Friday, September 24, 2010

Aussiecon 4 - The Climate Change Panels (Part 1)

Hi all,

I attended four panels on climate change at Aussiecon. Kim Stanley Robinson appeared on three of them. He appeared to be a committed environmentalist who hopes that humanity, and Americans in particular, will change their behaviour to solve the problems of climate change.

I personally don't have that much faith in our solving of climate change, due to a misleading media run by greedy billionaires who could care less about the world when they are dead.

I think we will only start to act when it is too late. A lot of people forget, or don't know, that greenhouse gases we are pumping out today, will stay in the atmosphere for centuries, so when climate change is at its worst, it will stay that way for centuries. That is unless science comes up with an answer. A lot of people hope science will come up with an answer. One of the panels questioned this hope, another provided this hope.

Destroying the Future to Save the Planet: The Environmental Politics of SF/F.

The panelists included: Kim Stanley Robinson, John Clute (science fiction reviewer and critic), Jonathon Cowie (environmental scientist), Glenda Lake (fantasy novelist), and Tom Moylan
(Glucksman Professor of Contemporary Writing and Director of the Ralahine Center for Utopian Studies, University of Limerick) as moderator.

Kim Stanley Robinson stressed our need to live more environmentally friendly lives.

John Clute's idea that science fiction might mislead us into to thinking that science can come up with a answer to climate change dominated this session. He blamed this on
Robert A Heinlein, who as an engineer lived to solve problems, so his stories and novels usually had science solving a problem.

Jonathon Cowie, said that 26% of
UK physics graduates decided to do physics because of science fiction. If they read Heinlein then they would probably believe science offers a solution to climate change.

The panellists believed we are approaching a tipping point -
Cowie mentioned UK chief scientist John Beddington's perfect storm of food, water and energy shortages in 2030.

So perhaps after 2030, a world in turmoil will no longer be able to afford to fight climate change.
Climate Change and Utopia

A solo Kim Stanley Robinson presented his ideas on climate change and science fiction utopias.

He disagreed with the concept of sustainable development, which he thought was humanity saying: let’s just continue to live like we have, but get away with it.

He has a garden and solar panels.

He wishes they had a preferential voting system in the
US so environmental parties would get a look in at the elections.

He mentioned that one-third of humanity's food comes from the oceans, but greenhouse gases are raising its PH level which might kill the bottom of the food chain.

He thinks we are in a Wylie E. Coyote moment of having just run off the edge of the cliff, with a legs still pumping as we see the drop (climate change) below.

He believes it is still possible to get to a carbon neutral state, but it would take some severe action. Nuclear power has to be used as a bridging technology. Genetic engineering might also be part of the solution, for example, rice that can survive two month floods instead of the previous two week floods. He's against notions of purity, i.e., that the solution has to be pure and contain no nuclear power, no genetic engineering.

On science fiction, he mentioned how science fiction writers now concentrate on dystopias, whereas decades ago they were trying to image the perfect society. He reckons it is much easier to write dystopias then think up utopias

He feels that there might be topic saturation about global warming in the news, so many readers might not want to read about it in science fiction (this had alarm bells ringing in my head).
Overall the panellists in these two panels doubted that science fiction would provide an answer to global warming.

I have still yet to read all of Gregory Benford's additional notes on his talk, so I have decided to split the climate change panels into two posts. Hopefully I will have the second post up early next week.


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