What is the role of a writer as climate change creeps up on us?

Conference

People in suits gather in Paris to decide the fate of a climate-change world.

It’s a ripe scene for satire. Twenty-five thousand bureaucrats and another 25,000 hangers-on are gathered in Paris at COP21 to exchange climate change jargon over sustainable wine and cheese. It’s hard, however, to ignore the seriousness of their effort, especially as a pall lingers over the city three weeks after the November 13 terror attacks. The spectacle of so many people in sensible shoes working as one reminds me that most problems are solvable with elbow grease and cooperation. Best to leave them alone to do their jobs.

Maybe I’m a little jealous. It must be exciting to be part of an effort that could save the planet while exchanging tips on the best places in France for glamping. Instead, my head is buried in my laptop as I try to tell stories about survival in a future that no one can predict with any certainty. Even if COP21 is wildly successful, the planet will still warm by a couple of degrees, and millions of mostly poor people will have to cope with the changes. Continue reading

Restoring the environment is a good thing. Or maybe not?

Glines Canyon Dam Removal

The Glines Canyon Dam in Washington State undergoing removal. Image courtesy Real Science.

One of the great things about speculative fiction is the power to challenge strongly held values in the safety of a society that exists only in the writer’s imagination. In the Pacific Northwest, at least on the wet side of the Cascade Mountains, we’re all “green,” that is, we believe in letting trees grow unmolested, planting salmon in urban creeks, and giving orcas lots of space to swim.¬†Environmentalism is a sacred value, and therefore, a target, as far as I’m concerned.

We assume conservation is a good thing, and by the same token, restoration. We are redeemed if we restore a forest, a lake, a mountain, or a stream to the way it was before civilization altered it. For my money, the most dramatic example of this in recent years is the 2012 removal of the Elwha and Glines Canyon dams on the Elwha River in northwest Washington State. Removal is intended to reestablish one of the most productive salmon runs in the Lower 48, and by early accounts, the project has bright prospects for success. Continue reading