how sci-fi can help us in ecology

November 25, 2007

I’ve been a sci-fi fan all my life, since I can remember. I don’t know why, neither of my parents has ever been very fond of the genre, my brother two years younger haven’t made much of it (I have indoctrinated my little brother, 7 years younger than me, with this however). I never had friends that fond of the genre until getting to university. But we always had an interest in technology, and at age 7/8 I started looking at the stars, I was reading the parts in encyclopedias on the planets since I could read. My parents had an important influence in getting me interested in these things, told me all about the Apollo program ever since I could listen, but never knew that rather than becoming a scientist, I would end up reading stories about astronauts.

I remember looking for every sci-fi book I could find in the junior section of the library. And when moving to the adult section at age 15/16, I discovered a whole new world of sci-fi. A big part of this world was Arthur C Clark, he eventually led me to Stephen Baxter while at university. But the best I’ve ever read remains the Mars Trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson.

I’ve been blessed with awesome friends, both while in high school, and also at university. This has been people who challenged by thoughts, with whom I could dream up rockets, planes, programs, robots. Discuss whatever was going on. At university conversations turned to politics, economics, and especially poverty. But at some point in the past year or two, I can’t remember when or how it happened. We started discussing ecology and global warming. This was some time before an inconvenient truth, and before everyone around us was discussing it.

The last few months more and more people are discussing this, we’ve seen the coming to light of two popular documentaries (here and here) which are shaking the world, and a number of books. But still many of us have the feeling that nothing is going to change, since it’s still a selected intellectual group of people taking part in the conversation.

However, I belief sci-fi can help us with this. Already in the past sci-fi writers have touched on the topic of ecological disaster in the future, the Mars Trilogy was one, and also global warming (although not on global warming, see the recent Sunstorm by Clark and Baxter for how the human race react when the temperature of the earth rise at a tremendous rate).

The point at which I think these writers can help us, is by capturing the imagination of the public. Documentaries will never be able to do that. But stories and movies, they are able to capture imagination. By addressing questions like the following:
– How will ecological friendly living look like in the future, and thus, what can it look like today?
– What will happen if a worst case scenario happens?
– What will happen if we do nothing?
– What will communities look like in a post-warm, over-crowded earth, not only technologically, but also sociologically?

This and other questions can be addressed in stories in a way which will probably find a much wider appeal, especially if put into film, and help to grab the imagination of all the people of the earth. But still, even if doing this, the question of poor communities remain


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