and finally ...
Intro Kim Stanley Robinson
one of most eminent sf writers: Mars trilogy; Science and Capital trilogy; Galileo's Dreams. Changes his genres all the time.
Kim Stanley Robinson
Quick history of geoengineering and terraforming as words. Begin with science fiction. not unusual. Many modern sciences being as notions in fiction. Sf since Shelley has represented the thought as fact. Among the best entertainment that we have and also one of our best tools for understanding the future. ppl who don't read sf are often spectacularly behind the curve on what ppl have been thinking about the future. immense vertical reach from sublime to ridiculous.
Begins with Verne, Invasion of the Sea. Explains the premise. Basic dichotomy in sf: Verne and Wells. Verne is technical guy, Wells is a utopian writer, better society. Many "goods" of 20th cent. were accomplished by people steeped in Wells' ideas. His ideas came out of Bellamy, the Fabians, the utopian tradition, not original. Trying to put Vernian technological innovations into the social moment.
Jack Williamson 1938 invented word "terraforming." 50 year career. Just a notion until Sagan and Viking results from Mars. Detailed discussions of terraforming came when we got a great candidate for it in Mars. They had Mars, Venus, adn Earth for comparative planetology.
Terraforming: taking a dead planet and making it livable for human beings. Joke that they're terraforming Earth is bitter. The hubris of geoengineering is that it's being overemphasized by analogies to a bomb, etc. This has gone wrong in the past. It's being suggested in a way of creating homeostasis. James Hansen diagram of CO2 levels. Scary image. Where the impetus for geoengineering comes from. Also 2002 Greenland ice core. Quick climate change, warm wet climate to cold dry climate in 3 years. "Abrupt Climate Change." Tipping points. Human industrial processes could be inserted at a point to be tipping point.
Go to Sept 2009 paper from Royal Society, graph of proposed methods of CO2 reduction and solar radiation managment, you can download for free brings you right up to speed.
Couple of odd features as complications: Global dimming. Aerosols (black carbon) in atmosphere causing 4% less sunlight. Can't fully be explained. As air gets cleaner, global dimming is less. Things we can do to create goods that cut across other things. Unintentional? Cross cuts of effects.
Ocean acidification. Solar management doesn't reduce CO2. A lot of it ends up in oceans. Acidification has been measured, we've done something significant to it. Creatures at bottom of food chain have carbonate shells, could go extinct. That layer could be filled by other creatures that can handle the carbon. But this needs to be studied. We get a third of our food from oceans. If bottom of food pyramid disappears, we're screwed. If this happens, there will be hoarding, which will cause our food supply chain to collapse. You can't deacidify oceans. Chalk cliffs of England couldn't do it, not enough. Royal society has said that there's no geoengineering method that will fix this. We HAVE to do carbon emissions reduction.
Problems with geoengineering:
- Moral hazard: if we know we have a solution, we won't reduce. Well actually, that's not the usual response. If they're really thinking about doing this, then we're really in trouble.
- Hubris: humans shouldn't be trying to do something to Mother Earth. It's okay for us to trash Earth but we can't fix it. Intellectual incoherence in this argument. Comes from Frankenstein and Dr. Faustus. The laws of untintended consequences (not actually a law. A fancy way of saying "shit happens.") Murphy's law in action. like a lot of common sense, only good at certain scales.
- Elitism: don't want elites making decisions. Fear of arrogant elites wrecking commons. Fear of government. Reign of Thatcher moment, gov't as problem and not solution. Bitching about government is a way of stabbing ourselves in the back. Keynesian economy, forces are seen as in opposition. Zero-sum game. Two forms of human organization that resemble each other. Biz is residual feudalism, Gov't is remnant of power system. Geoengineering falls into a political battle attacked for what it represents not what it does. Gov and Biz as Manichean opposites.
Royal Society definition of geo engineering: A deliberate large-scale intervention in the Earth's climate system to address global warming.
Anything we do affects climate. Population is a climate control issue. Population stabilization is a powerful geoengineering method. Then you've pulled the string on the fabric of culture. China's one-child policy is a geo-engineering method. Thailand and Indonesia massively expanded rights of women. Justice is geoengineering. Stretching the definition? Need to look at methods that are immediately applicable. Pull a more humanist approach into geoengineering, about improving people's lives.
Landscape: methods of land use less carbon intensive. Green revolution food productivity. Decarbonize agriculture and increase health of topsoil. Return of wetlands. Assisted migration: moving plants into a new zone before they go extinct. Discrepancy between rich and poor is bad for environment. Rich consume too much, poor are cutting down forests. Richest and poorest are having the hardest impact on environment. Reducing this discrepancy is geoengineering.
Economics is geoengineering. Our economics are not properly calibrated to long term survival on the planet. two ways to talk about it:
False pricing. We have never charged ourselves properly. Everything costs a lot less than it should because we have shifted off costs to future generations. Charge less for something than it costs to make it = predatory dumping. Who are we predating on? Generations of the future. Can't defend themselves. Imagine them as little babies underfeet, imagine us beating them, that's what we're doing. Imagine each generation as equal to us in economic value. We've systemically undervalued future generations. Geoengineering: properly pricing things. Post-capitalism.
A portion of this population will call that a tax. Immediately thrown back into framework of our economy. Political opposition, intense avoidance of economical environmentalism. Pro-carbon party. Will always be controversy. Biz won't like it b/c it's not profitable. Paradigm buster. We claim to have an economy that can put a price on everything. There are religious fundamentalists who won't like it: thinking about Earth as a planet in a secular, scientific world view. Global changes will never be visible to individual senses. With the exception of ice. (My note: that's not true. Increasingly hot summers and warm winters are really easy to perceive.) You have to trust science to believe it. Science is often attacked as a stand-in for government, as atheist thing. Culture of anti-intellectualism and anti-science. Discrepancies and incoherences involved. Should be much more effort made to show that sciences are conciliate, you can't cherry-pick. It will always be resisted and controversial b/c it requires a trust of science.
How bad does it have to get before we can pull ourselves together to do it? Food crisis? Polar ice cap pulling away and Washington D.C. flooding. Desperate people do desperate things? What is desperate? Is insurance desperate? Is CPR desperate? Is geoengineering desperate? The CPR moment is desperate, but the action is meticulous and calm. The response is not desperate, but the situation is.
Sokoloff diagrams show that we have to try everything that's ever been put on the table. Is it okay to bring it up? You bring up science as a paradigm. Government as a community. Bring up the idea that we're on a planet, global managers. Climate change is a metonymy for environmental destruction. Imagining climate change fixed is easy, but all the other factors are in play. Let's talk about the total picture and how desperate we are. Santa Cruz cliff houses cantilevered over the ocean, cliff is eroding, beams are eroding. We're adding beams, but we should also have plans for moving the whole house back. There might be one strong beam that will give us one extra generation to solve the whole problem. Is that a silver bullet? Positive: value of discussing geoengineering.
Interview by Colin Milburn (??)
C: proposes theme: can literature be a technology of geoengineering? Social functionality of literature in the world. Goes off on a very nerdy explanation of golden age of sf. Talk about your history with sf, discovery of, and sense of self within.
K: grew up in Orange County. Started out as orchards, which got torn out at a rate of 5 acres a day during his childhood. Had a future shock moment. Systematic child reader, alphabetically. Got to Verne in high school. Were just being translated. Went to sf and went alphabetically, started with Asimov. Tokenized him. Found another sf writer that was great and thought it must all be great. At that point was an English major at UCSD. Early 70s new wave was saying future would be complex and screwed up and there would be no simple engineering solutions. Golden age sf is poor at modeling real science. A lot of people are recommended this stuff and never come back. Scientists don't read sf anymore, or any fiction, cut themselves off. But also humanists who don't know any science. (Risk assessment or exponential scale, for example.) Sf is the bridge between two cultures.
C: What writers were you reading that were addressing these issues?
K: 70s environmentalism began to intrude. Werner Stand on Zanzibar. LeGuin, Joanna Russ, Delany, Gene Wolfe. Anything between 1965 and 1975. Moment when genre and culture collide. There have also been times since then that sf is the best way to describe the culture that we live in. Started in the 50s with Philip K. Dick and Damon Knight. JG Ballard's inner landscape is expressed in environmental disasters. The world falling apart is a story that needs to be told over and over.
C: C.P. Snow are we still in this situation of two cultures that can't talk to each other?
K: Still problematic, sees misunderstandings all the time. Unnatural divide between progressives who have an anti-science bias. Science is praxis in a Marxist sense. Designed to create power over illness, reduction in suffering, more comfort in the world at large. "Medicine still at the heart of it. Science is a utopian politics that is poorly theorized by scientists themselves and by the humanists who live with them." Scientists are being blamed for everything. Scientists have a gun to their heads, and the guy with the gun is an economic system that is a remnant of feudalism. Warped utopian effort, warped by money power, military etc. Nailing his flag to the idea of science as an ... etc.
C: Missed it
K: Scientists want science to be clean and pure and not part of the grubby world around it. Hostility on both sides.
C. You never shy away from making bold arguments from humanities. Is there an unfamiliarity of the tools that you use?
K: No nature of the claims. Blah blah blah about Royal Society. Need to add humanist education into science, and would offer intellectual tools etc. I'm checked out, a bit exhausted now. He's talking about the math of ecology. Soft sciences wanting to be able to quantify everything.
The conversation turns to specifics about specific books. Losing me here. Of course, I'm just tired, too, after five solid hours of live-blogging. My shoulders are insanely tight and so are my hands.
Check back in when he starts talking about the Antarctic Artists and Writers program.