I not only worry that “cli-fi” might not be an effective form of environmental expression – I have come to believe that the genre might be actively dangerous, stunting our cultural ability to imagine a future worth living in or fighting for.
It’s a popular myth that a Bitcoin’s value is based on nothing, just pulled out of thin air by math. But that’s not true—Bitcoin is a way to commoditize energy consumption without accidentally producing anything useful. Other energy-intensive industries tend to convert energy into useful materials like aluminum or cement. Bitcoin converts electricity into waste heat and records its destruction in the form of numbers, which can then be traded for other numbers but not used to make anything people need or converted back into energy.
Solarpunk and synthetic biology as a two-pronged approach to the future:
Neither synbio nor Solarpunk has all the right answers, but when they are joined in a symbiotic relationship, they become greater than the sum of their parts. If people could express what they needed, and if scientists could champion those desires — then Solarpunk becomes a will and synbio becomes a way.
Interesting to see an article on web performance on the BBC. Perhaps we should be emphasising green over speed?
As a society we need to treat AI resources as finite and precious, to be utilised only when necessary, and as effectively as possible. We need frugal AI.
This observation feels spot-on to me:
The shift that I noticed, totally anecdotally, is literary writers are starting to write more dystopian climate futures and science fiction writers are starting to write about climate solutions.
I really like the format of this bit of journo-fiction. An interview from the future looking back at the turning point of today.
It probably helps that I’m into nuclearpunk just as much as solarpunk, so I approve this message.
Atomkraft? Ja, bitte!
But is it always the case that faster websites are greener websites? We reluctantly have to consider another facet: if making a website for a car manufacturer faster leads to an increase in the number of cars sold, can we really say that our website is greener?
This is very timely for me, given that Clearleft is currently engaged on a project that’s making me decidedly queasy for this exact reason—the success metrics of the project would be net negative for the world.
A fascinating and inspiring meditation on aerodynamics.
The best climate fiction can do more than spur us to action to save the world we have — it can help us conceptualize the worlds, both beautiful and dire, that may lie ahead. These stories can be maps to the future, tools for understanding the complex systems that intertwine with the changing climates to come.
Some welcome perspective on healthcare, conservation, human rights, and energy.
Ben is writing a chapter a day of this cli-fi story. You can subscribe to the book by email or RSS.
These days I tend to think of dystopias as being fashionable, perhaps lazy, maybe even complacent, because one pleasure of reading them is cozying into the feeling that however bad our present moment is, it’s nowhere near as bad as the ones these poor characters are suffering through.
Kim Stanley Robinson on dystopias and utopias.
The energy flows on this planet, and humanity’s current technological expertise, are together such that it’s physically possible for us to construct a worldwide civilization—meaning a political order—that provides adequate food, water, shelter, clothing, education, and health care for all eight billion humans, while also protecting the livelihood of all the remaining mammals, birds, reptiles, insects, plants, and other life-forms that we share and co-create this biosphere with. Obviously there are complications, but these are just complications. They are not physical limitations we can’t overcome. So, granting the complications and difficulties, the task at hand is to imagine ways forward to that better place.
At its core, and despite its appropriation, Solarpunk imagines a radically different societal and economic structure.
From Mary Shelley and Edgar Rice Burroughs to John Brunner, Frank Herbert and J.G. Ballard to Kim Stanley Robinson, Paolo Bacigalupi, and Octavia Butler.
I should emphasize that rejecting longtermism does not mean that one must reject long-term thinking. You ought to care equally about people no matter when they exist, whether today, next year, or in a couple billion years henceforth. If we shouldn’t discriminate against people based on their spatial distance from us, we shouldn’t discriminate against them based on their temporal distance, either. Many of the problems we face today, such as climate change, will have devastating consequences for future generations hundreds or thousands of years in the future. That should matter. We should be willing to make sacrifices for their wellbeing, just as we make sacrifices for those alive today by donating to charities that fight global poverty. But this does not mean that one must genuflect before the altar of “future value” or “our potential,” understood in techno-Utopian terms of colonizing space, becoming posthuman, subjugating the natural world, maximizing economic productivity, and creating massive computer simulations stuffed with 1045 digital beings.
A superb piece of writing by Debbie Chachra on infrastructure, fairness, and the future.
Alone in my apartment, when I reach out my hand to flip a switch or turn on a tap, I am a continent-spanning colossus, tapping into vast systems that span thousands of miles to bring energy, atoms, and information to my household. But I’m only the slenderest tranche of these collective systems, constituting the whole with all the other members of our federated infrastructural cyborg bodies.
We may not live in the best of all possible worlds, but we have dodged some bullets:
In the annals of environmental history, humanity’s response to the ozone crisis stands out as a rare success story. During the 1970s and ‘80s, evidence started to mount that certain household chemicals used in refrigerators, air conditioners, and aerosol cans like hairspray were eating a giant hole in Earth’s ozone layer, which prevents harmful ultraviolet radiation from reaching the surface. Facing the terrifying prospect of a future without any atmospheric sunscreen at all, in the late 1980s nations came together to sign the Montreal Protocol, a global treaty to phase out so-called ozone-depleting substances like chlorofluorocarbons.
But if things hadn’t turned out that way—if the scientific evidence linking man-made chemicals to ozone depletion wasn’t strong enough, or if ozone deniers (yes, there were ozone deniers) successfully stymied the Montreal Protocol—the world might look very different.
Science-fiction writers don’t know anything more about the future than anyone else. Human history is too unpredictable; from this moment, we could descend into a mass-extinction event or rise into an age of general prosperity. Still, if you read science fiction, you may be a little less surprised by whatever does happen. Often, science fiction traces the ramifications of a single postulated change; readers co-create, judging the writers’ plausibility and ingenuity, interrogating their theories of history. Doing this repeatedly is a kind of training. It can help you feel more oriented in the history we’re making now.
Kim Stanley Robinson knows the score:
Margaret Thatcher said that “there is no such thing as society,” and Ronald Reagan said that “government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” These stupid slogans marked the turn away from the postwar period of reconstruction and underpin much of the bullshit of the past forty years.