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Apocalypse, Now - On The Media - WNYC
"Science fiction has always been an outlet for our greatest anxieties. This week, we delve into how the genre is exploring the reality of climate change. Plus: new words to describe the indescribable.

1. Jeff VanderMeer @jeffvandermeer, author of the Southern Reach Trilogy and Borne, on writing about the relationships between people and nature.

2. Claire Vaye Watkins @clairevaye talks about Gold Fame Citrus, her work of speculative fiction in which an enormous sand dune threatens to engulf the southwest. 

3. Kim Stanley Robinson discusses his latest work, New York 2140. The seas have risen 50 feet and lower Manhattan is submerged. And yet, there's hope.

4. British writer Robert Macfarlane @RobGMacfarlane on new language for our changing world.

Throughout the show: listeners offer their own new vocabulary for the Anthropocene era. Many thanks to everyone who left us voice memos!"
robertmacfarlane  kimstanleyrobinson  clairevayewatkins  jeffvandermeer  sciencefiction  scifi  speculativefiction  anthropocene  humans  nature  multispecies  language  tolisten  economics  finance  cli-fi  climatechange  utopia  names  naming  silence  pessimism  optimism  hope  dystopia  anthopocene  deserts  natue  change  earth 
july 2017 by robertogreco
A Flag for No Nations |
"This is the moment at which our ideas of technology as a series of waymarks on the universal march of human progress falter and fall apart. A single technology – the vacuum-deposition of metal vapour onto a thin film substrate – makes its consecutive and multiple appearances at times of stress and trial: at the dawn of the space age, in orbit and on other planets, at the scene of athletic feats of endurance, in defence and offence in the mountains of the Hindu Kush, on the beaches of the European archipelago. These are moments of hope as well as failure; moments when, properly utilised, technological progress enables us to achieve something which was beyond our capabilities before. And yet: we are still pulling bodies from the water wrapped in material which was meant to send us into space."

"Technologies are stories we tell ourselves – often unconsciously – about who we are and what we are capable of. By analysing their traces we may divine the progress they are capable of assisting, but they are not in and of themselves future-producing, magical, or separate from human agency. They are a guide and a hope. The reality of these technologies and the place of their deployment shows us plainly that another world is not only possible, but coming into being, should we choose to recognise and participate in it. Technology alone will not achieve such change, merely reflect back our failure to capitalise upon it. Its proper use is not as a bandage for the present, but as a banner for the future."
jamesbridle  techology  humanism  humanity  nasa  space  skylab  refugees  skylab2  1973  jackkinzler  josephkerwin  nationalmetallizing  jerryross  1988  hubbletelescope  spaceblankets  heatsheets  afghanistan  rubenpeter  2011  2013  2005  pakistan  lesbos  greece  lampedusa  2014  2015  2016  mediterranean  migration  chios  hope  flags  kimstanleyrobinson  technology 
january 2016 by robertogreco
Critical Design Critical Futures - Critical design and the critical social sciences: or why we need to engagem multiple, speculative critical design futures in a post-political and post-utopian era
"We, anxious citizens of the affluent global North have some rather conflicted attitudes to futuring. In the broad realm of culture, "futures" have never been more popular. In the realm of politics, it is widely believed that those who engage in utopian speculations, are "out to lunch or out to kill[1].""

"Thoughtful reflections on widening inequality, class struggle, climate crisis, human-animal-machine relations, trans-humanism, the future of sexuality, surveillance and militarism can all be found in all manner of places. Consider Ronald Moore's Battlestar Galactica, the sci-fi novels of Ursula LeGuin, the Mars trilogy of Kim Stanley Robinson, films such as District 9, Gattica, Elysium or Snowpiercer, the graphic novels of Alan Moore or Hayao Miyazaki's stunning retro-futurist animations. All these currents – and many others – have used futures as a narrative backdrop to open up debate about worlds we might wish to inhabit or avoid.

In the "real world" of contemporary politics, no such breadth of discussion can be tolerated.

"Futures" once played a very significant role in Western political discourse. Western political theory: from Plato onwards can reasonably be read as an argument about optimal forms of institutional configuring.

For much of the twentieth century, different capitalisms confronted different vision of communism, socialism, anarchism, feminism, black liberation, fascism. Rich discussions equally took place as to the possible merits of blended systems: from the mixed economy and the welfare state to "market socialism", mutualism to populism, associationalism to corporatism. Since the end of the Cold War, it would be hardly controversial to observe that the range of debate about political futures that can occur in liberal democracies has dramatically narrowed.

Of course, it would be quite wrong to believe that utopianism has gone away in the contemporary United States. Pax Americana, The Rapture, or a vision of the good life spent pursuing private utopias centered around the consumption-travel-hedonism nexus celebrated by "reality TV" is all alive and well."

"Design is important for thinking about futures simply because it is one of the few remaining spaces in the academy that is completely untroubled by its devotion to futures. Prototyping, prefiguring, speculative thinking, doing things differently, failing… and then starting all over again are all core component of design education. This is perhaps why Jan Michl observed that a kind of dream of functional perfectionism [4] has haunted all matter of design practice and design manifestos in the twentieth century."

""Utopian thought is the only way of speculating concretely about a projective connection between architecture and politics. To design utopias is to enter the laboratory of politics and space, to conduct experiments in their reciprocity. This laboratory – unlike the city itself – is a place in which variables can be selectively and freely controlled. At the point of application of the concrete, utopia ceases to exist". [8]

Moreover, if we think of the utopian imaginary as disposition, as opposed to the blueprint, we might well get a little further in our speculations. Sorkin makes a plausible case for the centrality of a utopian, ecological and political architecture of the future as a kind of materialized political ecology. His intervention can also remind us that hostility to design utopianism or any discussion of embarking on "big moves" in urban planning, public housing, alternative energy provision and the like, can itself function as a kind of "anti-politics". It can merely re-enforce the status quo, ensuring that nothing of substance is ever discussed in the political arena."

"Whilst Wright never actually uses the word design to describe what he is up to in his writings, his demand for concrete programmatic thinking resonates with John Dryzek's call for a critical political science concerned with producing and evaluating discursive institutional designs.

Further points of convergence between design and the critical social sciences open up when we recognize that design is not reducible to the activities of professional designers. As thinkers from Herbert Simon, to Colin Ward have argued, if we see design as a much more generalizable human capacity to act in the world, prefigure and then materialize, the reach and potential of future orientated forms of social design for material politics can be read in much more interesting and expansive ways.

The writings of Colin Ward and Delores Hayden can be fruitfully engaged with here for the manner in which both of these critical figures have drawn productive links between design histories of vernacular architectures and the social histories of self built housing, infrastructure and leisure facilities. Both demonstrate that there is nothing particularly new about the current interest in making, hacking or sharing. There are many "hidden histories" of working men and women embarking on forms of self-management, building co-operative enterprises and networks of mutual aid. In doing so they have turned themselves into designers of their own workplaces, communities and lives [12]. Such experiments in what we might call "worker centred design" continue to resonate. Attempts by trade unionists to define new modes of ownership with socially useful production (as represented by the Lucas plan), and the recent spate of factory takeovers in Argentina, all indicate that workers can be designers[13].

All manner of interesting potential convergences between critical design, futurism and social critique can additionally be found in the many experimental forms that contemporary urban-ecological activism has given rise to. Consider experiments in urban food growing, forms of tactical or pop-up urbanism, guerrilla gardening and open streets, attempts to experiment in solidarity economies, experiments with urban retrofitting or distributed energy systems or experiments with part finished public housing (that can be customized by their residents). All these currents have the potential to draw design activism and design-oriented social movements into direct engagement with critical theory, political economy and the critical social sciences."
damianwhite  2015  design  speculativedesign  speculativefiction  designfiction  futures  future  futurism  socialsciences  colinward  deloreshayden  herbertsimon  criticaldesign  designcriticism  kimstanleyrobinson  ursulaleguin  hayaomiyazaki  achigram  ronherron  utopia  utopianism  capitalism  communism  socialism  anarchism  feminism  sociology  politics  policy  maxweber  emiledurkheim  patrickgeddes  designfuturism  anthonydunne  fionaraby  dunne&raby  tonyfry  erikolinwright 
may 2015 by robertogreco
Alex O. Awiti: Platform for Engaged Global Citizens: Time to end the multigenerational Ponzi scheme
"Capitalism evolved out of feudalism. Although the basis of power has changed from land to money and the system has become more mobile, the distribution of power and wealth has not changed that much. It’s still a hierarchical power structure, it was not designed with ecological sustainability in mind, and it won’t achieve that as it is currently constituted.

The main reason I believe capitalism is not up to the challenge is that it improperly and systemically undervalues the future. I’ll give two illustrations of this. First, our commodities and our carbon burning are almost universally underpriced, so we charge less for them than they cost. When this is done deliberately to kill off an economic competitor, it’s called predatory dumping; you could say that the victims of our predation are the generations to come, which are at a decided disadvantage in any competition with the present.

Second, the promise of capitalism was always that of class mobility—the idea that a working-class family could bootstrap their children into the middle class. With the right policies, over time, the whole world could do the same. There’s a problem with this, though. For everyone on Earth to live at Western levels of consumption, we would need two or three Earths. Looking at it this way, capitalism has become a kind of multigenerational Ponzi scheme, in which future generations are left holding the empty bag.

You could say we are that moment now. Half of the world’s people live on less than $2 a day, and yet the depletion of resources and environmental degradation mean they can never hope to rise to the level of affluent Westerners, who consume about 30 times as much in resources as they do. So this is now a false promise. The poorest three billion on Earth are being cheated if we pretend that the promise is still possible. The global population therefore exists in a kind of pyramid structure, with a horizontal line marking an adequate standard of living that is set about halfway down the pyramid.

The goal of world civilization should be the creation of something more like an oval on its side, resting on the line of adequacy. This may seem to be veering the discussion away from questions of climate to questions of social justice, but it is not; the two are intimately related. It turns out that the top and bottom ends of our global social pyramid are the two sectors that are by far the most carbon intensive and environmentally destructive, the poorest by way of deforestation and topsoil loss, the richest by way of hyperconsumption. The oval resting sideways on the line of adequacy is the best social shape for the climate.

This doubling of benefits when justice and sustainability are both considered is not unique. Another example: world population growth, which stands at about 75 million people a year, needs to slow down. What stabilizes population growth best? The full exercise of women’s rights. There is a direct correlation between population stabilization in nations and the degree to which women enjoy full human rights. So here is another area in which justice becomes a kind of climate change technology. Whenever we discuss climate change, these social and economic paradigm shifts must be part of the discussion.
Given this analysis, what are my suggestions?

• Believe in science.
• Believe in government, remembering always that it is of the people, by the people, and for the people, and crucial in the current situation.
• Support a really strong follow-up to the Kyoto Protocol.
• Institute carbon cap-and-trade systems.
• Impose a carbon tax designed to charge for the real costs of burning carbon.
• Follow the full “Green New Deal” program now coming together in discussions by the Obama administration.
• Structure global economic policy to reward rapid transitions from carbon-burning to carbon-neutral technologies.
• Support the full slate of human rights everywhere, even in countries that claim such justice is not part of their tradition.
• Support global universal education as part of human-rights advocacy.
• Dispense with all magical, talismanic phrases such as “free markets” and promote a larger systems analysis that is more empirical, without fundamentalist biases.
• Encourage all business schools to include foundational classes in ecology, environmental economics, biology, and history.
• Start programs at these same schools in postcapitalist studies.

Does the word postcapitalism look odd to you? It should, because you hardly ever see it. We have a blank spot in our vision of the future. Perhaps we think that history has somehow gone away. In fact, history is with us now more than ever, because we are at a crux in the human story. Choosing not to study a successor system to capitalism is an example of another kind of denial, an ostrich failure on the part of the field of economics and of business schools, I think, but it’s really all of us together, a social aporia or fear. We have persistently ignored and devalued the future—as if our actions are not creating that future for our children, as if things never change. But everything evolves. With a catastrophe bearing down on us, we need to evolve at nearly revolutionary speed. So some study of what could improve and replace our society’s current structure and systems is in order. If we don’t take such steps, the consequences will be intolerable. On the other hand, successfully dealing with this situation could lead to a sustainable civilization that would be truly exciting in its human potential."

My sense is that this is very thoughtful.

I have no problems with capitalism as way to link resources and human ingenuity to produce good and services. Consider the expansion of knowledge and technology that has led to great advances in medicine. The reason we are in deep trouble today is because of the way we choose to measure outcomes of good and services. We should depart from GDP and consider using Net Domestic Product (NDP). So this way we account for the deterioration of ecosystem services such as clean air, fertile soils, clean water, and biodiversity. We must now begin to grapple with measuring the real demand of domestic growth and expansion of the so called wellbeing on national and global ecological resources. We must get the accounting right or we will destroy irretrievably, the production base.
kimstanleyrobinson  capitalism  economics  feudalism  future  sustainability  environment  ponzischemes  generations  gdp  ndp  ecosystems  consumerism  consumption  growth  hyperconsumerism  inequality  climatechange 
december 2014 by robertogreco
The True Literature of California is Science Fiction
[Also posted here: ]

"Kim Stanley Robinson is the author of many works of science fiction, including The Three Californias, a trilogy of novels about southern California; the Mars Trilogy; 2312, a novel about climate change; and his most recent novel, Shaman.

Robinson is one of California's best-known and well-loved, living science fiction writers. A prolific writer, author of two trilogies and several other novels, he is one of the few science fiction novelists who still dares envision utopia—not the static and socially constrained utopias of Thomas More or Edward Bellamy, but dynamic, complex, multicultural societies that always have to struggle for and reflect on their own futures.

Robinson earned a Ph.D. from UC San Diego, where he worked with the legendary postmodern literary scholar Fredric Jameson and wrote his dissertation on science fiction writer Philip K. Dick. He cares deeply about California and is actively involved with the Sierra Nevada Research Institute at UC Merced and the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination at UC San Diego.

Robinson is also a generous conversationalist. When not holed up at home in Davis, California, working on his next book, he can often be found out in the world these days talking about climate change and political change, and thinking out loud with scientists, activists, writers, and readers about the future.

We spent a leisurely afternoon conversing with him at his garden writing table in Davis. This interview was originally published on Boom: A Journal of California and was conducted by Boom's editors."

"So, Pacific Edge was my attempt, a first attempt, and I think it's still a nice vision of what Southern California could be. That coastal plain is so nice. From Santa Barbara to San Diego is the most gorgeous Mediterranean environment. And we've completely screwed it. To me now, it's kind of a nightmare. When I go down there it creeps me out. I hope to spend more of my life in San Diego, which is one of my favorite places. But I'll probably stick to west of the coast highway and stay on the beach as much as I can. I'll deal, but we can do so much better."

"Do you love where you were when you were growing up? Well, yes—especially if you had good parents, a happy childhood, a beach. But I've found you can actually outlive nostalgia itself. I didn't know you could do that, but I have."

"I like thinking California is one place. It's big. It's various. It's an entire country. It's an entire planet."

"California is a terraformed space."

"California could maybe handle sea level rise better than a lot of other places. Its coastline is not a drowned coastline like the East Coast, so although the Delta would be in big trouble, most of the California coastline is steep enough to take a lot of the projected sea level rise—although the beaches will be in trouble. Right here we're about fifty feet above sea level. So the maximum sea level rise projected for the next couple centuries would remain a ways over there to the south."

"I've run into young environmental philosophers who say, "Be realistic, Stan. We're headed for a five-degree rise in temperature; we have to adapt." But this I think is a pseudo-realism. Think about mass extinction: how do you adapt to that? It would drive us down; we might not go extinct too, but we would suffer so badly. No. We need mitigation. We need to fight the political fight. We need a carbon tax; we need everything except giving up. To say we've lost the battle already is just another science fiction story. It's saying that we will lose. But beyond 2013, nothing has happened yet. Path dependency is not the same as inevitability.

People are way too chicken when faced with the supposed massive entrenchment of capitalism. It's just a system of laws, and we change laws all the time."

"My story here is that from the very start science and capitalism were very tightly bound together, like conjoined twins, but were not at all the same, and indeed were even opposed systems of thinking and organization. They were born around the same time, yes; but if you regard them as identical, you're making a very bad mistake. Capitalism's effect on humanity is not at all what science's effect is on humanity. If you say science is nothing but instrumentality and capitalism's technical wing, then you're saying we're doomed. Those are the two most powerful social forces on the planet, and now it's come to a situation of science versus capitalism. It's a titanic battle. One is positive and the other negative.

We need to do everything we can to create democratic, environmental, utopian science, because meanwhile there is this economic power structure that benefits the few, not very different from feudalism, while wrecking the biosphere. This is just a folk tale, of course, like a play with sock puppets, like Punch and Judy. But I think it describes the situation fairly well."

"I think we're a working utopian project in progress, between the landscape and the fact that California has an international culture, with all our many languages. It's got the UC system and the Cal State system, the whole master plan, all the colleges together, and Silicon Valley, and Hollywood. It's some kind of miraculous conjunction. But conjunctions don't last for long. And history may pass us by eventually, but for now it's a miraculous conjunction of all of these forces.

So I love California. Often when I go abroad and I'm asked where I'm from, I say California rather than America. California is an integral space that I admire. And we're doing amazing things politically. I like the way the state is trending more left than the rest of America. And San Francisco is the great city of the world. I love San Francisco. I think of myself as living in its provinces—and provincials, of course, are often the ones who are proudest of the capital. And many of my San Francisco friends exhibit a civic pride that is intense, and I think justified.

So there's something going on here in California. I do think it's somewhat accidental; so to an extent, it's pride in an accident, or maybe you could say in a collective, in our particular history. So there's no one thing or one person or group that can say, ah, we did it! It just kind of happened to us, in that several generations kept bashing away, and here we are. But when you have that feeling and it goes on, and continues to win elections and create environmental regulations, the clean air, the clean water, saving the Sierra, saving the coast: it's all kind of beautiful. Maybe the state itself is doing it. Maybe this landscape itself is doing it."
kimstanleyrobinson  california  sandiego  scifi  sciencefiction  2014  interviews  literature  landscape  raybradbury  robertheinlein  ursulaleguin  philipkdick  frankherbert  jackvance  poulanderson  robinsonjeffers  ecotopia  ernestcallenbach  history  climatechange  capitalism  environment  globalwarming  politics  change  nostalgia  johnmuir  law  legal  policy  santabarbara  orangecounty  sanfrancisco  utopia  diversity  jonchristensen  jangoggans  ursulakheise 
january 2014 by robertogreco
I'm in love with the idea that the English word "hawk" is an import from crow language. Are there any other names that we've learnt from other species? | Flickr - Photo Sharing!
"I'm in love with the idea that the English word "hawk" is an import from crow language. Are there any other names that we've learnt from other species?"

(2312, Kim Stanley Robinson. Robinson often gets ideas from scientific papers, so I'd love to read the one this came from.)
english  birds  kimstanleyrobinson  mattwebb  2012  interspecieslearning  animals  words  language  crows 
december 2012 by robertogreco
Kim Stanley Robinson: science fiction's realist | Books |
"Time is strangely braided … Walter Benjamin talked about it – you go forwards in time but we're always looking backwards in a rear view mirror. That struck me as interesting. … [he explores] three different temporal dimensions – the first moving very fast, at the speed of light, the second very slow and "vibrating slowly back and forth, as if the universe itself were a single string or bubble", the third – antichronos – in reverse. We experience them as one, creating a three-way interference pattern, which accounts for sensations such as foresight, déjà vu, nostalgia and precognition. The compound nature of time, Robinson writes, "creates our perception of both transience and permanence, of being and becoming". … Today, he says, "we're all in a science fiction novel. …The world has become a science fiction novel, everything's changing so quickly. Science fiction turns out to be the realism of our time, which is very satisfying.""
via:preoccupations  science  future  books  mythology  sciencefiction  scifi  time  writing  dejavu  nostalgia  precognition  realism  kimstanleyrobinson 
november 2009 by robertogreco

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