Despite Trump’s denialism, 2017 could be a bright spot in the fight for planet Earth

global warming illustration

2017 may be a bad year for climate change policy. Or maybe not. Image courtesy

I’ve taken inspiration from climate change. As a writer who loves speculative fiction, everything from Star Trek’s optimism to Margaret Atwood’s dark literary visions, I see global warming as fertile ground for storytelling. You might even say I’m taking advantage of the worst crisis to hit planet Earth in three million years.

That only counts in fiction.

When it comes to real life, it’s hard to be optimistic about the fight to fix the crisis, especially after the election of Donald Trump to the presidency. He is a denialist of the first order, calling climate change a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese. The claim is ludicrous, resembling a post-truth, fake news story.

Virtually all his major picks for high-level posts in his administration reflect a similar view. Scott Pruitt, tapped to head the EPA, uses the three percent of scientists who question climate science as a reason to ignore the 97 percent who know it’s human-caused. Rex Tillerson, Secretary of State designate, while acknowledging increasing CO2 in the atmosphere, says its impact is “very hard for anyone to predict,” despite the solid record of predictions going back decades. Of all Trump’s selections, Rick Perry is the worst. “I think there are a substantial number of scientists who have manipulated data so that they will have dollars rolling into their projects,” he said. That’s simply a lie.

As president, Trump will have a powerful voice. Thankfully, because of America’s diffused political structure, he’s not the only voice.

As president, Trump will have a powerful voice. Thankfully, because of America’s diffused political structure, he’s not the only voice. When you look at what states and localities are doing, I come away with hope that all is not lost. Continue reading

I Want to Believe in Planet Nine


I want to believe in Planet Nine.

Once a week from 1959 to 1964, Rod Serling invited Americans to “the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition.” The Twilight Zone illustrated the permeable boundary between fact and fantasy, a region explored by science, which pushes the edges of the unknown, postulating things unproven, but inferred.

The announcement of the discovery of Planet Nine falls into this category of deduced reality. Astronomers and theorists examined odd behavior of the eight major planets and their poor cousins, the dwarf planets, as well as the Solar System’s population of comets and asteroids. The best explanation was another major planet, probably a gas giant halfway in size between Earth and Neptune, circling the sun every 10,000 to 20,000 years. They invited the world to hunt for this invisible titan, find it, or prove them wrong.

People now have a choice: Believe in Planet Nine or not. Scientists have proposed planets beyond the eight accepted “wanderers” before. All were debunked. Black holes were predicted, then found. Planet Nine lives in this secret sphere of maybe/maybe not, in a place where another one of my favorite shows, The X-Files, loves to hang out. For the entire run of the show, protagonist Fox Mulder attempted to prove the existence of the shadow world he believed in.

The timing of Planet Nine’s announcement could not have been better, coming a few days before the six-episode reboot of the adventures of Mulder and his partner, Dana Scully. In fact, one could postulate a conspiracy between FOX and Fox, or at least Fox’s inventor, producer Chris Carter. I’m hoping somehow Carter will work in a line from Mulder about the existence of Planet Nine. I’m guessing Fox’s heart is in the same place as mine. I want to believe.

Do you believe?

Seattle literary event may debut climate fiction

Hugo Literary Series poster

The poster for the Hugo Literary Series in Seattle. The April 25, 2014 event may debut interesting climate fiction.

A literary event in April 2014 has me thinking that climate fiction may have arrived in Seattle. Richard Hugo House, a non-profit organization that supports writers with educational programs and events, has posted the schedule for its annual Hugo Literary Series. The org has invited three writers–Nick Flynn, Rick Bass, and Jennine Capó Crucet–to write about climate change and its impact on our present and future lives. For a program titled “Some Like It Hot,” the writers are asked to answer these questions: “How do we reconcile love for our modern lifestyle with the strange weather outside our car windows? Will the rising water drown us when it rages down our doors? Or will our anxieties kill us off before we have a chance to battle through Mad Max’s desert world come true?”

Nick Flynn is a poet best known for his 2004 memoir, Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, which won the PEN/Martha Albrand Award for the Art of the Memoir. Rick Bass is a writer and environmentalist who won the 1995 James Jones Literary Society First Novel Fellowship for his novel Where the Sea Used to BeJennine Capó Crucet is the author of How to Leave Hialeah, which won the Iowa Short Fiction Prize and other awards. None of the writers appears to have composed fiction with climate change themes, but the challenge posed by Hugo House should result in some interesting new literary takes on the future of humanity in a warmed world.

Here’s a link to more information and tickets to the series, including “Some Like It Hot” on April 25, 2014. Will you attend?