Final Audit

To be honest when I did any writing for the blog, I did not approach it any differently than I would have if I were writing an essay for any class. I have a fairly analytical mindset to begin with; so reviewing these books came quite easily to me. I tended to just sit down after finishing the book, and in a stream of consciousness style, writing my thoughts in one sitting. I really tried not to put too much thought into how my reviews sounded. When I think about what a review should be, in my mind, it is simply the author’s personal thoughts and interpretations of the given work. I think this is what was intended by starting a class blog, which was simply to have a way for everyone to put down his or her initial thoughts on each weeks reading.

 

I think that parts of the blog could be useful for future readers. Obviously roughly 20 reviews of the same book does not serve much purpose, but there are definitely some interesting points and thoughts on the blog that could be of some use. I think, overall, the blog was a success and it certainly helped me get a sense of what everyone was thinking before we got to class. I truly would not have changed anything about it.

Here’s One Example of How we can Fight Climate Change

http://www.vice.com/read/the-australian-government-thinks-it-can-pay-polluters-to-fight-climate-change

I feel like many times in class we had a cyclical conversation about how there is absolutely nothing we can do to reverse the process of climate change. Here is one such example that could actually stand to do some real good. That is, granted our politicians can get their heads out of their asses. Fat chance right?

There’s a Hurricane Fever going around and you’d better get used to it

Hurricane Fever is unlike any of the other books that we read this semester. While it has some ties to a number of the other more complex cli-fi books we have read, it is largely a crime novel that focuses on storytelling. My first thought when I started reading the first chapter was that it reminded somewhat of the classic noir crime novels from the 1930’s and 1940’s that revolve around the Sam Spade or James Bond type. It had some of the same dark and gritty qualities that dominate books like Red Harvest and The Maltese Falcon. The aspect that makes these types of novels so gripping is the raw realism and frightening plausibility of the world created by the authors. There is typically nothing particularly deep or intellectual about these types of books, but the storytelling is always attention grabbing. In Hurricane Fever, we follow a retired agent from the Caribbean Intelligence Group who is trying to live a simple life on the waters of the Caribbean so he can raise his orphaned nephew. Much like other books or movies following an agent who tries to retire, the protagonist is in someway or another forced out of retirement to do one last job. In this case, Roo needs to get revenge on the hatchet men/terrorists who murdered his teenage nephew and are trying to start a second black plague. Somehow, however, amongst all the murder, torture, blood and guts the most terrifying part of this book remains the issue of climate change and increased natural disasters.

In this book, climate change was the foundation of the story that is Hurricane Fever, and the focal point is the well-formed plotline and story that follows Roo. But for the sake of this review, seeing as it is the last one I will write for this class, I find myself needing to focus on the climate aspect of the book. This may be due to my personal interests and concerns about climate change, but in my mind while reading this book, the idea of increased climate related natural disasters never left my mind. The implications of this kind of world are horrifying to me and they should be for everyone. Hurricane Fever shows us a world where the domino effect of climate change has ramped up to the point where massive hurricanes are regular occurrences. This is perhaps the most frightening part of climate change that many people do not fully understand or terrifyingly enough choose to ignore, and that is the fact that if we do not curb our increasing use of fossil fuels, natural disasters will become more prevalent and more severe. As we release more carbon into the atmosphere and the temperature of the ocean rises steadily, we will absolutely begin to see more hurricanes because they feed off of warmer water temperatures. The world that Roo lives in may not be something that only appears in fiction novels in the near future. If you look at recent disasters such as the tsunami that hit the Philippines in 2009, you can see that many nations simply do not have the resources necessary to recover from such an event. The Philippines are not a wealthy nation, so can you imagine what would happen to a country such as this if tsunamis started to hit once or twice a year? Even here in America, the wealthiest nation in the world, we are still recovering from Hurricane Katrina, a natural disaster that struck 10 years ago. It is a simple fact that we as humans do not have the capability or the money to deal with such an increase in natural disasters. As humans we truly need to grasp the gravity of the situation at hand, which is that if we do not change our behavior, we may push the world’s climate to a point where humans can no longer survive.

This concept can be overwhelming to some and hard to comprehend, and I found an article that I attached below that I think effectively describes how this pattern works. One of the most eye opening segments is the statistic on the number of hurricanes, tsunamis, draughts, and typhoons that happen during a year and how much they have increased. “According to the EM-DAT, the total natural disasters reported each year has been steadily increasing in recent decades, from 78 in 1970 to 348 in 2004.” The thing about this pattern is that it starts off increasing steadily and then begins to increase exponentially, so in another 30 years one can only imagine how prevalent they will be. I definitely appreciate that books such as Hurricane Fever bring this issue to light. When scientists describe this process, it is easy to get lost in all the numbers and facts, but when an author who has the skill of vivid and artful storytelling it makes it easier for people to wrap their minds around. And in the end this is exactly what the world needs: widespread understanding of the issues we face as a species.

 

http://www.livescience.com/414-scientists-natural-disasters-common.html

http://lareviewofbooks.org/review/shock-new-normal/

The Year of the Flood

I have to say, leading up to this week, I had never read anything by Margaret Atwood. At first, I found her writing style to be somewhat confusing as the jumpy nature of her narration was slightly difficult to grasp in the beginning, but after about 50 pages I was able to jump right into the story. Much like some of the other books we have read this semester, the author jumps around from character to character. However, unlike all the other books we have read she leans heavily on the use of flashbacks as to allow the reader to get a fuller understanding of the characters. I found her writing style to be interesting, as I personally have never encountered an author who is able to jump from perspective to perspective while shifting time periods, and then effectively weave the stories together. From a literary standpoint, it is quite impressive. While this book did not stand out to me more than The Windup Girl, it is still nearly impossible for the reader to forget the characters and the world that Atwood creates, and in many ways this is the sign of a talented author.

 

The story mainly follows two women Toby and Ren in a dystopian world where corporate greed has destroyed the environment (thanks Gordon Gecko). Greed is good? Well apparently it is not in Margaret Atwood’s world. I think one of the most powerful aspects of this book is Atwood’s take on corporations. The companies in this book that do disgusting and unspeakable things comically parallel many corporations that we have today. Much like other effective works of science fiction, Atwood is critiquing and describing the world that we live in by simply giving things different names and making it clear to the reader that the story takes place in the future. Much like The Windup Girl, the effectiveness of the book comes from giving the reader just enough detail so that they can create the world in their own mind. Our main characters are members of an environmental cult/movement that correctly predicted an incoming waterless flood. Their preparedness for this plague allows them to be among the few who survive. I found that the book dragged at certain points, but, again, similar to The Windup Girl the part that made even the boring parts interesting was just how established and believable Atwood’s world was.

 

I really did not expect to like this book, but there is something indescribable about it that seems to stay with you. She supplies the reader with a powerful message, and I think she successfully conveys the selfish manner in which humans live on this planet. I am sure that many would say that she is simply another hippie liberal that loves trees, animals, and the environment, but she does make many eye opening points that in my mind cannot be argued. I definitely connected with the book, and I would certainly recommend it to people.

The Windup Girl

In a world where energy companies rule the world, which is not hard at all to imagine, Anderson Lake works as a calorie-man in pursuit of the seedbank that has seeds for new types of foods that he hopes to profit off in a highly corrupt society. In Bacigalupi’s bleak, dystopian world where calories and energy are at the profit centers, fossil fuels are no longer used and the most successful companies produce large springs that supply the world’s energy. The corruption is a disease that has spread from business to government and all the way down. We follow a diverse cast of characters as we watch Bangkok fall into civil war and eventually drown as the levees are destroyed in a time when climate change has impacted the sea levels. This book is interesting from beginning to end as we watch the tone go from miserable to depressing to somehow unbelievably hopeful.

 

I found The Windup Girl to be the most intriguing book we have read as a class so far. Strictly going off of the story, I found it to be an incredibly captivating book that was able to effectively weave a number of stories and characters together into one overarching plot. As a person with a very short attention span and who has only recently, like within the last 5 years, fallen in love with books and reading, I am somewhat new to science fiction. For the most part, I am the kind of reader who has trouble focusing on the overall story and getting immersed in a book when the characters have names that do not exactly stay in my mind. At first I found characters’ names like Akkarat and Hock Seng to be difficult to remember. I had to make a conscious effort to either try to commit these names to memory or write them down when I first see them. However, I simply cannot critique this book based on my own limited comfort zone of what proper names should be no matter how confusing or hard to remember they might be.

 

In my limited experience with science fiction novels, I have learned that one must enter into the story with the understanding that names, places, events, etc. may not register in your mental Rolodex. The winding and weaving style of storytelling also had me a bit lost in the beginning. I read the first few chapters thinking that the book would simply follow Anderson Lake as the protagonist and that would be that. This threw me off at first, but I found by chapter 10 the confusing names and weaving plot line started to become more of a positive aspect to the book because it added a certain unfamiliar mood that I think must be established in science fiction. I believe that an aura of the unknown must be present for your imagination to fill in the gaps in the societal differences. For instance, I suppose it would be harder to get your imagination rolling on a futuristic book when as a reader you simply follow along a character with a recognizable name living in a recognizable city working for companies we have all heard of.

 

With this being said, I found whatever issues I had with the book easy to get passed. The more thought I put into the world that Bacigalupi created, the more it started to take form in my mind, and, for me, the book really took off from there. The author created a work that encompassed basically everything from politics, friendships, relationships, sexual slavery, to climate change. While it was a difficult read at first, I am definitely glad that I persisted through and finished the book. I think the true sign of an effective piece of literature is that it makes you think during and after the read. The Windup Girl does just that.

 

 

Forty Signs of Rain: Effective Boredom

             Forty Signs of Rain is a clearly well written novel about the scientific/ political landscape through which the issue of climate change must navigate. As far as my knowledge goes, this is a very realistic and scarily plausible account of what could happen in real life. As I read this book, I could not tell if it was intended to be a warning or simply a story told by a concerned author. Kim Stanley Robinson’s ability to combine plot, character development, and science is quite effective. In many instances, people who do not have much prior knowledge about climate change can be put off by overly scientific language. I cannot say that I disagree; often times scientific literature can be as interesting as reading an Ikea instruction manual. In many ways, books such as Forty Signs of Rain are exactly what the scientific community and the regular population needs. People need a solid blend of relateableness and raw facts. Robinson begins each chapter with a page or two of scientific information before continuing with the story. We get to know and like a wide array of people who have some sort of presence in the scientific/environmental field. In my opinion, this is the vessel that may potentially get people to the destination of understanding the seriousness of climate change. It can be truly difficult to describe this phenomenon because in reality we cannot know which forms it will take. It is because of this that the climate deniers can poke holes in the issue. They can say “see, even the experts don’t know what will happen.” This is exactly the kind of short sighted, simplistic mind state that is preventing us from achieving any progress. While it is true that we do not know how climate change will play out, we do know that it will affect the overall climate of Earth. In many cases people confuse the idea of climate with weather, when weather is really just a part of the overall climate. When people talk about impacting the climate, they are talking about how as humans we are directly influencing the very fragile chemical and systematic equilibrium of the Earth. The Earth in essence is its own living entity, and when you alter one aspect of it, say the chemical composition of the atmosphere, this throws out the overall balance, which can in turn affect weather, pressure patterns, overall temperatures, oceanographic flows, and many, many other aspects. In a way, the climate is like an ecosystem in that if an outside party does something to one particular species, it disrupts its entire dynamic. While impacting our climate is a rather broad and somewhat incomprehensible idea in and of itself, through books like Forty Signs of Rain we can all picture how it will affect everyone’s lives when the planet as we know it is out of balance. Forty Signs of Rain describes one such possibility, which is that eventually we will be forced to face extreme weather events, and this is an inevitable result of climate change. This is something that we are already seeing. While the book is set in the near future most likely, we are already starting to see such events.

I think that Kim Stanley Robinson wrote a very effective book. His point definitely gets across to the reader by the end. I do think, however, that it could have been about 200 pages shorter. After I finished reading the first 200 pages for class last week, my first thought was, geez, I just read 200 pages of a book and absolutely nothing happened. I truly thought if someone asked me what was the book about I could not have come up with an answer. From those first 200 pages, I think he talked about Anna’s breast milk and Charlie getting Joe to drink it more than anything else. I couldn’t for the life of me think of how this served any purpose to the overall story. Part of me wanted Kim to be a female author to reduce this level of oddness. Nonetheless, Kim turned it around in the second half. You realize that by the end, all of the boring droning done by Charlie and other characters was simply to illustrate how these things work in Washington. If one has a passion for a certain topic or issue he or she must do a bunch of horribly boring and tedious work to get any type of progress. I think that democracies such as ours are able to pass some truly evil bills and suspicious legislation because it is masked by dry, old politicians droning in what they would claim to be English but resembles more 18th century legal language on the CSPAN network. Most people could watch a politician try to pass a ban on breathing, and not even know that its happening let alone stay awake long enough to hear them say more than two sentences. I think that in the end Robinson created an interesting and realistic work. I also think that he is taking the stance that something terrible must happen first in order for people to care, but as a student studying this, I like to remain more hopeful in that we can take some real action soon.

Audit

Overall, I think that the blog has been a positive experience so far. As a person who has great interest in climate change, I am always pleased when I see that people are learning about it and having open discussions. It is the most important problem that our generation and generations to come will have to face. Presently, we stand at a very crucial point where our actions can still have a positive impact. In my opinion, any type of change must first be started with a simple conversation, which is exactly what our class and the blog are achieving. While our discussions are not on the world stage or anything close to it, it is important to take whatever knowledge we can take away from the class experience and to share it with anyone who will listen. It is in this light that we can claim that as a class and as bloggers we were successful.

 

I have not taken many writing or English courses in my time at Temple, but the ones that I have taken were quite different from this class. I have written on discussion boards for classes but never on a blog. I find this platform to be interesting as it allows for a broader conversation. Most English classes I have taken have been largely writing oriented, which makes a lot of sense. I do think that when diving into a whole new genre such as cli-fi the discussion based class makes sense as well. I think that in terms of basing a class around the cli-fi genre, a blog is a perfect way for the class to communicate. In my opinion, I am not sure that much has to be done to make the blog better. It definitely sets up our class for better discussions and it allows us to inform each other on topics that we might not have time to discuss in class. I think that as long as everyone feels comfortable commenting on peoples’ posts and reviews, as everyone should, nothing has to be changed. I hate to be that person who has no suggestions for improvement and who says that everything is fine, but in my humble opinion, as long as a discussion is happening we shouldn’t mess with success.

 

 

Nuclear Energy and Fukashima

I thought this video would be fitting after our brief discussion of Chernobyl. This shows you just some of the dangers that we risk getting ourselves into by using nuclear energy as an energy source. Nuclear energy can be extremely unstable and comes with numerous problems that we still don’t know how to solve. It can become a very serious problem as it has today in Fukashima, Japan.