Le Fin

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 certainly meant that I had to read the books with a thought of what I would be saying in mind. It made me a more careful conscientious reader, because I was mindful of the materials that I was reading. By that I mean that I had to look for the elements of the stories that were important to the class. I was more aware of the climate change elements, and in particular in making sure that they exist in the novel. This was particularly important to me because reading is something I really enjoy, and it was an interesting challenge to read for things in a story rather than just enjoy it.

 

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 would say that I did not really enjoy writing reviews as much as it may have somewhat appeared. I enjoyed the process of discussing the books, and that there was certainly less pressure to write formally and academically, two things I greatly despise. I did enjoy the possibility of a wider audience, as I would hope to publish a book one day, but as of yet, I have been unsuccessful. So hopefully my experience with this blog could help me towards this goal.

 

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

 

I did not read them very often. I did enjoy reading them when I did, but I didn’t do it very often. I enjoy the input of my classmates; this is an interesting take, because I don’t usually have access to what my classmates are saying. Knowing how they feel about their classes and the books we are reading is a newly fascinating experience for me. And no, there were no particular writers to whom I gravitated.

 

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

 

Yes, definitely. I found myself more aware of things to do with climate in movies and shows that were not class material. There is a lot more out there than you would think. IT is interesting how different your perceptions of the world are when you’re looking for particular things versus when you’re not looking.

 

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 definitely changed over the semester in quite a few ways. Firstly, I hated the idea of a blog to begin with because despite being of the Internet era, I am not very Internet savvy. So, I did not like the idea of a blog. But, I do like it now. I have learned it, I have become comfortable with it, and it makes sense to me now. I do know how to write traditional papers, and I do really like them, but now I do not quite know if I would ever want to write a normal paper again. I like blogging, and review writing, it makes me feel like a critic, who I was already, but now I can be a professional one.

Hurricane Fever in Review

I really enjoyed this book. Hurricane Fever is actually a fast paced, well written book. It is full of obvious twists and turns, but it costs a different kind of cli-fi than anything else we’ve read so far. This book did not feature cli-fi as the most prominent aspect of the book, and that made it rather excellent. The writing is not as great as perhaps Kim Stanley Robinson’s writing, but it is very well written for its purpose, it is very interesting. I really like the way that the book is actually a spy novel, not a climate awareness book. This makes it significantly more bearable to read. I think this book is a great ending to a long class full of books that were not always the best. This book definitely tied into the rest of the themes of the class by obviously being about the climate, but also just by being interesting and engaging. This is one of the things that this class really focuses on, how engaging is cli-fi literature? The literature needs to be relatable enough that anyone can read it, but that it makes sense as a work of credibility.

The part about this book that I didn’t like was its predictability. There was nothing about this book that I couldn’t see coming, and I actually found it to be ridiculous at some times. I wish the book had been written by a better writer, then perhaps it would have had more hope as a novel. It is disappointing, and impressive at the same time. I wish that it had been more interesting, but it is what it is.

The Year of Religious Immersion

The Year of the Flood is certainly the most immersive book we’ve read so far. I found no issue diving directly into the book and really getting a feel for the deeper ideas and plots immersed within. This book has two really huge themes that I think are worth discussing. The first is religion, and its ability to effect people, and then obviously vegetarianism, and how that will help us to ensure a sustainable future. This will lead into the bigger discussion of how this book relates to the class as a whole, because it very clearly does.

I think that the overarching ship of religion that this story sailed on was fascinating. I thoroughly enjoyed the idea of religion being used to convey the major themes and ideas of the book. The religious group in this story is referred to as the “Gardeners”, they are a sect of people who live a very modest life. They are vegetarian because of their belief system, and they also grow almost everything they consume. Their entire policy is about reducing their environmental impact and only using what they need at all times. They get almost all for eh materials they use in their day to day lives from the world around them, and teach this kind of conservationist lifestyle to their children. This lifestyle may seem great and wonderful, but it can certainly have its shortfalls. The main one that I can find is that this society has completely eliminated meat. This is a major issue nutritionally for any society that wishes to not only survive but also to prosper. A vegetarian diet can be incredibly nutritious, but there are certain vitamins and minerals that one simply cannot get from fruits and vegetables alone. There are visible signs of the malnutrition of the Gardeners in their descriptions. The only one who is ever described as anything other than thin is Zeb, and that is because he eats meat on the side. I would imagine that him introducing meat into his diet is what has allowed him to be so strong in the first place. I only know so much about the negative impacts of not eating meat at all because of some research I did after considering a vegetarian society.

The gardeners also believe in the complete reuse of everything. This is an interesting concept to me because it seems incredibly practical, especially in a post apocalyptic wasteland, like the one described after the “waterless flood”. There is definitely some utility in the ability to utilize products for different purposes, and there is certainly no harm in repurposing something to make it into something else. The Gardeners take it to a new extreme when they are simply reusing everything. They sleep on husks from dead plants, now that is a little extreme. Their entire society fascinates me simply because it is so different from the one that I am accustomed to living in. There are just so many fundamental differences between the world today and the cult that the Gardener’s live in. Which, I do believe them to be a cult. I had not thought of them that way until Lucerne started to tell people she had been abducted, and while that story was not truthful, there are many aspects of the Gardener way of life that are very cultish. I’m sure that in a time of incredible environmental change doomsday cults would pop up everywhere, and I’m sure there would be plenty of able bodied men and women waiting to join.

The final aspect of this book that needs to be discussed is how it relates to the class as a whole. This book is definitely about a changing environment. Which does relate to the climate element of our class, thankfully so because these books tend not to. There is also an interesting “end of the world scenario” element to this book, which allows us to test what we believe about our own faith and morals. Would you be able to carry a belief system with you even past the proverbial ‘end of days’. I think this book asks in a lot of ways what faith is, what belief is, and makes fun of those people who are overly prepared for climate change, the few who are doing all the work, and those who are woefully unprepared, the many who have not even changed their lightbulbs yet.

 

Works Cited

“Why You Should Think Twice About Vegetarian and Vegan Diets.” Chris Kresser. N.p., 20 Feb. 2014. Web. 14 Apr. 2015.

Frankly I’m Confused and Unamused

The Windup Girl is an interesting book, but a confusing one at that. I’m still not entirely sure what this book is about, and that might be because I only semi-read it. The book bored me honestly. I’m not really sure that I love the premise of the book, and it was too far out for me. I understand the over arching themes of the environment and climate, as that is what has caused this world to come into effect in the first place, but the book was too much for me. I did not ever get into it, not even after the first 100 pages, and I’m not overly upset about that.

The most interesting theme in the book for me was the whole idea of genocide. I find it fascinating that the author thought that there would be genocide in a world where there was already so much suffering and death due to climate change. I would hope that as a species we would be able to avoid killing each other more than the environment already did. There is no reason that I can understand for people to continue killing each other. It makes sense to me that there would be this interesting dynamic of people vying for power and destroying other people’s lives.

I think that the book is interesting in that it details a world that i’ve never even conceived of before, but otherwise it failed to capture my interest.

Forty Signs of Climate Change

I really liked this book a lot. I found the book to be incredibly engaging, especially since the characters were relatable and real. I liked that reading it was not a chore, and I actually finished it rather quickly. The parts I liked most about the book were indeed the characters, and not necessarily the actually plot. I found the plot to be rather humdrum in some places, in particular any time we got an “inside look” at NSF, something I never want again. I think that Kim Stanley Robinson does a really good job of setting up a Washington D.C. that is very familiar to us, but at the same time slightly different. He never gives us a date or a time for this story, so there is nothing to say that it isn’t tomorrow. The “near-future” genre of sci-fi that he chooses to work with is interesting to me, this genre allows the reader to feel a part of the story more so than someone reading a book about a time that they may never live through. It is very possibly, practical in fact that we will see climate related weather changes in our life times. That is what makes this book so gripping. There is an interesting interplay amongst the politics and science of the book, and that is interesting to read for someone who knows very little about both.

The book does not however, make science more fun, enjoyable, or entertaining. I found a lot of the scientists in the book to be big headed, and very annoying, for lack of a better word. They all seem to suffer from a complex of “what I’m doing is more important than what you’re doing, and everyone needs to listen to me”, they honestly would be better off not speaking sometimes. The science of the book is interesting, but only to an extent, and when I say interesting I know that makes it sound like it wasn’t boring, as they are opposites, but the science was interesting in the way that a documentary about the production of cheese is interesting, mildly at best. The science-stricken parts did not however turn me off entirely to the book because I liked seeing how different characters reacted to the same stimuli, or facts.

A rather interesting part for me was the wide variety of characters in this book. We have, to name a few, shaman from the island nation of Khembalung, senators, world-renowned scientists, power-couple Anna and Charlie, and Frank the asshole. These characters show a wide variety of opinions and views about the matters discussed in the book, and I’m rather curious as to why Robinson did not make a bigger deal out of the shaman. I found them to be fascinating, perhaps because this is a trilogy, but the information that Charlie uncovers about them towards the end of the book when trapped in his office is one of the most interesting parts of the story, and its forty pages before the end of the book. I would actually consider reading Fifty Degrees Below merely to find out whether or not Joe is a reincarnated shaman with magic powers, because that is certainly the impression I got from the ending of the book. The other characters are all contrasting kinds of scientific expression; we have Frank, the stubborn rationalist who is slightly misogynistic. We also have Anna, who is a wonderful scientist who also cares deeply about the issues at hand and the science behind them, and then we have Charlie, who is more of an extremist or radical, caring almost too much about the issue to actually affect change. These different types of personalities had to be purposeful because they are very well constructed to contrast each other and show the different perspective of the story from.

I think that this book connects most to class when we consider that there is nothing being done about climate change until it is actually at the president’s doorstep. This is what we have been saying in class all along. There will be nothing done until the president has to swim over to air force one to evacuate, and that is the sad truth. This book brings home a lot of the points we’ve discussed and captures the real issues of climate change very well.

Audit

I think the blog aspect of this class is rather interesting. I have never been in an English Class quite like it, so it has taken some time to get used to. I am also not a blogger, so the whole entire process is brand new to me, but I cannot say that I haven’t enjoyed it. I do like the idea that we have an open forum for discussing the books, and that everyone gets a fair chance to express their views, especially because we always seem to run out of time in class. I think this is an excellent experiment, but with that being said, I would find myself rather unhappy if this were the way that all English classes were to be run from here on out. I have enjoyed this experience, but I don’t know that I would enter into it again. I also find writing reviews to be much harder than critical analyses, despite the fact that they are essentially the same. Putting the “review” spin on a book makes it harder for me to focus on the key issues that I would like to discuss, I am also not really accustomed to this writing style so it has taken some time for me to get adjusted to it.

As far as participation goes, I would love to be a more active participant in the blog, but just fully understanding how it works has taken me the whole first half of the semester. And now that I really do understand it better, I would be curious to see how much more active I can be. Also, I try to post stories from the popular media, but quite frankly I find them to be few and far between. I am not entirely sure that this is something which we haven’t discussed, but I do not find it easy to find even one story a week worth posting. I do not think it is impossible, but I would rather not clog up the blog with loads of nonsense.

I think that if I could do anything differently, and this is something I am frequently asked to think about being an education major, I think that I would perhaps offer a variety of assignments, rather than relying so heavily on the blog. It leaves students who are not comfortable with this form of work constantly worrying about their next post and whether or not it will be acceptable. I would like to maybe have some in class work that counts, because while having open discussion is one of my favorite forums for learning, I would like to actually do something that could perhaps help boost my grade if I am lacking in other areas (aka blog participation).

Finally, I do think that this blog is a good idea, and I hope that it does accomplish its purpose of spreading the word about climate change, but I think that at the end of the day, I would rather be without it.

Sowing a Terrifying Future from the Seeds of Our Failures

The Parable of the Sower is a wonderfully constructed vision of the world following a climate related collapse of western society. I mean wonderful in the sense that this world that Octavia Butler has brought to life inspired in me a genuine sense of wonder. Sci-fi books are supposed to create in the reader a sense of disbelief, a longing for the future and what could come with it, and this book did exactly that, while at the same time attacking and conquering huge themes like religion and racism. Racism in particular is a theme that I would like to spend quite a bit of time addressing, but religion is also something that I will touch on in some detail. There are a variety of other details and issues that could be addressed, but these are the two that stuck out to me like a sore thumb, and also the two that I was most interested in writing about. This book was excellent, compelling, and definitely worth more than one read.

The story that Octavia Butler tells is a compelling story of survival and community. The opening of the book starts en medias res, exactly as a good futuristic novel can. I personally feel that telling too much of a back-story can destroy the reader’s ability to concoct one itself, it also takes away from the author’s ability to create suspense and mystery in the novel itself. Butler does a very good job of giving us a gripping story without boring us with the details of the failing of the society that once existed. It is very easy to take on the mindset of a young girl while reading, and that makes digesting all of the new and sometimes confusing information much more easily. The novel then goes on to talk about the sense of community that is felt in the walled “neighborhood” that Lauren, the main character and narrator, lives in. This neighborhood seems to be a well-oiled machine, despite the immediately apparent racial tensions to be found inside of the community. There is a division among the white members of the community and the other racial groups. This makes a lot of sense considering the racial tensions that exist even in the world today, but it was interesting to see that Butler does not envision a post-racial world for our future.

One of the bigger themes of this book is “new slavery”; I put this in quotes only because I believe it to be a coined term and not merely an expression that I have made up. “New slavery” was introduced around the same time, as prisons became an industry rather than a place of reform. Butler speaks of this issue in a speech she gave which is the secondary reading for this week, “Every now and then you hear– and I’m not talking about ante-bellum slavery but modern-day slavery–every now and then you hear about some group of homeless people or illegal aliens or other people who have been held in slavery and I sort of combined slavery and throw-away workers and prison problems because in Parable of the Sower there is slavery and it is entirely legal because it isn’t called “slavery.” This quote speaks to her inclusion of the “new slavery” in her novel. This kind of slavery is found encapsulated in the city of Olivar, the fictional city being built where “skilled” workers are needed. The characters in the novel fear that this city is merely an excuse to capture people and indenture them to the larger corporate structure. This is a frightening reality because it is not unrealistic. There are certainly places in this dystopian America where slaves are found. They are people who do not have money and then work for company credit, but they never make quite enough money to afford their living expenses, so they become indebted to the company they work for, and end up owing the company massive amounts of money, and passing that on to their children when they die, creating a system of debt slavery that persists indefinitely.

Butler definitely set out to make this a main feature in her book, but what is interesting is that the people of color in the novel feel that the city of Olivar would only want white workers. This is interesting because for as taught as the racial tensions are in the future, there does not seem to be hope for anyone who did not already have money when the country collapsed. Some people are simply “slightly better off”.

The effects of this “new slavery” can be found in the people that the characters meet later on in the story; some of the people who they run into like Emery and Tori. They are both escaped slaves who are now dealing with the consequences of living a slave’s existence. They are also both hyper-empathetic, just like our narrator. This means that not only can they see someone in pain and relate, but also they actually feel it, and it is considered to be debilitating. Our narrator does not like to share with people that she has this condition, but she notices that the newer members of the group share her condition and immediately bonds with them over it. This hyper-empathy is a big reason why Lauren makes such an interesting character, because it shows how painful killing is for her, and how everything she does has a reason, and also is in part why she founds her religion, Earthseed.

Religion is an interesting topic in any book, especially so in this one, as our character has spread the seeds for her own religion to take root, Earthseed. Earthseed is a new religion that has some elements of a bunch of already existing belief systems worked into it. The basic idea of Earthseed is that “the destiny of mankind is to take root amongst the stars,” this is interesting because it is both a spiritual philosophy, and a very real belief of the narrator. Lauren believes that the discontinuation of the space program is foolish, and that they should abandon the Earth and that they should try again somewhere else.

Earthseed fascinates me, and I think I know where it stems from. Lauren lives in a firmly Baptist community, but does not have the faith of her father. Earthseed is a comfort to Lauren, and it is that simple. It is a basic philosophy that has sprung out of her discomfort with the world around her. She is living in a virtual hell, and has had to come up with some way to make her own truth. The truth she chooses to believe rather than a truth that is told to her. This is exactly where all religion stems from. People as a whole would not believe in something and it was not comforting to them. This is why I think the theme of religion is so interesting a Cli-fi book. With or without realizing it, Octavia Butler has created a wonderful comparison between a religion founded by an 18 year old, and hundreds of thousands of scientists’ conclusive evidence that climate change is very, very real. In the secondary reading Butler quotes a cartoon, the interesting part was this, “Make up your own truth and stick to it, no matter how little sense it makes. And sooner or later, you’ll have converts. Trust me.” This rings the truth to me about the world in general. People are so much more likely to believe in and idealize something that comforts them, rather than something that tells them they need to change. This is the whole fundamental issue we have had with the class. Our big question, “what can we do?” is answered by this simple quote. We need to make up a truth that people want to believe in, we cannot keep throwing the discomforting truth in their faces or they will continue to believe their own truths, namely “there is nothing that I can do.” Octavia Butler draws a comparison between a people who are still in disbelief about how broken their world is, and their deep belief that things will return to what they once were. This is a constant theme throughout the beginning of the book. Instead, a new religion is formed, which has the potential to have hundreds of followers, all because it is comforting and simple. This struck me as genius, and I may be reading a little too deeply, but I gleamed from Butler’s speech that this may have been on purpose. I liked that in particular about this book.

The Parable of the Sower has struck me in a way that a lot of books have not. I do not however think that this book will make waves in the ocean of denial surrounding climate change. I don’t think that the book deals closely enough with what we, as a species, have done to destroy the planet, and therefore keeps us from feeling particularly guilty. This book is rather a story about survival, friendship, and faith. I liked it immensely and would even consider adding it to my course syllabus when I am finally a teacher rather than a student.

 

Butler, Octavia E. Parable of the Sower. New York: Grand Central, 2000. Print.

“”Devil Girl From Mars”: Why I Write Science Fiction.” “Devil Girl From Mars”: Why I Write Science Fiction. MIT Communications Forum, n.d. Web. 24 Feb. 2015.

Cli-fi on Twitter

So I was on Twitter today and noticed a map about ocean level rise. I am not sure about the validity of the claims being made or about the legitimacy of this twitter page as it is not verified, but thats not why I felt the need to share this link. I was overwhelmed by the number of people who commented about how ludicrous climate change is and that it is not happening. This is public opinion at its finest other than perhaps Facebook. I’d love to hear thoughts!

 

https://twitter.com/NASAGISS/status/567750754094833665

 

Western Civilization is falling down, falling down, and no one seems to care.

The Collapse of Western Civilization offered an interesting perspective as far as Cli-fi is concerned. The most alarming part of this book for me was that it is not in any way very far off from a future that is quickly approaching. The overall tone of the book is a scientific retelling of events that led to a major change in the way people live, which is very well done; but it also has some elements missing that would necessarily earn it the title of “gripping”. The first major issue I had with this short book is the lack of plot. It certainly reads like a textbook, but the most interesting textbook you could ever read because all the information contained within is new and unheard of in our times. I think the authors did a really good job of looking at the past in a purely scientific way, but they certainly let us know that they thought it was foolish that we, as a species, were not better prepared for what happened. There is clear evidence as far as the science of the time is concerned pointing out that not only is climate change a problem, but it is in fact anthropogenic. I think it is interesting to get the impression of their minds boggling at our inaction, because that is how I feel when I think about our modern day responses to climate change.

One of the most interesting elements of the book for me was the way in which the authors decided to group the nations that banded together as the “Penumbral Age” descended upon us. These are not necessarily the groupings I would have pictured for alliance and it made the book all the more interesting for me. It was not necessarily an important facet of the book, but it provided me with something to really fascinate me and think about, so I did enjoy that.

I found the whole section about market failure to be quite confusing. I personally have a very poor grasp on economics and how they work, so I had a hard time understanding, but I think that it was certainly well explained as I was able to gleam some useful information from it.

I also thoroughly enjoyed the narrative bit about the professor in Japan creating the solution and then releasing it illegally, it sounded quite like the plot to another great Cli-fi book that is yet to be written.

I think that overall it is a well written book, and the interviews with the authors certainly help to shed some light on where the ideas for the book come from, and definitely gave the book a more personal look.