Year of the Voice: First, Second, Third

Margaret Atwood’s “Year of the Flood” is a typical economic dystopian novel about a not too distance future in which the world has been divided into two distinct socioeconomic classes, and the few remaining inhabitants are recovering from a deadly manufactured bio-pandemic referenced as “The Waterless Flood.” The Waterless Flood consumed the world “not as a vast hurricane, not as a barrage of comets, not as a cloud of poisonous gasses. No: it is a plague-a plague that infects no Species but our own” (Atwood p. 424). This plague was released against the public through bioengineering (many speculate that the HIV/AIDS virus was developed with the same intent) and its delivery method was just as sinister: they “put it in the supersex pill” (Atwood p. 395), this clearly denotes the lower-income class and socially undesirables were the targets as it was first released in the Sex District. Corporate Juggernauts like “HelthWyzer” and “CorpSeCorps” have consolidated their power and influence together, while depleting the world’s natural resources. As the world careens into further despair and the people on the bottom of the economic scale begin to fight against the corporate rule, the Corporations ban together and adopt the ideology “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” That is to say, though in financial competition with one another, the rouge legions of militant groups like “God’s Gardeners,” (a theological group’s perspective threaded throughout the novel; much like Octavia Butler’s “Earthseed” from “Parable of the Sower”) are more of a burden to the corporations: enter “CorpSeCorps” and their “CorpSeMen.” CorpSeCorps is a totalitarian governmental force that “started as a private security firm for the Corporations, but then they’d taken over when local police forces collapsed for lack of funding” (Atwood p. 25), and their tactics are reminiscent of Hitler. The plot to “Year of the Flood” is richly developed yet simple and familiar in the genre of sci-fi/cli-fi writing, but what sets Atwood’s novel apart from the rest is its intricate structural design of what can be described as a pyramid triple narrative.

Most readers will only see “Year of the Flood” as a double narrative told from the perspectives of the two main protagonists, Toby/Tobiatha (her story is told from the third-person narrative) and Ren (her story is told from the first-person narrative); however, AdamOne’s voice in his sermons does not read neither first nor third person, but actually second-person narration. For instance, when AdamOne says “Dear Friends, dear Faithful Companions our Edencliff Rooftop Garden blooms now only in our memories. We are driven from one refuge to another, we are hounded and pursued” (Atwood p. 311). AdamOne’s subjective and possessive form use of personal-pronouns “we” and “our” interpretively can be read as the second-person. In second-person narrative the narrator is telling “you” (the reader) what “you” are doing, thinking, or feeling; arguably, AdamOne is doing the same by using the inclusive form of the personal-pronouns. AdamOne’s contextual use of the words are not the same as Ren’s first-person meaning, there is a difference. When readers see Ren use these words it is inclusive of herself and the other characters she is telling the readers about; on the other hand, when AdamOne uses these words it is as if he is bringing readers into the story; the reader becomes his “Dear Friend” his “dear Faithful Companion,” a brilliant literary technique implored by Atwood to bridge a deeper connection between the writing and the reader. More than bridging an emotional connection between readers and the novel, the triple narrative is the framework for the pyramid structure.

Unlike a triangle where two opposite points meet at a conjoining vector of interest, a pyramid has the same basic design, but its structure is a complex layer of building blocks leading to the point of interest, like Atwood’s “Year of the Flood.” On one end of the spectrum is Toby on the other Ren, though walking different paths Toby’s and Ren’s lives will intersect at the peak position of AdamOne and “God’s Gardeners.” The new theological belief system called “God’s Gardeners” fosters around what can accurately be described as a type of vegetarian extremism; the motto of this new religion is “God’s Gardeners for God’s Garden! Don’t Eat Death! Animals R Us…Spare your fellow Creatures! Do not eat anything with a face! Do not kill your own Soul!” (Atwood p. 39-40). This theological concept and its minister AdamOne are the meeting point of interest for Toby and Ren atop the pyramid. At the core, this structure delineates the fall of man: “the Fall of Man was multidimensional. The ancestral primates fell out of the trees; then they fell from vegetarianism into meat-eating. Then they fell from instinct into reason, and thus into technology” (Atwood p. 188). Atwood continues to build the structural integrity of the pyramid as “‘The fear of you’—that is, Man—‘and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air…into your hand are they delivered.’ Genesis 9:2. This is not God telling Man that he has a right to destroy all the Animals, as some claim. Instead it is a warning to God’s beloved Creatures: Beware of Man, and his evil heart” (Atwood p. 90-91). The preceding symbolizes Man’s hubris for advancement as the reason for the world’s destruction. As the blocks reach their peak, many species in Atwood’s world have become extinct because the environment has eroded. In their place, the Corporations have bioengineered new species culminating to the climatic discovery that the Corporations were seeking to bio-manufacture the perfect homosapiens, “Project Paradice.” Paradice Project was about “changing [human] cells so they’d never die; people would pay a lot for immortality. ‘What would you pay for the design of a perfect human being?’ The Paradice Project was designing one” (Atwood p. 305). It is the manufacturing of humans that leads to the completion of the pyramid, and the justification of “God’s Gardeners” linking Toby’s and Ren’s narrative as a whole. Ironically, the bioengineering of plants and animals (including humans) is the novel’s cognitive link to climate-change: sustainability of the world’s food supply through technological bio-advancements.

Succinctly, environmental sustainability involves protecting the natural world, with particular focus on preserving the Earth’s capability to support human life in the future. The correlational link this novel has to climate change is Sustainability: “sustenance is what sustains a person’s body. It’s food. Food! Where does food come from? All food comes from the Earth” (Atwood p. 149). With this in mind, food is the most key resource with direct sensitivities to climate-change; a timespan of too little or too much rain accumulation/precipitation, a fluctuation between hot and cold seasonal weather (when winter turns into spring, and summer turns into fall), or inclement weather patterns like severe flooding and/or hurricane storm systems, can have a significant effect on local crop yields and livestock production. According to an article published in The Guardian “the impact of recent droughts in the USA, China and Russia on global cereal production highlight a glaring potential future vulnerability” (Ranger p.1). The aforementioned quote highlights the adverse effects increasingly warm temperatures will have on the world’s food supply, which is most noteworthy given that Atwood’s novel clearly places her characters in a climate setting assuredly effected by global warming and extreme temperatures of heat. Characters are described as having to wear body coverings “in the sunlight, which is hotter by the minute” (Atwood p. 384), to protect their skin from sun damage and the harmful ultraviolet rays: “pink top-to-toes, for when the sun gets too high” (Atwood p. 365), like when “the sun’s at ten. They put on their top-to-toes and Toby smears their faces with more SolarNix, then sprays them again with SuperD” (Atwood p. 367). The heat of Atwood’s world is miserable with no escape: “it is shadier under the tress, but not cooler. It’s dank, and there’s no breeze, and the air is thick, as if it has more air stuffed into it than other air does” (Atwood p. 375). Attempting to condense the overall effects climate-change will have on the world’s food supply is complex because there are several variables that must be taken into consideration.

Some factors to consider are nutrient levels, soil moisture, water availability, changes in the weather frequency concerning rainfall and droughts are some of the challenges for farmers and ranchers. Global warming temperatures and carbon dioxide (CO2) increases are beneficial for some crops in some places, and deadly for others. Moreover, warmer water temperatures are likely to cause the habitat ranges of many fish and shellfish species to shift, which could disrupt ecosystems. Universally, climate change could make it more difficult to grow crops, raise animals, and catch fish in the same ways and same places as done in the past and present. The effects of climate change also need to be considered along with other evolving factors that affect agricultural production, such as changes in farming practices and technology. The three major food industries that will be affected are Crop production, Livestock reproduction, and Fisheries.

Crop Production:
Warmer temperatures will yield a positive effect on a great number of crops by promoting faster growth periods; conversely, these same warmer climates will reduce yields on other vegetation. It is important to note that faster growth times are not necessarily a total positive; for instance, in the case of grains “faster growth reduces the amount of time that seeds have to grow and mature. This can reduce yields (the amount of crop produced from a given amount of land)” (EPA p. 1). Most important to understand in agriculture, pertaining to any crop, is that the effect of warmer climates will depend on the crop’s “optimal temperature” for growth and seed reproduction, and if climate temperatures warm beyond a crops optimal temperature yields will decline.

Warmer temperatures will induce heat stress making animals more prone to “disease, reduce fertility, and reduce milk production” (EPA p. 2). Drought will effect pastures used for grazing and feed supplies, and “may increase the prevalence of parasites and diseases that affect livestock” (EPA p. 2). Increases in atmospheric CO2 may expedite the growth rate of planets that livestock use for consumption providing more food, sounds good, now comes the question of quantity or quality. According to the EPA “studies indicate that the quality of some of the forage found in pasturelands decreases with higher CO2. As a result, cattle would need to eat more to get the same nutritional benefits” (p. 2). Eventually, all consumable animal protein will become diseased and extinct.

Several species of marine life have temperature specific ranges for which they can thrive. Take the cod of North Atlantic, they “require water temperatures below 54°F. Even sea-bottom temperatures above 47°F can reduce their ability to reproduce and for young cod to survive. In this century, temperatures in the region will likely exceed both thresholds” (EPA p.3). Migration of schools is not as easy an option as some may realize; moving into new regions will create competition between the species over food and other resources. Some diseases that affect marine life have the potential to become more dominant in warmer tempered water. In addition to oceanic climate changes, increases in temperature have caused the acidic levels to rise due to surges in atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2). According to the EPA “acidification may also threaten the structures of sensitive ecosystems upon which some fish and shellfish rely” (EPA p. 3). Again, all consumable marine protein will become diseased and extinct.

Given these facts Atwood presents a scenario that present day scientists and biologists are working on to counter this potential food shortage, creating genetically modified plant and animal species that will be able to better endure, survive, and sustain the changing climate. From Atwood’s novel these include the “rakunk,” a cross between a raccoon and a skunk; the “mo’hair,” a sheep with human hair in colors such as silver, blue, and purple; and the “pigoon,” a pig with human brain tissue. The most alarming animal, the liobam, was created by a religious extremist group: a cross between a lion and a lamb, gentle-looking but deadly. Atwood’s fictional claim is not too farfetched as a paper published in the Journal of “Ethics, Policy and Environment” suggests successions of biomedical alterations that could be used in the physiological development of human beings to help them consume less making them more suitable to sustain in the changing food climate. Some of the biological modifications are “pharmacological meat intolerance” (Liao, Sandberg, & Roache p.5) and “making humans smaller” (Liao, et. al. p. 7). The paper suggest that individuals that have an affinity to meat flavors, and want to give it up for ecological reasons, but may lack the necessary willpower to resist on their own could take a pill that would induce mild to severe nausea upon ingestion of meat, which could lead to a lasting aversion to all meat products. Moreover, “meat intolerance is normally uncommon, in principle, it could be induced by stimulating the immune system against common bovine proteins” (Liao, et. al. p. 6); basically, someone can be programmed to distaste meat flavors. Another Frankenstein type of treatment suggested by the authors is genetically modifying humans to be smaller is stature with the logic that smaller humans consume less. There are two ways to accomplish making humans smaller: (1) using “preimplantation genetic diagnosis. It simply involve[s] rethinking the criteria for selecting which embryos to implant” (Liao, et. al. p. 8); (2) using “hormone treatment either to affect somatotropin levels or to trigger the closing of the epiphyseal plate earlier than normal (this sometimes occurs accidentally through vitamin A overdoses” (Liao, et. al. p 8). However, instead of trying to change the physiology of plants and animals, would it not make more sense just to stop overusing the Earth’s resources: “God’s commandment to ‘replenish the Earth’ did not mean we should fill it to overflowing with ourselves, thus wiping out everything else” (Atwood p. 53). The big extraction companies just need to stop, what has been pulled from the Earth is more than enough to compensate for current and future use there is no need to go down the mad science track.

Margaret Atwood’s “Year of the Flood” is a tremendously, highly, recommended controversial book that puts Earth’s over consumption problems at the feet of the major perpetrators, the 1% big business companies, while calling to action individuals to fight now and stop asking “what can I do, am only one person?” This novel evokes individuals to stand: “We must be a beacon of hope, because if you tell people there’s nothing they can do, they will do worse than nothing” (Atwood p. 248). What’s worse than nothing? Sitting idly by and watching the world decay.


Works Cited

Atwood, Margaret. The Year of the Flood. New York: Randon House, Inc, 2009. 1-431. Print.

EPA .Agriculture and Food Supply. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Mar. 2015. <>.

Liao, Matthew S., Anders Sandberg, and Rebecca Roache. “Human Engineering and Climate Change.” Ethics, Policy and the Environment (2012): 1-29. Print.

Ranger, Nicola. The Guardian. N.p., 19 Sept. 2012. Web. 11 Mar. 2015. <>.

Final Blog Audit: Cli-Fi Popular Fiction

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?
Given that this popular fiction course had a genre specific theme, “Cli-fi” (climate-fiction), and knowing there are mandatory blog posts made me read the texts more critically in relation to climate-change and the authors’ intended message, from my perspective. Whether the books/authors addressed climate-change literally like Oreskes’ and Conway’s “The Collapse of Western Civilization” and Squarzoni’s “Climate Change”; or made subtle inferences to adverse climate-change and/or weatherization like Bacigalupi’s “The Windup Girl”, or Buckell’s “Hurricane Fever”; or developed sub-textual themes of grave importance in conjunction to the effects of climate-change like in Stewart’s “Earth Abides” (conservationism), Atwood’s “The Year of the Flood” (sustainability), or Octavia Butler’s “Parable of the Sower” (commonality through religion and the hydrologic system); all these works of literature stimulate discussion. Having to post on a blog inspired me to focus on the preceding points-of-interests.

How often did you read the Reviews posted by your classmates? Did you gravitate towards reading particular writers?
I read all the blog posts and Reviews submitted by my colleagues, but only after my own review had been completed, as I did not want my opinion or experience of the text jaded by excellent interpretive insights. I gravitated more towards the negative and critical Reviews only because it is easy to simply say “I liked the book because…”; however, when you do not like nor care for a particular text you cannot simply state “I don’t like it.” The critic needs to demonstrate a legitimate reason for the distaste. For instance, I did not care for “The Windup Girl” not because it is a poorly written, structured, or executed novel; on the contrary, I did not like the book because it was written excellently, I am not a fan of the “Sci-fi/Cli-fi” genres of writing. I have an immense literary respect towards the author and the book because it is beautifully composed, but I could not truly appreciate this work of art due to my own prejudices toward “Sci-fi” and “Cli-fi.”

Did knowing that you had to post on the blog affect the way you read (and watched) stuff unrelated to the course readings?
Yes, I was careful to only read material related to the theme of climate-change with specific references or direct correlational links to the assigned works of fiction. Secondary source materials are important as they reinforce factual real-world effects that these fictional works highlight to visitors who read the blog’s informative Reviews.

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 am not a blogger and this was my first experience participating in any type of blogging activity or postings, and I must confess the experience is not as bad as I expected and feared. Since I am not a fan of the genre theme for the course, “Cli-fi”, I was apprehensive about expressing my unedited honest opinions and Reviews about the books, but my honesty was met with unbiased appreciation. This blog provided a safe place to express oneself without fear of ridicule and allowed an interaction among classmates that may have lacked in the classroom setting. Some people find it difficult to articulate themselves in person and the blog gave them a platform to be heard; if this was the promise of the blog, then yes it did live up to and exceed my expectations.

Finally, if you’d like, reflect upon the possibility that the work you’ve posted on the blog is now available for anyone to read, even now that the course is over. Do you think this blog could be a useful resource for future readers curious about the topic?
I support and feel confident about the work I have posted on the blog. My only apprehension would be the potential for negative feedback and/or comments, but I have resolved that with all good there will be bad. That is to say, for each negative comment or criticism there will be an opposite positive reaction. With this in mind, this blog will most assuredly stand as a place of quality information on the topics of climate-change, weatherization, global-warming, and the genre theme of Climate-Fiction, “Cli-fi” literary novels for future visitors. Whether an impassioned Eco-activist or disinterested skeptic, this blog will delight as the commentary of Reviews and posts are infused with intelligent academic insights, humor, and blunt-honesty.

Captain Planet 1990-1996: Blast from the Past

Captain PlanetCaptain Planet, a blast from the past pertinent to the present to preserve the future. In the 1990s environmental ecologists and activists sought to educate and reach out to a new audience to voice their concerns on the wasteful destruction of Earth’s resources by creating an eco-conscience cartoon geared toward college bound youngsters who would soon be entering and graduating from high schools. With the financial help of billionaire Ted Turner all of this came into fruition, Captain Planet was created. The plot behind the storyline is simple: a quintet of teenagers work together to encourage environmentally responsible behavior by protecting the Earth with their individual elemental powers of Fire, Water, Earth, Wind, and Heart; when their powers are combined they summon a superhero, Captain Planet, to deal with extreme ecological disasters. This blast from the past may be what is needed presently to reach out to younger audiences once again, as planetary climate-change is occurring more rapidly with tangible physical evidence of the changes that will affect future generations. Though this cartoon is no longer producing new episodes, the program does run in syndication on some networks and many episodes can be found on YouTube. This show also inspired the Captain Planet Foundation, supporting environmental education. The greatest accomplishment of this program is that it reached a younger audience and entertainingly exposed the seriousness of planetary destruction, the dangers of over consumption, and economic greed; while fostering respect for the Earth as it will abide to man because it will exist long after homosapiens are gone.

Get’em When Dey Yung

I have often asked the question: How do you get someone to be more conscientious of environmental conservationism, global-warming, and climate-change? The best answer is to entice interest and bring awareness to these social concerns during a person’s early social and mental development. It has been proven through clinical research and social experiments that early onsite exposure during an adolescent’s pre-pubescent developmental stage is the best time to peek a child’s interest and form a cognitive bond to information. This is why it is easier for a young child to learn a foreign language than an adult; the mind is open to new experiences and information retention. With this in mind, children’s author Sarah Holding has taken this concept and written books targeting her audience of adolescents and their adult guardians. In an interview Sarah states, “I can’t speak for everyone, but I write cli-fi because it reconnects young readers with their environment, helping them to value it more, especially when today, a large amount of their time is spent in the virtual world. Cli-fi advocates restoring equilibrium to our physical environment, making it not just a setting or backdrop to a story, but a story’s primary purpose and emotional appeal. The characters in my writing are genuinely concerned about the environment and want to make a difference, which I hope is contagious and spreads to my readers too.” This is the purpose of literature: to reach out to a vast array of populaces to entertain and inform.

Beginner Does NOT Equate Stupid

I am not into science and math. I am an English Literature Major: with a concentration in African-American Poetry, which denotes I have an extensive, functional vocabulary and my ability to comprehend or decode information through context clues is superb. However, when it comes to understanding jargon specific terminology and scientific-based language I get lost and often feel stupid, even though I shouldn’t. With this in mind, it is often difficult to become motivated by topics and information that are difficult to cognitively retain, even when it is a topic of interest. When someone cannot comprehend what they are reading or what is being presented they tend to lose interest. For this very reason the website, Shrink That Footprint, has attempted to simplify Climate Science for Beginners.


Paolo Bacigalupi’s “The Windup Girl” is a near-future third-person narrative that takes place in 23rd century Bangkok, Thailand, and designs an intricate dystopian civilization where the world’s human populace and food supply have been consumed by diseases and deadly viruses (“cibiscosis,” blister rust,” and “genehack weevil”) causing entire species of life to become extinct. The food supply has been infected due to massive waves of corporately manufactured and engineered agricultural crop companies working in conjunction with the Environment Ministry and Trade Ministry to eliminate competition. Food corps and the calories they produce have become the new currency of trade: calories of food and measurable output energy producible calories (such calories as generated by potatoes). At the top of the food chain is food-corporate juggernaut “AgriGen” and one of its top executives, and the main protagonist of the story, Anderson Lake. Assuming a pseudo-persona of an innovative “kink-springs” developer, Anderson Lake is actually an undercover economic hitman for AgriGen, known as a “Calorie Man.” Lake leads an aggressive initiative set by the “Des Moines” based corporation. His assignment is to covertly work as a factory manager under the pretense of a new type of mechanical spring that is going to be revealed. Lake’s true mission is to locate Thailand’s incredibly lucrative seedbank and all the exotic fruit seeds it holds like “Ngaw” and “Rambutan” because conglomerates like “PurCal” and “AgriGen” control the marketplace through genetically altered food brands that were “gene-ripped” by “gene-hacked” seeds, bioterrorism, privately-owned armies and employees like Anderson Lake. This story is inundated with a plethora of characters, each one playing an important role to the dynamics of the unfolding storyline, but Anderson Lake and the book’s title character “The Windup Girl” (Emiko) are those most noteworthy. Succinctly, Windups, also referred to as “New People,” are essentially genetically modified test-tube babies: “it apes the motions of humanity, but it is only a dangerous experiment that has been allowed to proceed too far. A windup. Stutter-stop motion and the telltale jerk of a genetically engineered beast” (Bacigalupi 301). The preceding description is particularly disturbing as it mirrors ideological comparisons made towards African/Black-Americans during the era of slavery, and slaves are exactly what New People/Windups are in this society; in some countries they are regarded and detested as genetic trash without souls to be reincarnated. Emiko has been designed and programmed to be an extraordinarily beautiful, completely submissive geisha, and she is treated like a ragged sex-doll for perverse gratification: sexual bondage and physical abuse. New People are slaves, soldiers, and toys for the rich. However, the genetic makeup of New People give them abilities beyond that of regularly birthed homosapiens, like enhanced speed, strength, and agility. As the story slowly progresses, the political interests of the varying characters collide, and it appears the Thai government will be forced to give up its precious seedbank to corporate profiteers, but not before one last failed attempt at rebellion by Lieutenant, turned Captain, promoted to General Kanya Chirathivat leading the charge of the “White Shirts”; after the death of their leader Jaidee Rojjanasukchai (“Tiger of Bangkok”). It is during this final battle that the levees and dykes that were protecting the city from being consumed under sea level collapsed.

Due to global warming “it’s difficult not to always be aware of those high walls and the pressure of the water beyond. Difficult to think of the City of Divine Beings as anything other than a disaster waiting to happen” (Bacigalupi 7). The preceding denotes a continual need to safeguard the city against the adverse effects global warming is having of oceanic levels; thereby, delineating the initial conflict of the story as the novel’s setting, Thailand (which is bordered by two bodies of water the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea). Specific references to weatherization and climate change are subtlety inferred throughout the story allowing readers to determine what actual inference to apply to climate change affects. An example of this is demonstrated in the scene where Anderson and his colleague Richard Carlyle climb onto the roof of the factory: Anderson’s “hands burn on the tiles. He straightens, shaking them. It’s like standing on a skillet … breathing shallowly in the blast furnace heat … Sweat gleams on [Carlyle’s] face and soaks his shirt. They make their way over reddish tiles as the air boils around them” (Bacigalupi187-188). This quote does not specifically mention climate-change, but it is more than reasonable to conclude global warming as the determinate for the blistering heat. It is also logical to assess that the ozone layer must have reached an all-time low as all petroleum and fossil based energy resources are now nonexistent. The energy that operates the city is not procured from fossil fuels that are at the core of today’s energy conservation debates nor the alternative renewable sources such as wind, solar, hydroelectric and biomass. Energy is derived from manual labor. Sailing ships and dirigibles transport goods, computers exist but are operated with treadle-power, like antique sewing machines, guns shoot “razor disks” not bullets, and enormous genetically-modified elephants called “megodonts” and their human trainers manually wound kink-springs that store energy to be released later; think of a battery that is powered through kinetic rather than chemical energy. The effects of climate change comes in stages, “first came the rising sea levels, the need to construct the dikes and levees. And then came the oversight of power contracts and trading in pollution credits and climate infractions” (Bacigalupi 121). Next “massive holes cut into the red earth, lined to keep out the seep of the water table that lies close below. Wet land, and yet the surface bakes in the heat. The dry season never ends. Will the monsoon even come this year? Will it save them or drown them? With the climate so much altered, even the Environment Ministry’s own modelling computers are unsure of the monsoon from year to year” (Bacigalupi 239). The two aforementioned quotes presents the greatest dilemma faced by climate scientists and meteorologists, how does one accurately predict the weather? This novel does not try to answer this question, but rather presents a precautionary scenario. That is to say, in today’s present time humans can change the course they are traveling with regard to planetary destruction of the environment, but once the damage has occurred future generations will look back at this 21st century as a utopia compared to their time’s unpredictable weather.

For individuals who are fans of sci-fi/cli-fi literature Paolo Bacigalupi’s “The Windup Girl” will most assuredly delight as it is a well-written, graphically detailed account of a plausible future ingrained with a complex plot. The author uses authentic Asiatic terminology and slang offering a genuine depiction of the Thai culture, but Bacigalupi’s also infuses his book with high-diction that clearly marks this novel as advanced reading geared toward more academic audiences, and not so much the contemporary laymen. The complicated and richly entranced storyline has multiple subtextual themes for which many groups and cultures of people will easily identify: focusing on trends in climate change data, bioengineering, political activism, religious fundamentalism, corporate espionage, sexual proclivities, physical abuse, economic disparity, civil war, racism, and classism. Individuals, like myself, who are not fans of this genre of writing will find the story long, drawn out, and lost for the first 130 pages (which could be omitted) as the novel has an extremely slow build to the dramatic end of the levees breaking and the water pumps going still with no animal nor human to turn them. The epilogue, which truly ends the book, gives the impression that this is the first in a series of works like Octavia Butler’s “Parable of the Sower.” With this in mind, given the promise made to Emiko of being able to become fertile and reproduce this may be the beginning of a real world adaptation of the film I-Robot, but instead of robots, there will be a civil-war between birth-human beings and the test-tube generation.

Forty Signs of Boredom

Kim Stanley Robinson’s third-person narrative “Forty Signs of Rain” is the living embodiment of a literary precautionary tale that follows the lives of the novel’s main characters, and the divesting effects of a storm which happens in the end. In this sense, the precautionary tale morphs into a “call-to-action” commentary to Congress and all levels of Government to enforce legislation and pass mandatory climate effective Precautionary Principle Laws. It is important to note, Precautionary Principle is a regulatory outline for policy-making that anticipates how homosapiens’ interferences with the planet will effect existing and future life, atmospheric layers, land/soil variances, rain/snow fall, and sea levels: in an attempt to construct positive, proactive solutions to offset any negative results. Succinctly, this is why FEMA exists, because it is extremely complicated to create and implement an effectively agreeable precautionary outline; many factors must be considered and specialists consulted.

There are five key elements to consider in designing Precautionary Principle Laws: (1) Anticipatory Action: this is the dominating justification point as it mandates that all individuals within the communal area (Governments, businesses, community groups, and the general public) have an implied shared responsibility to take preventative measures to thwart any harm to the community; (2) Right to Know: the community has an inherent right to full disclosure of accurate information on potential health and environmental impacts associated with the selection of products, services, operations, and plans designed to offset negative occurrences. The burden to supply this information falls on the governing agencies, not with the general public; (3) Alternatives Assessment: this obligates the agencies, FEMA for instance, to evaluate multiple alternative rebuild and resource distribution proposals with the least negative impact on human health and the environment, including the alternative of doing nothing; (4) Full Cost Accounting: this is the financial feasibility to enact an outlined response to a disaster; there is an obligation to consider all the reasonably estimative expenditures, including raw materials, manufacturing, transportation, cleanup, eventual disposal, and health risks costs, even if such costs are not reflected in the initial price; as well as, the short and long-term benefits and time thresholds; (5) Participatory Decision Process: decisions applying the Precautionary Principle must be transparent, and constructed with the best available science and all other relevant information. With this in mind, the construct of “Forty Signs of Rain” is just as complicated as preparing this type of doctrine.

Whereas the vast majority of literature has one main protagonist, the complication of “Forty Signs of Rain” lays in the fact that the novel has several essential characters that create its storyline, and assists in the progressive flow and development of the tracing climate-change theme. Given that this book is the first in a trilogy, it is not uncommon for the plot to be inundated with descriptive details to build the story’s foundation for readers. However its formation of facts, imaginative prose, and multiple characters’ developments are what makes the novel difficult to focus on with any cognitive concentrated efforts of interest, for which there was none. There are various plots and characters’ developments that become convoluted and difficult to keep track. However, from the onset of the first page of the novel it is clear that this story is about climate-change. Robinson’s book is devoted to the negative effects climate-change is having on environments globally, this is why the setting is Washington DC in the National Science Foundation (NSF). The author cleverly focuses the narrative around climate-change in the United States by inserting the need of a small, economically depressed island nation, Khembalung, and how climate-change has caused ocean levels to rise putting its citizens in grave danger. By developing the storyline of helping a less fortunate nation before their climate-change problems become those of the United States, Robinson brings to light the responsibility that congress has to take the issue of climate-change more seriously; thus, emphasizing the need to create and mandate a more effect financial budget that will allow the United States, and all world nations, to act more responsibly with regard to the issues of negative climate-change by enacting an effective Precautionary Principle Plan.

Due to the elaborate, overly developed, compound, background themes and individual characters’ descriptive formations, this is not a book one should consider as an introduction to the genre of cli-fi; only fans of sci-fi and cli-fi would consider this book worth reading. This review contains the same amount of enthusiasm as did the experience of reading this novel, which is lackluster and uninspiringly poor. Comparatively, “Forty Signs of Rain” is a poor, incompetently executed, horrendous rendition of multi-sequenced characterized dramas such as the movies Crash or 11:14, both movies were interesting and enjoyable to watch unlike reading this book.

Blogging Audit

What’s going well?
If the purpose of this blog is to bring informative awareness about environmental issues plaguing the planet, potential dangers that future generations may face due to atmospheric interferences and deterioration, weatherization, global warming, climate change, and to promote the recently popularized genre of climate-change-fiction known as “Cli-fi”: then the blog is a success. The blog is comprised of intelligently constructed book reviews and news postings focusing visitors’ attention on the seriousness of climate change and its effects on future civilizations. Moreover, this blog demonstrates the power of social media as a promotional tool, as many people were unaware of climate-change-fiction. The blog also validates the power the Arts have in bringing consciousness to social ills.

What do you wish was different?
I am not a blogger nor am I a fan of blogging, and this is the first experience I have had with this type of writing. Blogs are great social media resources for obtaining a concentrated amount of information on a particular topic. However, blogs are intrusive and opens doorways for people to read one’s thoughts, opinions, ideals, and not everyone wants this information available to the world. With this in mind, I personally would want to eliminate the mandated blog posts because not everyone wants their writings/thoughts publicized for the world; I would rather submit assignments privately to the professor.

How could we make the blog better?
More visual graphics. Right now the blog reads like an endless amount of wordiness. Visitors may lose interest when there is not enough visual stimuli. Internet surfers read with more than just their minds; they let their eyes scan the screen for an image that provokes thought and holds their attention to entice them to read the literary commentary of the blog.

How does posting on a blog compare to writing you’ve done for other classes?
The writings I have posted for the blog (the short and expert reviews) have been centered on the functionality of academia; meaning, my writings are presented on a level equal to other academic courses that require written submissions of work. For me there is no difference between the two because I put the same amount of effort and thought into both writing styles. But I do not like having my work publicized for the world to see that is why I am thankful that outsiders cannot post comments on the blog, I am NOT a fan of unsolicited opinions, commentary, or criticism.

Climate Change: Will the World Relive Its Past of Slavery?

It is ABHORRENT to think or imagine that the cursed, malevolent, disgusting, plague of slavery could every reinvent itself in modern societies, but given the information provided by a report (Climate Change 2014) from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change; this unimaginable reality may manifest from conjectured fiction to a lived nightmare come true for billions of people. As demonstrated by Octavia Butler the IPCC report, succinctly, justifies her prediction of the world regressing into a state of potential unilateral economic enslavement: “’Climate change is projected to progressively increase inter-annual variability of crop yields in many regions. These projected impacts will occur in the context of rapidly rising crop demand.’ Translation: We’ll have smaller harvests in the future, less food, and 3 billion more mouths to feed.”

Will Climate Change force the economic underclass into a subjugating, knee-bent, new Jim Crow way of life?

Water the Key to Life

Octavia E. Butler’s “Parable of the Sower” is an exquisitely written first-person narrative that follows a young woman’s journey as she navigates life through a “very grim near-future who has assembled a new belief system, a new religion” (Butler 3), and adopted a new family/clan. The preceding delineates how Lauren Olamina, the story’s main protagonist, demonstrates a need and will to survive by means of structuring normality in a clasped world of destruction. The author does not offer an explanation as to what caused the demise of American civilization, a useful technique for those who are not fans of fantastical futuristic prose (the author notes: “my rule for writing the novel was that I couldn’t write about anything that couldn’t actually happen” (Butler 3)). Readers will be captivated by the realistic struggle of the characters to rebuild some semblance of normalcy. The most normal of all basic human instincts is belief, and by creating her own belief system fostered around the concept that “change is ongoing. Everything changes in some way…Every living thing, every bit of matter, all the energy in the universe changes in some way” (Butler 218). The aforementioned denotes how the character Lauren transcends her theory of inevitable change as the starting point of her “Earthseed” theology. To Lauren, and by extension the author, “God is Change, and in the end, God prevails. But God exists to be shaped” (Butler 76). With the preceding statement in mind, in this story Lauren shapes her intellect of the Bible and its teachings to justifiably interpret what she describes as her own “idea” of God, “Earthseed.” It would be false to call “Earthseed” a religion (it is a concept) though it is referenced as one in the story; presumably, there were no other accurate adjectives/nouns that could be used that would require little explanation, but for the sake of argument this religion is not actually a religion. Butler explains “some other religions and philosophies do contain ideas that would fit into Earthseed, but none of them are Earthseed. They go off in their own directions” (Butler 261). The end of the quote is most important, the fact that other religions and philosophies direct (whether subtly or blatantly) their followers/believers into specific basic tenets as mandates to be good Buddhists, Muslims, or Christians, etc. is exactly why “Earthseed” is not a religion because it allows its followers to shape/change their interpretative belief system around God themselves. Intertwined throughout this world-building narrative of inevitable change is a most interesting subcategory of climate change.

Beginning in the year 2024 (only 9-years from the present day future) there is a prevailing negative effect induced by climate change and global-warming that is referenced throughout the entire book, a depleted hydrological system. This inevitably causes a life-threatening critical shortage of fresh water “often referred to as an intensification and acceleration of the hydrologic cycle” (Alavian et al. 20). Hydrologic cycles are abstract models that describe the storage and movement of water among the biosphere, atmosphere, lithosphere, and the hydrosphere. Hydrologic climate change results in increased variability causing short bursts of sporadic intense rainfall and extended warmer and dryer timespans. The adverse effects on the world’s hydrologic system is the underlined threaded theme of climate change that allows “Parable of the Sower” to interpretively be classified as cli-fi. There are two types of hydrologic systems: glacier/snowmelt and precipitation that will be effected by global-warming and climate change.

According to Alavian et al. in snow-driven hydrology, changes in the pattern of precipitation and the associated acceleration of snow and glacier melt from rising temperatures are projected to significantly affect runoff and available water for human consumption, agriculture, and energy generation. Changes in the timing of runoff can cause increased flooding, failure of storage infrastructure, landslides, and loss of surface soil. In systems fed by snowmelt it is generally the amount and timing of the runoff that matters. Hydrologic variability, while always present, is more predictable and so less significant.

In contrast, Alavian et al. notes in rainfall-driven hydrology, flood and drought cycles are much less predictable and their severity has a significant impact on available water quantity, quality, sanitation, agricultural production, energy, and environmental sustainability. Climate change will exacerbate the uncertainty and severity of hydrologic variability. Climate causes structures to “crumble into the ocean, undercut or deeply saturated by salt water. Sea level keeps rising with the warming climate and there is the occasional earthquake” (Butler 118). Regardless of the hydrologic regime, the impact of hydrologic variability and climate change on coastal regions, such as California the setting of this story, is expected to be significant through sea level increases on the sea-side and increased flooding from the land-side.

The tracing theme of negative hydrologic climate change is what makes this novel cli-fi, but literal references to weather and climate change only occur intermittently throughout the novel; Butler portrays “a world in which global-warming is doing things like creating a lot of erratic weather and severe storms and drought” (4) all over the United States. These erratic weather conditions are the results of global-warming: “tornadoes smashing hell out of Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee, and two or three other states. Three hundred people dead so far. And there’s a blizzard freezing the northern midwest, killing even more people” (Butler 54). The abovementioned murderous storm systems leave death and disease in their wake as they overflow and contaminate fresh water reserves, inflating the cost and need for water to be greater than that of oil or any other resource. The following quotes reference the importance of water as people in the novel “went home to put out all the barrels, buckets, tubs, and pots they could find to catch the free water” (Butler 48); “there are too many poor people—illiterate, jobless, homeless, without decent sanitation or clean water. They have plenty of water down there, but a lot of it is polluted” (Butler 53). This is to say, there is water for human consumption, but the quality of the water is deadly. Moreover, drought is a variable impediment: “wind and maybe a few drops of rain, or maybe just a little cool weather. That’s all there has been for six years” (Butler 47). This demonstrates that global-warming has increased the amount of precipitation evaporation in the air creating years of gapped intervals of rain, and making the atmospheric layers too warm to generate an adequate amount of rainfall and eliminating snow in its entirety. But what caused this climate change?

Octavia Butler does not give a punitive answer to this question; instead, she intelligently presents both sides of the argument: one side arguing God and nature as inevitable climate change factors through natural planetary evolution, and the other side arguing humans’ interferences for the change in climate and global-warming. In a conversation between Joanne and Lauren, Lauren asserts “people have changed the climate of the world. Now they’re waiting for the old days to come back” (Butler 57). In this regard Lauren could be interpretively deemed as the eco-friendly activist. One the other hand, Joanne and many others argue that people cannot change “the climate in spite of what scientists say. [They] says only God could change the world in such an important way” (Butler 57). These two oppositions allows “Parable of the Sower” to be enjoyed by both eco-activists and individuals who choose to disregard, or misinterpret, scientific facts.

Octavia Butler’s “Parable of the Sower” is a highly recommended book due to its eloquent writing and powerful storyline that is inundated with subtextual themes of slavery, economic disparity, gruesome violence, and sexual overtures. In terms of being placed in the category of cli-fi genera, Butler superbly focuses a tracing theme of hydro disparity throughout, a theme not elaborated by many other authors. However, intellectually, it seems the prevailing thesis of this novel’s motivation is “in spite of [someone’s] loss and pain, you aren’t alone. You still have people who care about you and want you to be all right. You still have family” (Butler 303). As demonstrated in the novel Lauren and the members of her traveling clan adopted one another as a means to survive and rebuild, despite the struggles that adverse hydrologic climate change has on the food and water supply.

Works Cited

Alavian, Vahid, Halla M. Qaddumi, Eric Dickson, Sylvia M. Diez, Alexander V. Danielnko, Rafik F. Hirji, Gabrielle Puz, Carolina Pizarro, Michael Jacobsen, and Brian Blankespoor. “Water and Climate Change: Understanding the Risks and Making Climate-Smart Investment Decisions.” The World Bank: Public Disclouser Authorized. N.p.: The World Bank, 2009. N. pag. Print.

Butler, Octavia E. “Parable of the Sower.” New York: Grand Central Publishing, 1993.

Butler, Octavia E. “”Devil Girl from Mars”: Why I Write Science Fiction.” mit communications forum. 2009. Web. 10 Feb. 2015.