action, world building, and emotional beats make this a must see film for any fan of sci-fi, cli-fi, and dystopian fiction in general.

The Windup Girl

Nothing gets me more excited than rich world building, and there is nothing that Paolo Bacigalupi excels at more than that. As an aspiring writer myself it is always the first thing I look for, how developed and cohesive is the fiction world that the story is taking place in. The Windup Girl succeeded in immersing me in its miserable fictional Thailand, this being a more plausible future to me than the shiny chrome metallic future that many science fiction novels attempt to portray.

 
While I thoroughly enjoyed the world building and setting that Bacigalupi describes throughout the novel, the plot and structure of the novel were a complete turn off. Bacigalupi gives almost no backstory to the world, and regularly throws out terms and slang in this universe with no explanation as to their meaning. The novel is constantly switching viewpoints which make it difficult to follow along, let alone remember which character is which. The characters are well developed once you can identify them, but more often than not despicable and almost impossible to root for. Emiko, who should have been the most sympathetic character, even has her horrible moments regardless of being the only character that I would consider being “good natured”. I normally love a far out dystopian future but this book was unable to capture my attention and was a drag to get through. To me this book would take multiple read throughs to fully grasp all of the themes and nuance that Bacigalupi has put into this world, but there is no chance I will ever attempt to read this again. I pride myself on my ability to give any genre or story a chance, not being picky in my tastes, but this book starts off on the wrong foot and never made it back to my good side.

Let’s take more than an hour next time

Yesterday March 28th, Earth Hour was celebrated all across the globe. Unfortunately many people I know have never heard of Earth hour. Earth Hour occurs every year for an hour in March and encourages people to turn off all of their unnecessary lights to signify that we all must play our part in combating climate change and protecting the Earth. Earth Hour occurred across seven thousand cities in 162 countries. The movement is spreading so much that even the Eiffel Tower participated and turned out its lights. To find out more about Earth Hour visit their website here and make sure you participate next year on March 19th!

Four Hundred Signs of Science Babble

After not only hearing our teacher’s adoration about Kim Stanley Robinson but also the raving of a friend I was sure that I was in for a treat while reading Forty Signs of Rain. While I believe that Forty Signs of Rain is a very well written, researched, and developed novel; it is also extremely dry up until the very end and felt much more like set-up than the beginning of a trilogy should. This has been the most realistic novel we have read so far this semester. Not only was the characterization of the main characters well developed but the science was clear enough that most of the discussions were not lost on me. I was able to follow along without periodic stops to re-read science heavy sections. Robinson does an excellent job of maintaining an extremely realistic look at climate change all while keeping the character interactions, one of the only things the book has going for it, fresh long enough for me to make it through all four hundred pages of realistic fiction.

 
My main problem with Forty Signs of Rain is how disappointed I was with the plot itself. The realism that Robinson uses while examining the minutia of government and science work detracts from the actual fiction that should be exhibited in a type of book such as this. The characters were all interesting and getting to examine the National Science Foundation through various eyes was the highlight of the novel for me. Getting an insight on why it takes such a long time for scientists and politicians to take any real notice of climate change felt extremely realistic and related back to everything we discuss in class. Reading the discussions between NSF employees and exploring how the panels and funding functioned was fascinating as that is rarely the side of science that is explored in fiction. While I found these conversations and science addled debating interesting, it was not what I wanted to read or expected from a work of popular fiction. My problem with the novel was that I never felt like I was reading an entertaining story, merely the workings of actual scientists. While that may be a compliment to Robinson’s impressive realism, I would have rather read those discussions in an internet article instead of a four hundred page slowly progressing novel. While other readers have pointed out the elevator scene, office break in, and ending climate issues as exciting high points, I see them as what the novel should have been delivering all along. While I appreciated the nuanced and varied opinions of the scientists, which lead me to a new understanding on why barely anything is currently being done for global warming, I do not believe a novel like this was the best way for Robinson to get his points across.

Audit

I’m not sure if my participation on the blog would show it, but I actually write a decent amount. This blog is a different beast from what I am normally used to however. I write fiction, specifically scripts for comics and movies, having little to no experience with a blog or reviews besides the odd school assignment. I am accustomed to people reading the thoughts and dialogue of my characters, but not the actual voice inside of my head.

 
So far I actually have enjoyed writing on a blog and have been thinking of starting my own when I have enough of my scripts finished ahead of time to share them. It is a good way to constantly update an audience on the thoughts and writing of an individual or a group. I tend to enjoy writing on a blog more than other types of class assignments because it gives me the freedom to write as if I was speaking and I do not have to adhere to standard writing for term papers or essays. The informality of the writing on the blog also makes it more accessible to post my thoughts and not be judged about how my writing sounds and who may be reading it. I have really enjoyed the majority of the books that we have read so far this semester, I was not aware that climate fiction would be able to house so many different types of stories and I am looking forward to the books in the back half of the semester.

 
Keeping up with a blog however is a lot more consistent work and thought than the two or three papers I have been assigned for every other class throughout college. It requires me to constantly be analyzing what is already being put on the blog in addition to the other student’s articles so I do not repeat anything. I find having to comment on other peoples blog posts to be my least favorite aspect of the blog because I usually do not have anything to say other than nice writing and that’s a great point. That is definitely the thing I need to pick up through the rest of the semester. Overall the blog has been entertaining and thought provoking which is usually completely absent from most college classes.

Still don’t believe in global warming? Why would we be lion.

Have you heard about the recent trends of sea lions washing ashore on the coast of California? During January and February over a thousand sea lion pups have washed ashore due to their mothers not returning quickly enough from finding food. If you’re on this blog you must have already figured out what is taking the mothers so long to find food, global warming. The rising temperatures of the sea are moving the sea lions food sources out further and further from their homes.

To find out more read this article.

 

 

Earthseed – A non-religion I could get behind

Growing up I had never been exposed to much about religion. I was told I was Jewish from birth, a fact that was never hidden from me, but one that really held no significant weight. My family did not discuss God or the afterlife often, as it was not something that my brother and I were ever extremely inquisitive about. To this day my thoughts on religion are never substantial; sometimes I’ll have an occasional deep thought, but a fleeting one at that until I turn back to the life in front of me. Lauren Olamina, the protagonist in Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler, on the other hand was brought up into an intensely religious household that she learned to resent. Lauren’s father was a Baptist minister, raising her and her brothers in an intensely religious fashion in a post-apocalyptic time outside of Los Angeles. The post-apocalyptic America is not one ravaged by supernatural creatures or extreme weather conditions, but an extremely plausible world set into motion by drought and racial tensions. America is at the bottom of a downward spiral with Lauren’s gated California neighborhood being the only thing keeping the drug addled maniacs and thieves from raiding her community on a daily basis. Disaster is constantly right outside of Lauren’s gate causing the extremely bright but mentally damaged young woman to attempt to find her place in collapsing America. Refusing to believe in the religion her father preaches to her daily, Lauren begins establishing her own beliefs in God that translate into what she calls Earthseed. To Lauren, God is change. Earthseed presented through Lauren is Butler’s way of examining our own society. By predicting what will become of our society if it does not overcome individualism, racism, and tendencies towards violence, Butler presents her solution through Earthseed.
When society crumbles, so does 99% of the population. Anyone not protected in a gated or guarded society immediately turns towards looting, pillaging, rape, and especially arson. A new drug has been introduced on the streets dubbed “pyro” that makes watching a fire more exhilarating and enjoyable than having sex. Lauren being born in 2009 (the novel was written in 1993) has known only this nightmarish America her entire life. Racial tensions are at an all-time high, water is more expensive than food, and the government has basically collapsed. While the adults are fine with attempting to live life the way it used to be, preaching the same bible verses over again, and still believing things may eventually return to “normal”; Lauren is the next generation learning to live in this new society. Living in this new society and not understanding the old, Lauren rejects her father’s God. Lauren believes in a new religion she has discovered entitled Earthseed. Lauren claim’s she has not invented or made it up, but discovered it. There is no all mighty being or supernatural element to the God in Earthseed, God is only change. The book presents little Earthseed scripture and its beliefs throughout, which later make more sense towards the end of the novel. Earthseed believes that praying does nothing but assist the prayer, and that effort should be put into action to make change. The more the proverbs are read in the book the more the reader is able to comprehend Lauren’s beliefs. Lauren literally believes that God is change. Some of Earthseed’s texts give more insight into her complex thinking “We do not worship God. We perceive and attend God. With forethought and work, we shape God.” And “God is Power- infinite, irresistible, inexorable, indifferent. And yet, God is Pliable- trickster, teacher, chaos, clay. God exists to be shaped. God is Change”. I really loved the thought put into Lauren’s complex world view and it makes complete sense considering the dangerous world she learned to grow up in. Lauren is forced to leave the only home she has ever known when crazy drug addled arsonists come to pillage and destroy her neighborhood. If I grew up in that type of world I am not sure what I would believe in, but Lauren’s views are all justified and change is the belief and system that keeps her alive in post-apocalyptic California. Butler, through Lauren, is expressing that she believes that to get through the hard times any nation is facing, they need to be adaptable, diverse, and learn to embrace change. Another quote from Earthseed demonstrates Butler’s thoughts on diversity, “Embrace diversity. Unite—or be divided, robbed, ruled, killed by those who see you as prey. Embrace diversity, or be destroyed”.
My main issue with Butler’s Earthseed is the way that she presents it. At first Earthseed is not exactly referred to as a religion by Lauren until other people she meets on her journey refer to it as such. My problem with Butler deciding to refer to Earthseed as a religion is that it is too distinctly different from any other religion to be classified as such. A religion is classified by most sources as a set of beliefs concerning the cause, purpose, and nature of the universe; and the Gods that preside over it. Earthseed perfectly fits the set of beliefs and practices used and agreed on by a group of people, but when addressing its God of Change, it is not actually referring to a deity as is every other religion. Also converting the people Lauren traveled with to even accept the idea of something they were referring to as a religion would not go as quickly as it did in the book. It is hard enough reaching out to someone without a religion to think about one, but trying to convince a devout religious individual about a new way of thinking seems like it would not be possible.
Reading Butler’s essay “Devil Girl From Mars”: Why I Write Science Fiction, made it clear where Lauren’s attitude and beliefs came from. Butler believes in a well-educated, literate, news observing, and accepting society. Butler seems to view society on a macro level more so than a micro one, focusing on big picture issues and the state of the human race as a whole. Butler understands that global warming issue an issue in our society which is why she chose to have that be the cause of the draughts and erratic weather in her novel. From focusing on global warming in many of the novels we have read so far I believe Butler paints the most realistic picture of the consequences of ignoring global warming. I agree with Butler’s focus on the continuing productive existence of the human race. I often also have thoughts about human society as a whole and believe Butler made well educated and productive points, the things that she exaggerated for the sake of her novels are actual issues we need to be focusing on today.
Overall Parable of the Sower was one of the more realistic and enjoyable post-apocalyptic books I’ve read. The religious undertone was present but not abrasive, and focused more on religion as a general concept. Instead of focusing on one religion, Butler commented on religion as it fits into society as a whole.

The Scariest Story I’ve Ever Read

Of all of the dystopian futures, the scariest is the one that is most likely to happen. In The Collapse of Western Civilization, the end of our current civilizations seems all too realistic. Setting the story in the year 2393, we learn of the collapse of western civilization told by a Chinese academic. The collapse has occurred due to global warming, pollution, and the ignorance of mankind. The academic addresses the fact that the West understood the damage they were committing but never made the correct moves to address it such as China did. It is unfortunate how realistic this retelling actually feels. The sentiment that the West is in denial about climate change is so ripe and apparent in reality today. Most Americans understand that climate change is here and affecting us, but still refuse to give it the attention and urgency it deserves.
While the book is captivating in its realistic view of the future, there is little substance besides history being retold by an outsider’s perspective. There is no story to stretch this out to a wider audience than people actually interested in the subject. It is unfortunate that a wider audience will not see this because the scientific language used to explain what has occurred to cause this nightmare is well explained and simple enough for the average reader to understand. The worst part is that the setting, time period, and demise of society are beautifully put together. A story set in this world would have been extremely captivating and gave more to the cause of actually examining today’s issues that could cause this type of future than only a recounting of the imaginary history did. The interviews at the end of the book gave more of an emotional connection to a rather dry read, but regardless this was an informative tale that should be read by any climate fiction fan.

Earth was here before us, and will live on after

In most science fiction novels the protagonist is a scientific prodigy. Obviously as the main character of the story you would assume the lead is intelligent, important, and central to the progression of the narrative. Almost the exact opposite could be said of Isherwood Williams. While in no means an imbecile, Ish is an average joe facing the end of human civilization as we know it in George R. Stewart’s Earth Abides. When a disease hits society wiping out most of the population, we discover what happens to the world through Ish, who was for some reason not affected by the disease. The novel follows Ish through his life unsuccessfully attempting to rebuild society to what it was before the diseases outbreak.
This science fiction post-apocalyptic tale has been a staple of the genre since it was released. Stewart spends his time focusing less on the actual cause of humanity’s downfall, and instead decides to explore more of Ish’s initial attempt to rebuild society the way it once was. I always wonder how our society would react and adjust if something happened to the majority of the population. While Ish’s focus on attempting to pass on the knowledge and social structure of what once was is an admirable task, he often went about it ineffective and sexist manner. Ish believes that his view of the future is what is best for mankind, when in reality Ish is clinging to the ways society was before the virus. If Ish had made more of an attempt to adapt to the reality he now faced he may have made more of an impact on society before his eventual end.
While the writing is occasionally dry and overdramatic, Stewart’s novel still stands the test of time today. I would have enjoyed more of the future children and even what happened after Ish’s death, but that might be because Stewart actually drew me in to the post-apocalyptic society that he set up. All I know is that if I have to read Ish talking about Princess one more time, I’ll never read this book again.

Crab People Crab People

As a preface to my review I am a massive fan of time travel as a specific genre of Science Fiction. Fiction such as Back to the Future, 12 Monkeys, and Looper all make me hopeful one day I can travel forward in time and The Time Machine is no exception on that list. What excites me so much about time travel is the option to explore what the future of humanity will look like. H.G. Wells tackles that sentiment in what may be the first mainstream science fiction book in history.
The Time Machine is a tale focusing on the character of The Time Traveler, who is never given an actual name. After explaining to his weekly dinner party guests that time is a fourth dimension, he claims to them that he built a functioning time machine. After a week at the next dinner party, The Time Traveler retold his tale of his explorations of the future to his guests. Discovering that humanity may have split into two paths, the docile and simple Eloi, and the brutish violent Morlocks, The Time Traveler almost was trapped in this future. Accompanied by an Eloi named Weena, The Time Traveler learns what humanity will become in 802,701 A.D.. After escaping the clutches of the Morlocks, The Time Traveler jumps forward again discovering giant crab and butterfly creatures roaming the Earth, finally jumping forward one more time to see the end of the planet and then returning back to Victorian England.

What I enjoyed most about Well’s take on the future of humanity was his prediction that humans actually de-evolve in the future. With all of humanities needs taken care of natural selection was eliminated more so than even in today’s era. I’m a huge fan of exploring humanity as just another species of animal and I really enjoyed Well’s take on humanities de-evolution. Humans have split into two races, with the violent one praying on the weaker one. While this is one of the earliest takes on science fiction I still believe that the story holds up today.