Author: Alina

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?

In terms of reading, the blog definitely helped me to focus on analyzing the books for their views on climate change rather than just reading them for enjoyment. I felt as though many of the books that we read were page-turners, and I enjoyed reading them, but the blog assignment definitely helped to keep me focused on the issues that needed to be discussed.

 

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?

This format did not really affect my writing style. While I suppose it should have made my writing more informal and accessible, I still felt more comfortable writing in a style that I would use in a term paper. The possibility of a wider audience caused me to stick more to this, as I wanted my writing to be as good as possible.

 

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

I did not often read the reviews posted by other students, but I did read almost all of the other posts on the blog. I enjoyed looking into and commenting on the articles that my peers brought to the class’s attention. While I’m sure many of the blog posts were interesting, the other content seemed more unique, and usually very easy to comment on.

 

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?

I thought that the blog would be fun to write, and it was. I enjoyed reading and posting the non-review content a lot more than I thought I would. At the beginning of the class, I was slightly afraid of posting on the blog for everyone to see, but this fear dissipated over the course of the semester.

 

Year of the Flood: Climate change hidden inside a compelling story

For a sequel, The Year of the Flood stands on its own surprisingly well. Full of interesting characters, engaging plots, and of course climate issues, it was a great read. The story centers around two members of a vegetarian cult known as God’s Gardeners, Ren and Toby. Both women survive a deadly virus engineered to replace humans with a new race of immortal people.

The book is, at its core, a cli-fi book, though it wisely focuses more on its engaging plot and great characters. The message still gets across. The God’s Gardeners, who bring life into the world and sustain it, are the heroes. The corporations, who produce artificial things and fight to keep profits coming at the expense of other people, are the villains. This is clearly an echo of our society today, as companies manipulate legislation in order to keep destroying our planet.

I thought this book had some great things to say about faith and family, as well. The dedication of the Gardeners to each other, especially at the end as they come together to support each other even after being separated for so long, helped us to see their feelings of connection to each other. Even those that didn’t believe in Adam One’s teachings found solace in them in the end. I thought it put a great message across about how humans use both religion and family as support in times of great tragedy. 

This book made me really wish I had read Oryx and Crake first. I felt as though there were important bits of plot that I missed out on due to skipping the book. I wished I knew more about Glenn and Jimmy, and their motivations to do the things they did. While I appreciated the glimpse we got of them through the memories of Ren, I felt as if there was more I needed to know about them, particularly Glenn and his thoughts leading up to his decision to wipe out humankind. I also feel as though pairing this book with Oryx and Crake might help to highlight the class issues that are so prevalent in climate change fiction. The perspectives of the rich and the poor juxtaposed could really show the differences in suffering and privilege. We got a little of that difference in this book, as we got to see the results of Glenn’s playing god from the eyes of the people it hurt the most.

Overall, I thought the book was great. It had great themes, great characters, and a great story to tell. It gripped me all the way through. While I wish I’d had some more knowledge of its predecessor going in, that is not the fault of the book. Even without Oryx and Crake, the book stands on its own fairly well.

The Windup Girl: New kind of world, same old problems

The Windup Girl is a wonderfully imagined, impeccably detailed dystopia in which food is monopolized by companies for profit, to the detriment of the people and the Earth. Earth has lost its petroleum, so the people get their energy from massive springs wound by people in factories. Anderson Lake owns one of these factories in Thailand, but also secretly works for a “calorie company,” companies that genetically engineer food, corrupting its DNA. He is in search of illegal seedbanks containing new foods untouched by the corruption of the companies, and hopes to profit from them. He falls for Emiko, a “New Person,” or a person that has been genetically engineered for a specific purpose (hers is prostitution). The corruption of the calorie companies spreads throughout Thailand, the world, and in particular the government and the law enforcement. As Anderson fights for the seedbank, corruption is exposed, power struggles occur, and in the end, Bangkok is flooded.

A similarity I’ve noticed between many cli-fi novels is the focus on class and inequalities as a major theme, but in wildly different ways.  In Flight Behavior, the under-educated people of Dellarobia’s town are less able to impact climate change than their wealthier counterparts. In Parable of the Sower, Lauren’s family is able to wall off their home from the terrifying outside world due to their wealth. In this novel, the rich control the food supply, so they control everything. The poor starve, while the rich eat all they want and profit from the hunger of those of lesser status. In fact, in this society, girth becomes a symbol for wealth, as only those with a good bit of money can afford to be fat. When Hock Seng meets The Dung Lord, he immediately notices his size and identifies him as a wealthy man. Also, when tragedy strikes, it seems as though only the poor suffer, while the wealthy can ignore the problems. Hock Seng, Emiko, and Kanya all have to deal with the violence occurring during the revolts, but Akkarat, Anderson, and Carlyle all continue to worry about profit.

While I enjoyed the world that this novel creates so vividly, I despised many of the characters, particularly Anderson Lake. The universe that is set up is completely different from our own, yet still feels very plausible. The intricate system of corruption that arises from the food supply tragedy is extremely interesting, and also very believable. However, the characters that inhabit this world are mean and amoral to the point of being unpleasant to read about. While Anderson does have some redeeming qualities, such as his affection for Emiko, his overall character, as well as those of the other rich and powerful characters, is despicable. It was particularly hard to read those scenes in which the rich characters go back to discussing money and profits while the poor are fighting for their lives and suffering just outside their bubble of privilege.

Overall, I enjoyed the ideas that this novel explored, as well as its world building, but its characters were too amoral for me to connect to the text. It is well worth the read for the universe created in it, however. I imagined the novel as a kind of alternate ending to Interstellar, where the characters are not successful in moving away from Earth, and the food supply crashes as it threatens to do in the film. For the good aspects of the book, I would highly recommend it.

Forty Signs of Rain: Boring, or Chillingly Realistic?

Kim Stanley Robinson’s Forty Signs of Rain shows the struggle of politicians and scientists in combating climate change in a world that does not want to believe in it. Attempts to do so are opposed every step of the way by politics and climate deniers. The book also explores the themes of family and the struggle between emotion and reason. The book as a whole depicts a society that is painfully ignorant of oncoming tragedy, commenting on our own similar attitudes toward climate change. It contains a good bit of scientific jargon, but instead of taking away from the story, it adds to the chilling realism.

The novel is slow moving throughout, but depicts a realistic struggle for change. It centers on Anna Quibler, a scientist with the NSF, and her stay-at-home husband and climate lobbyist Charlie. Anna struggles with her logical mindset, and wishes all problems were as quantitative as science. She befriends a group of Khembalis, whose island home is in danger of flooding due to global warming, and attempts to help them get a grant to aid them in their struggle. Her husband, Charlie, struggles with his role as a stay-at-home dad to their young son Joe, while simultaneously attempting to introduce a climate bill into a Congress that does not want to believe in climate change. Frank Vanderwal, an associate of Anna’s, also struggles with connecting logic and emotion, but eventually realizes that scientists must combine the two to inspire the changes necessary to combat climate change. In the end, no one is successful until it is too late.

The novel first and foremost deals with the issue of climate denial. While the family struggles are interesting, the main goal of the novel is painting a picture of a society in which important change is stuck in a gridlock of bureaucracy. This is particularly evident in Charlie’s struggle to get his climate bill introduced to Congress. His meeting with the President (who is clearly meant to represent former president Bush) shows the willingness of even highly intelligent people to ignore important signs in order to remain in power. His climate bill is later watered down and made ineffective by useless compromises. Frank’s realization that the NSF, an organization formerly focused merely on facts and reason, must venture into the realm of activism is a comment on how silent the majority of the scientific community has been in relation to climate change. Robinson issues this call to arms for scientists in order to use their expertise in the fight against climate deniers.

While slow at times, and without much action, Forty Signs of Rain contains an important portrayal of our government and its failings. It shows both what we can do to combat climate change, and what will happen if we continue to do nothing. While slow moving and sometimes difficult to understand due to scientific jargon, it presents a realistic picture of how our government slows down positive change.

Audit

I feel as though I’ve gotten a lot out of blogging so far. At this point, I have posted three short reviews and both of my expert reviews. I’ve left several comments and posted a few news articles that I have found relating to the books we have read and the subject of climate change in general. I’ve learned a lot about climate change just from researching potential articles to post on the blog. I feel that some good discussions have been generated in the comments of many posts. I like that the writing on the blog is somewhat informal; I feel as though it allows me more space to share my thoughts and opinions. Other class blogs that I have participated in did not allow this, and few discussions were generated. It’s also exciting that so many people that are not involved in our class are reading our blog and talking about it. I wish that perhaps more feedback for our reviews could be posted by our peers. I see a lot of people commenting on articles, but very few on our long assignments. Since I know that many of us are very opinionated about the books we have been reading, I feel as though this could generate more discussion and help us all to think more deeply about the topics we have been reading about. I also wish that the public could comment on our posts, such as the other cli-fi class at Oregon. Their thoughts, especially since their reading material is different than ours, could offer some good insight.

Flight Behavior: Too much drama, not enough climate

Flight Behavior is a novel that takes its time, perhaps too much so. It has a lot going on under its surface story about migrating butterflies. It touches on themes of personal growth, relationships, media, social class, and climate change denial. While the novel smartly takes its time in developing each relationship in the story, I feel the focus on the interpersonal relationships in Dellarobia’s life is to the detriment of the overall climate message that Kingsolver hoped to convey.

The novel, while technically “about” the migration of monarch butterflies, which migrate to Tennessee instead of Mexico due to climate change, centers on Dellarobia’s relationships with her family and friends. Specifically, the book focuses on the state of her marriage. Over the course of the novel, Dellarobia finds herself drawn away from her husband, Cub, through a discovery of her own intelligence and potential, as well as her growing attraction to other men such as her telephone guy and Ovid Byron, the climate scientist. Her relationships with these people, as well as those with the rest of her family and friends, help humanize the character and the novel itself. However, the novel takes its time doing so, and one can argue that it takes too much time. At times, the books drags on with scenes of pointless conversations and pages filled with unnecessary descriptions of nature.

The novel also presents an interesting class conflict, which I felt distracted from the climate change message initially, but ended up enhancing it through its portrayal of climate denial. I found the descriptions of class to be the strongest parts of the book. The comparisons drawn between the lives of Dellarobia and her neighbors, and the visiting climate scientists and tourists, are quite stunning. My favorite scene in the book took place when one of the climate scientists attempted to lecture Dellarobia about her carbon emissions and made the mistake of asking her to fly less and to bring Tupperware to restaurants for take out. Poor Dellarobia had never flown, and hadn’t eaten at a restaurant for two years. The climate scientists are also shocked at her lack of a college education and her sparse knowledge of mathematics. The class struggle works both ways, however. Dellarobia briefly describes Cub’s fascination with a TV show that is not named, but can only be The Big Bang Theory. He laughs at what he perceives to be rich nerds failing completely at social interaction. Dellarobia takes note of their expensive looking possessions and thinks he ought not to judge. These differences highlight the class divisions present in the novel and uncover instances of privilege, which is an extremely interesting topic. Here, however, the differences are used to display ignorance to the problem of climate change. The less educated and the religious seem to both be lower class, and also more frequent deniers of climate change. While these people are not the real problems, as their lifestyles do not significantly increase carbon emissions, they are also the people that vote those that deny climate change into office. Bear talks about his staunch support of cutting taxes for the 1%, which, as we know, perpetuates the big businesses that contribute to emissions. Also, the religious such as Hester see the butterflies as simply beautiful, and refuse to believe that anything sinister is going on. Hester believes that God sent them, and condemns Dellarobia’s protests that the butterflies are an indication of a deeper problem.

The novel has something very interesting to say about media and climate change that I believe is very relevant to our society’s current situation. In the novel, the poorly educated townpeople of Dellarobia’s Tennessee home are hesitant to accept that climate change is the cause of the migration, and the presence of the butterflies is not a gift. In addition, media outlets twist the story to focus on Dellarobia’s human-interest story, rather than the importance of the butterflies’ migration habits. When Ovid is interviewed and asked a question about climate changed, the interviewer leads him to answer as she wants, and when he is honest, she declares that she cannot air the footage. Luckily, Dovey catches it all on her phone, and the video goes viral.

This portrayal of the media is unfortunately accurate. A whole industry exists behind the denial of climate change, sowing doubt into the minds of the people so that the common man will not bother with the issue and companies will be left alone to poison the earth. One example is a pamphlet passed out by an electric company, claiming that global warming was caused by the sun and not carbon dioxide. “Despite every major science academy in the world disagreeing with them, the pamphlet claimed the role of carbon dioxide was minor.” (A) Florida, a state in which rising waters could have a devastating effect, has banned officials of its Department of Environmental Protection from using the phrase “climate change.” (B) These developments are deeply troubling and show the extent to which companies will go to prevent the loss of profits, to the detriment of the rest of the planet.

Fortunately, there is a thriving activist movement working against climate change. While change on a large scale is the only thing that will save the earth, there are many groups working to change public opinion into one of consensus that climate change is happening. The novel portrays this group in the form of the protesters who picket the logging of the area where the butterflies reside, and the knitters who send Dellarobia knitwear for the butterflies. While these methods might not do much in the short term, they are indicative of a public interest in the subject, which can only help. Dovey’s video of Ovid’s interview goes viral, which exposes the censorship of the media and displays his true scientific explanations of the situation. The Internet is a huge asset to the activist movement. Websites such as 350.org (C), also mentioned in the novel, help to organize people and to change minds.

Overall, I thought that this novel displayed some good themes about climate change and class that were provocative and had the potential to start interesting discussions. However, I felt as though the book was bogged down by excessive focus on interpersonal relationships and descriptions of nature. I enjoyed the book fine as it was, but I feel as though many people whose minds are not already made up about climate change would not find this book very appealing to read.

Sources:

  1. http://www.theguardian.com/environment/planet-oz/2015/mar/05/doubt-over-climate-science-is-a-product-with-an-industry-behind-it
  2. http://www.miamiherald.com/news/state/florida/article12983720.html
  3. http://350.org/

Hindsight is 20/20

The Collapse of Western Civilization by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway lets us peek into the future of our world after it has been ravaged by climate change. Written as if it is a historical report written in the 22nd century, it details the science of the destruction of the Earth as well as the human hubris that allowed it to happen. First, it describes the rising temperatures and their effects on the world. It describes rising sea levels, mass deaths, failing attempts to counteract the changes, and eventually even a second plague. It also describes the denial and economic policies that caused the problem to escalate. Governments are controlled by the upper classes, specifically people who benefit from the use of the fossil fuels that cause CO2 emissions. In the end, a Japanese scientist working on her own releases a CO2-eating fungus into the air that finally helps. However, the populations of Australia and Africa have been wiped out, and the populations of the rest of the world have been greatly reduced.

The format of the book is particularly fascinating. Its way of describing future events as a historical novel highlights what needs to be done now to prevent climate change and the destruction of our Earth. Through this future historical account, we are able to see what will likely happen due to climate change, as the book is based on scientific projections and facts that have been well researched by the authors. The book also points out the governmental and economic constructions that need to change in order to make a real difference in climate change. The book is aimed not at the layperson, but at the climate change fiction enthusiast and the scholar, but it has an important message about the way we deny climate change as a society. It is a real wake up call, especially in response to the current feeling of our politicians towards climate change. The science behind the projections denoted in the book, as well as the format of the novel, may help open people’s eyes to the very real changes that are happening to our Earth. It is a brilliant way of getting across information about where we are headed in an interesting and easily digestible way.

Possible change of heart for the GOP?

http://www.pri.org/stories/2015-02-15/change-climate-and-energy-strategy-key-gop-s-road-white-house

 

This is an interesting article about how the GOP’s stance on climate change is changing in the wake of the Great Recession. It talks about how, in particular, the current low price of oil is causing GOP politicians to consider a tax on oil, which will fund government programs and decrease the amount of oil used. This could have a significant effect on our emissions. This change is drastic, considering the GOP’s denialist viewpoints in the past. Perhaps this change will alter the potential future set out for us in The Collapse of Western Civilization.

The Insignificance of Mankind

In George R. Stewart’s Earth Abides, civilization is destroyed as disease caused by our dying planet wipes out most of humanity. The world and its inhabitants adapt to the changing situation, returning to a more primitive way of living. As the world rebuilds itself, the only thing for certain is that it cares nothing for the humans that live there. Humankind, particularly civilization, means nothing in the course of our planet’s history. It will continue on without us.

The novel follows Isherwood Williams, called Ish, as he tries to survive in a post-apocalyptic America. As he discovers his friends and family are dead, he struggles to adapt to his new situation. He adopts a dog, Princess, and eventually marries a woman named Em. He and Em have many children together, including Joey, an intelligent boy who Ish believes to be the best hope for the future. As Ish imagines rebuilding civilization with Joey at his side, his children and the other children in his “Tribe” move on, learning to deal with new circumstances. When Joey is killed by another wave of disease, Ish loses hope, and his brand of intelligence is all but wiped out. Humanity reverts to a primitive state, and Ish becomes, “The Last American.”

The novel deals with the main theme of our insignificance as human beings. Even when we destroy the planet, it fights back against us and carries on. The idea of being punished for our wrongs against the Earth is not only touched upon with the overarching theme of the diseases that systematically wipe out humans, but specifically with the death of Charlie. Charlie admits when drunk that he has several STDs, so the Tribe kills him. Soon after, a disease kills five of their children, including Joey, Ish’s favorite. The Earth “punishes” those that poison it, and in the long run, they revert to their original state. Earth Abides is a gripping, gritty novel that imagines a future that is much like our past. I highly recommend it to all sci-fi fans, particularly those interested in climate change’s effects on our world.

Climate Changed: An Impossible Solution to an Impossible Problem

Climate Changed: A Personal Journey Through The Science is an absolutely terrifying book that absolutely everyone should have to read. Presented in a graphic novel format, it uses a combination of images and written facts to convey the truly awful situation in which we have found ourselves in regards to our climate.

The book is told through the frame story of the author discovering facts about climate change that he then passes on to the reader. His struggle in finding a reasonable way to individually impact climate change is at the heart of the novel. As he discovers more, he uses images of esteemed climate scientists, particularly members of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). These experts relay facts to us directly, emphasizing their level of scholarship and the seriousness of the information they present. They focused quite a lot on the exorbitantly high carbon levels we emit as a planet every year, and how this could seriously affect our planet. In fact, there is no way to change warming in the next twenty years. Only drastic changes now can make a real effect and stop us from rising the temperature over 3.9 degrees over what we have now. This threshold of 3.9 degrees is the turning point past which our planet will be thrown into turmoil. In order to reduce worldwide emissions to a level at which this threshold will not be crossed, we would all have to live at a standard of living equal to that of a malnourished person. This, combined with the problems of governmental processes that prevent important legislation from being passed, ensures that the situation is near hopeless. Government officials are too focused on being well liked, and people are too used to a high standard of living, to consider real change that could benefit the earth.

Throughout the novel, the author struggles with the question of what he can do to stop climate change. At the beginning, he sneers at those who drive SUVs and other large, energy consuming cars, while he takes energy consuming trips around the world. As he uncovers the facts, he slowly reconsiders. When he learns that a transatlantic flight can emit over 1,100 kg of carbon, he forgoes a free trip to Laos. He gives up worldwide trips to comic conventions at which he could have shared his work. However, the dilemma central to the novel is that one person cannot possibly impact climate change in any significant way. The tragedy of these missed opportunities is that, while they were good intentioned, they mean nothing if no one else will step up and help reduce their emissions as well. This is hard, due to the way our culture has evolved. The rich take what they can only because they can, and the lower classes are pushed to emulate the rich. Therefore, at any opportunity, we are driven toward extravagance, which leads to incredibly high carbon emissions. As Squarzoni says, “Quite justifiably, people say, ‘I’m not reducing my consumption, skipping my vacation to the Antilles, if I keep seeing the man at the top heading off to his friends’ yachts on their helicopters’” (432). This disregard extends so far that people actively deny the science in order to justify their extravagant lifestyles. An article from the independent says, “Only half of Americans believe climate change is mostly man-made, whereas a whopping 87 per cent of scientists say it is” (A). This disparity clearly displays the depth of our indifference to this problem. This is especially true for politicians, who pander to voters with these beliefs. An article from the Huffington Post says, “But, last week, the U.S. Senate decided to vote on whether climate change was real and, if so, whether that was due, in part, to human activity. (Spoiler alert: turns out that, according to the scientists in the Senate, climate change is real — but barely — and humans do not contribute to that change)” (B). In addition to this, Congress introduced bills limiting the EPAs power to control air pollution. This step backward seems unfathomable considering the science.

Squarzoni’s novel answers the question of why we do little to solve climate change—the problem seems far off. Even though climate change is making the glaciers of Greenland melt, causing the land to rise, and this is documentable today (C), it is hard to see this change in our everyday lives. One cold day in winter hits, and people immediately think, “If global warming is real, how is it so cold today?” No one wants to investigate the science or care about a problem that does not seem to affect daily life.

Another factor in this indifference is the terrifying concept of giving up wealth to solve the problem. It seems unfathomable that we should have to give up our standard of living for the greater good. However, Christopher Hayes of The Nation reminds us that we’ve done it before. In regards to the Civil War, he says of the Confederates, “The abolitionists told them that the property they owned must be forfeited, that all the wealth stored in the limbs and wombs of their property would be taken from them. Zeroed out” (D). At the end of the war, we as a nation forced people to give up what they believed was their personal property in the name of freedom. They did it, however begrudgingly, and we are so much better for it. While it would be extremely difficult, it would be possible to reduce our emissions by giving up some material possessions as a planet. However, today’s consumer culture almost ensures that no one will seriously consider this idea.

The lack of interest in ending climate change is incredibly dangerous. Between the ignorance towards accepted science, blatant denial, and just complete lack of sense of importance ascribed to this issue, serious climate change seems inevitable. Squarzoni’s book conveys this hopelessness, but also a sense of urgency. He communicates a hope that more attention will be brought to the issue. Even though politicians don’t care, if enough individuals do, change can happen. Hopefully the accessible but educational format of Squarzoni’s book will help disseminate this important information and inspire change, however small it may be.

 

Sources:

(A) http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/americans-vs-scientists-data-shows-disagreement-on-climate-change-and-gm-food-10016606.html

(B) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jonathan-silver/the-dc-disconnect_b_6572204.html

(C) http://time.com/3691920/climate-change-iceland/

(D) http://www.thenation.com/article/179461/new-abolitionism?page=full#

Where are we going?

In H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine, a time travelling scientist travels to a seemingly idyllic future. As he discovers more about this new world, he comes across the terrifying truth of how humanity has evolved over the years.

The story begins as the Time Traveler recounts his story to his dinner companions. He travels to a future in which everything seems perfect. The people do not work, and have evolved so that they are frail and pretty. The Time Traveler remarks that, while these people seem perfectly comfortable and have advanced beyond the necessity for labor, he is upset that the convenience that progress has lent humanity has left them dumb and lazy. Soon, he realizes that these childlike creatures, called “Eloi,” are not the only beings that populate the earth. They are the descendants of the leisurely wealthy of humanity. The poor have been driven underground and have evolved to become terrifying creatures called Morlocks, who eat the Eloi. The Time Traveler must battle these creatures in order to return home.

I quite enjoyed the questions this novel raised about the nature of progress, and the commentary it made on social class. The social class situation in the novel, represented by the tension between the Eloi and the Morlocks, is parallel to the social class situation occurring around the time the novel was written. In both cases, the rich lead leisurely, lazy lives while the poor work. In the novel, the Morlocks have power over the Eloi, which is an important commentary for Wells to make on his own time. The novel also makes an interesting suggestion about progress, claiming that no matter what we do, the future will collapse. Too much leisure leads to the Eloi, while too much work leads to the Morlocks. Progress in either direction will end in ruin, while stagnation is also deplorable. Wells suggests that we must live in the moment, as if our inevitable future will not come to pass.

Overall, this novel raised interesting suggestions about the ethics of class structure, and the nature of progress. It was an enjoyable read that gives the reader a window into the far future, and how we might live our lives that far forward.