Thursday, March 23, 2017

There is a Chinese-language idiom ...''TÁNG BÌ DĀNG CHĒ'' [螳臂当车] which means ''a mantis trying to stop a chariot''. It means to attempt the impossible!

There is a Chinese-language idiom ...

''TÁNG  BÌ  DĀNG  CHĒ'' [螳臂当车]

which means ''a mantis trying to stop a chariot''. It means to attempt the impossible!

 TÁNG = praying mantis
BÌ = arm
DĀNG = to be
CHĒ = car, or chariot/cart

In terms of humankind trying to stop runaway climate change, is this a noteworthy idiom to learn and remember? Are we humans the mantis and global warming is the chariot we cannot stop?

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Today, with the steady rise of dystopian literature, ecofiction and climate change fiction (otherwise known as “cli fi”), we see similar artistic responses to environmental change which steer readers away from complacency. As authors seek to express the gravity and severity of ecological crises, their literature holds the potential to inspire radical change

Victoria Tedeschi is a PhD candidate studying English and Theatre Studies in the School of Culture and Communication at the University of Melbourne in Australia. Victoria has tutored literary studies at the University of Melbourne and Deakin University. Her research has been published in international, peer-reviewed journals and has received numerous accolades such as the Australian Postgraduate award, the Gwenda Ford English Literature award and the Percival Serle prize.
Victoria is currently compiling a dissertation which employs an ecocritical methodology to identify how Victorian-era editions of Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale literature represented the ecosphere to a newfound child audience during a period of environmental upheaval. She is primarily interested in ecocritical research, ecofeminist discourse and representations of the environment in popular culture.

Today, with the steady rise of dystopian literature, ecofiction and climate change fiction (otherwise known as “cli fi”), we see similar artistic responses to environmental change which steer readers away from complacency. As authors seek to express the gravity and severity of ecological crises, their literature holds the potential to inspire radical change

Nathaniel Rich and Elizabeth Kolbert discuss cli-fi on stage at the New York Public Library lecture series a few years ago.......

Subject:  listen video re Nathaniel Rich | Elizabeth Kolbert discuss CLI FI and SOME MAN IN TAIWAN at 45.35 into NYPL video:
  Nathaniel Rich | Elizabeth Kolbert discuss cli-fi

ELIZABETH KOLBERT: What do you feel about the whole cli-fi, is it?
 NATHANIEL RICH: There's a new term called "cli-fi" that I started tohear ....(laughter) .....after my book came out if you're not familiar with it,there's a man in Taiwan who invented it and is its biggest promoter. I'm surprised you haven't heard from him.
FULL TRANSCRIPT HERE: NATHANIEL RICH: And yeah and the novel got wrapped up in the>>> discussion of this genre, there was like an NPR story that I think>>> started. So the idea is fiction about the climate and I think there's>>> very little good fiction about the environment.

There are a couple of>>> examples that come to mind. I think Ian McEwan's book Solar is very>>> good as an example of it's not didactic, it's not preachy, and it's>>> about sort of a convincing story about these issues.

And there's a>>> good T. C. Boyle novel, Friend of the Earth, Barbara Kingsolver has>>> written about it, and some other. J. G. Ballard, I guess it's his>>> first or second novel, The Drowned World is a good early example, but>>> there's very little. And I would say even--I love Boyle and I love>>> McEwan, but I would say--and I love those books but they're not their>>> best books, those writers' best books, and I think there's a real>>> opening there, but I think, yeah, but I do have a wariness about--like,>>> anything, whenever anything crystallizes into a genre it's going to>>> have its clichés and its forms and I think if you want to do original>>> work, you have to resist that.

VIDEO -- At 49-minute mark, Margaret Atwood gives her IMPORTANT NBCC lifetime achievement acceptance speech

VIDEO -- At 49-minute mark,  Margaret Atwood gives her IMPORTANT NBCC lifetime achievement acceptance speech

How one professor is finding the funny in climate change


How one professor is finding the funny in climate change

And "climate fiction," or "cli-fi," is a budding field of literature, increasingly being taught on college campuses across the country.
BOULDER, Colorado USA — We have rising sea levels, world-record warming, acidifying oceans, an approaching food crisis and a president who is determined to cut any federal budget that is aimed at mitigating climate change. Is there anything that's funny about this?

That's a question about human behavior that Maxwell Boykoff, an associate professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder, is studying because he thinks humor may bring more people closer to understanding the threats and potential solutions to the problem of climate change.

He and a colleague, Beth Osnes, have produced "Creative Climate Communications," a class for graduating seniors majoring in environmental science that probes their fears about climate change and stresses the need for explaining policies that can cope with it.

Much of the literature about climate change is focused on the year 2050, a time when scientists predict rising oceans may begin to threaten many of the nation's coastal cities and states like Florida. By then, graduating seniors will be 55 years old, squarely in the middle of this mess, perhaps struggling with a collapsing economy and wild weather while trying to put children through college.

Boykoff, who is 43 and has a doctorate in environmental studies, wanted to set up what he calls a "living laboratory" to examine what his students think about this. So he built a course that involves producing annual comedy shows involving stand-up comics, skits and short videos to explore the humorous side of climate change.

"At first there was almost mutiny," Boykoff recalled. "They felt you're [tasking] us to take a very serious issue and find funny in there." To talk lightly about "scientifically grounded evidence"? This is impossible, they told him.

But Boykoff insisted that they would all learn something because communicating with other people about solutions to climate change is becoming extremely difficult. "Expressions of doom and gloom don't help open conversations" that are increasingly necessary to finding solutions.

He cited statistics showing newspaper coverage of climate change is declining, except for stories about the Trump administration's latest actions. He argued that people use climate denial to avoid thinking about needed changes and told students, "You may be able to use humor to meet people where they are."

Taking aim at ski bums, Inhofe and weather reports

The class comes at a time when scientists and other advocates for tackling climate change are seeking new ways to communicate catastrophic threats to the planet. The Showtime series "Years of Living Dangerously" featured big-name celebrities, including comedians like David Letterman, to tell the stories of how rising temperatures are affecting the planet. Some have sought to draw parallels between global warming and the HBO hit "Game of Thrones."

And "climate fiction," or "cli-fi," is a budding field of literature, increasingly being taught on college campuses across the country.

Change in attitudes among Boykoff's students and other participants in his show came slowly — some of them had no idea they were going on stage — but it came. One example is a short video that appeared in this year's show, "Stand Up for Climate Change: An Experiment With Creative Climate Comedy."

The video features a talking baby explaining to President Trump, who will be 71 in June: "You won't be around to face the consequences of climate change, but I will. So please, Mr. Trump, planet Earth first!"
In last year's show, the class took on three presidential candidates in a skit where they posed as bachelors and bachelorettes on a mock version of the television show "The Dating Game."
In another, three students walk into a dorm carrying ski gear while another keeps trying to light his bong. A woman reminds the would-be skiers that it hasn't snowed for months. "We've got to do something about this," says one of them, who seems surprised. The student smoking the bong looks up in glassy-eyed despair: "Shit. We're fucked."

Luke Campbell, one of last year's students, started with a stand-up routine that mocked Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) for walking into the Senate and throwing a snowball during a late-spring snowstorm, as if that proved climate change to be a hoax. But then Campbell seemed to drift off script, admitting that it was unfair to blame Inhofe or any other single person for climate change.
"Blame yourself and everyone else," he told the audience in a small campus theater. "Climate change is bad news. Eventually something terrible is going to happen, and everyone is on their phones saying we probably shouldn't do that," he said, referring on a common reliance on gasoline to drive for even short errands in their cars. "And they do and they do and they keep doing that."

Perhaps the funniest moment of Boykoff's first two seasons as a comedy impresario came in a short video from Vancouver, British Columbia, where Heather Libby, a writer and graphic designer, was inspired by years of hating local television news programs to produce one of her own. It was titled "Weathergirl Goes Rogue."

The announcer, played by Libby's partner, a former CTV bureau chief, kicks it off: "It's the Labor Day weekend, last chance to lounge by that pool and wrap up your summer reading list," and then summons Pippa, the weather girl, to explain why "the nice warm weather isn't quite ready to leave."
Pippa replies sarcastically, "I don't know why you would imagine that. We've broken thousands of temperature records across the country and the planet this year. In fact, we're heading into the 329th consecutive month with a global temperature above the 20th-century average."
Announcer, looking puzzled: "Well it's definitely time to light up that barbecue." He invites Pippa to give her seven-day forecast.

Pippa starts with the weather "way up north." The Arctic is missing 4 million square kilometers of ice. "That's bigger than India," she points out. Instead of a white ice sheet reflecting the sunlight back into space, there is "dark water sucking up even more heat, making it warm up faster and faster!"
The announcer, frowning, reminds Pippa he asked for a weather report.
Pippa screams at him, "You think all this is a coincidence? You want a weather report? This is a reality report!" She predicts "total mayhem if it continues."

The announcer has the control room turn off Pippa's sound. "So all and all, it looks like a great Labor Day weekend," he says, smiling, "and good times for the air conditioner industry."
Pippa: "Until the power goes out, you moron!"

As the announcer turns to celebrity news, the weather girl lunges at him from across the studio, knocking him off his chair.

An 'aha moment'?

According to Libby, there were quite a few other people who shared Pippa's rage. Her video went viral on the internet, getting half a million views in the first two weeks. That whetted Boykoff's appetite for more guest videos. Last year, there were nine entries for his comedy show, where judges select the top three. This year, there were 18 entries that will be shown next fall by Rebecca Safran, a biologist, who teaches a separate course about film and climate change.

Osnes, an associate professor of theater studies, joined Boykoff in teaching this year's course on communicating climate issues. Environmental science majors are different from her usual students, she explained. "They've got deep content knowledge," she said, but getting them up on stage just to do public speaking is often daunting, let alone trying comedy.

Osnes patrols the rehearsals, prodding people to keep their lines short, stay near the front of the stage and use portable microphones.

She thinks the time is ripe for audiences to connect with climate change. "More people are having their own physical experiences with extreme weather. There is a kind of aha moment."
Comedy, especially parody, she says, can "explode some of the inconsistencies and hypocrisies with which we're all living in a way that we can kind of laugh at." The format, she pointed out, goes back to ancient Greece, where Aristophanes wrote "Lysistrata," a comedy that suggested women deny their husbands sex until they stopped the destruction and killing in the Peloponnesian War.

"We're just trying to give them ideas they can riff off of," she explained.

So that is how Pablo Laris-Gonzalez, a student from Mexico City, wound up on the stage this year in a golden robe and a crown. He was "Sol," portraying the role of the sun.

Students dressed as bugs, plants and animals came on stage with him, but they were covered with a blanket simulating dirt, rocks and debris that compressed them for millions of years until the pressure and Sol's heat produced "Fos." This is a raffish character in a scaly, black costume worn by Larry Gumina from New Jersey. He roamed around the stage bragging about the beauties of having coal and high-powered cars.

Sol and Fos, who represented fossil fuels, had a kind of love-hate relationship. In one scene, Fos came out on the stage to sleep off a drink and Sol mentioned something about a strip, which made Fos happy. But then Fos woke up to find Sol running a toy bulldozer over his body.
"Wait a minute, I thought you were going to do a strip," said Fos.

"I said strip mining," explained Sol.

Monday, March 20, 2017

In Kim Stanley Robinson's NEW YORK 2140, the character named Gen Octaviasdottir is an homage and show ot respect and shout out to SF pioneer writer Octavia Butler!

In Kim Stanley Robinson's NEW YORK 2140, the character named Gen Octaviasdottir is an homage and show ot respect and  shout out to SF pioneer writer Octavia Butler!


WHY? Well....



            Genevieve Valentine · explains a few things about the character named Gen Octaviasdottir in Kim Stanley Robinson's new novel titled NEW YORK 2140, where many readers are now suspecting (guessing) that the character's name is quiet homage and show of respect and shout out to the pioneering SF author Octvia Butler.


Professor Ugo Bardi in Italy asks: ''Zombie Apocalypse: will it be our future? ''

Monday, March 20, 2017 from his blog post:

Zombie Apocalypse: will it be our future?

 Caution, this is probably the most catastrophistic post I ever published: famines, cannibalism, mass extermination and more. But, hey, this is just a scenario! (Image from "teehunter").

For those of us who delight themselves in studying long-term trends, the rise of zombies as a movie genre is a fascinating puzzle. There is no doubt that it is a strong trend: look at these results from Google Ngrams.

The term "zombie" was wholly unknown in English before the 1920s, then it slowly started gaining attention. In the 1970s, it exploded, mainly after the success of the 1968 movie by George Romero "The night of the Living Dead." The term "zombie" wasn't used in the movie, but the concept became rapidly popular and it created the genre called "zombie apocalypse".  Today, the idea is widespread: it involves the sudden appearance of a large number of undead people haunting suburbs and shopping malls, searching for live humans to eat. They are normally the target of the fire of heavily armed but much less numerous groups of people who have escaped the epidemics or whatever has turned people into zombies. 

Now, if something exists, there has to be a reason for it to exist. So, why this fascination with zombies? How is that we have created a genre that has never existed before in the history of human literature? Can you imagine Homer telling us that the city of Troy was besieged by zombies? Did Dante Alighieri find zombies in his visit to Hell? How about Shakespeare telling us of Henry the 5th fighting zombies at Agincourt?

I think there is a reason: literature always reflects the fears and the hopes of the culture that created it; sometimes very indirectly and in symbolic ways. And, here, it may well be that zombies reflect an unsaid fear of our times, a fear that is present mainly in our subconscious: hunger. 

Let's start with a typical feature of zombies: the black circles around the eyes.
Zombies are supposed to be "undead," cadavers that somehow returned to a semblance of life. But do cadavers have this kind of eyes? I must confess that I don't have much experience in autopsy (actually, none) but, from what I saw on the Web, it seems to me that it is rare that cadavers have those dark eye sockets; that is, unless they had developed bruises before dying. It is true that a decomposing cadaver will slowly lose the soft tissue and, eventually, the eyes will disappear leaving only dark holes in a mummified skull. But that doesn't seem to agree with the facial aspect of the zombies that appear in the movies. (I know, this was a ghoulish search, I did it in the name of science).

Instead, for what I could find, dark eye sockets may be a characteristic of undernourished people, often as the result of the development of a facial edema. Here is, for instance, a photo of a Dutch girl during the famine of 1944-1945 in Holland.

This is not always a characteristic of malnourished people, but it seems to occur rather frequently. Another example is the Great Famine in Ireland that started in 1845. We don't have photos from those times, but the artists who drew pictures of starving Irish people clearly perceived this detail. Here is, for instance, a rather well-known image of Bridget O'Donnell, one of the victims of the Great Famine. Note her darkened eyes. 

So, we have some idea of who these zombies could represent. They are starving people. And it is clear that they are hungry. In the movies, they are described as stumbling onward, desperately searching for food. They seem to be the perfect image of the effect of a famine. Look at the memorial of the Irish famine, in Dublin:

Do they look like the zombies of a modern movie? Yes, they do. This doesn't mean a lack of respect for the Irish men and women who perished in one of the greatest tragedies of modern times. It is only to note how, in our imagination, real starving people may be turned into imaginary undead zombies. 

Now, imagine that a famine were to strike our society, today. It is true that the world hasn't seen major famines for the past 40 years or so, but that doesn't mean they can't appear again. Today, our globalized commercial system is fragile, based on a long supply chain that involves maritime transportation and road distribution. The system needs low-cost fossil fuels to function and, more than that, it needs a functioning global financial system. If food travels all over the world it is because someone is paying for it. A currency crisis would make the whole system collapse. The consequences would be, well, let's try to imagine the unimaginable. 

People living in suburban areas have no other source of food than their shopping centers. Now, imagine that, suddenly, the ships and the trucks stop running. Then, the shelves of supermarkets can't be replenished anymore. The suburbanites would be first surprised, then angry, then desperate, and, finally, starving as their home stocks of food run out. Even before that, they would have run out of gas for their cars; the only system of transportation available to them. Now, assume that the elites would decide that it is easier for them to let the suburbanites starve and die rather than attempt to feed them. Suppose they decide to wall off the suburbia and instruct the army to shoot on sight anyone who tries to escape. Who could force them to do otherwise?

We can imagine what the results would be. The inhabitants of suburban areas would become emaciated, blundering, hungry people haunting the neighborhood and the shopping malls in the desperate search of something to eat; anything. Would they turn to cannibalism? Possibly, even likely. Some of them may be able to put their hands on a good supply of guns and ammunition, then they could play king of the hill, gathering most of the remaining food and shooting dead the poor wretches who still lumber in the streets, at least until the run out of food and ammo, too. It would be the zombie apocalypse, nothing less than that.

This is, of course, just a scenario, Nevertheless, I think it is interesting as an illustration of how the human mind works. In a previous post, I noted how the "overpopulation" meme disappeared from cyberspace as a result of how people gradually developed a kind of "infection resistance" to it.  The zombie meme seems to be related to the same issue, but it is a much more infective meme and it is still growing and diffusing in the world's population.

There are reasons for the success of the zombie meme. Fictionalized catastrophes ("it is only a movie!") are surely less threatening than those that are described as likely to happen for real. So, the concept of "Zombie Preparedness" is making inroads in many areas. Apparently, preparing for a zombie apocalypse is more socially and politically acceptable than preparing for the consequences of resource depletion and climate change. This is a curious trait of the human mind but, if this is the way it works, so be it. It makes the concept of "climate fiction" (cli-fi) an attractive one for generating preparedness for climate change.

It may be that the only way for our mind to understand catastrophes to come is to see them as tales. In Ireland, before the great famine, there was some premonition of the incoming disaster. Here is what the Irish poet Clarence Mangan wrote in 1844 about an undescribed "event" that he expected to take place in the future.

Darken the lamp, then, and bury the bowl,
Ye Faithfullest-hearted!

And, as your swift years hasten on to the goal
Whither worlds have departed,
Spend strength, sinew, soul, on your toil to atone

For past idleness and errors;
So best shall ye bear to encounter alone
The Event and its terrors.

The Irish may have had some kind of premonition of the "event" that was going to hit them, the Great Famine of 1845, even though that didn't help them much to avoid it. Is a similar "Event" coming for us, too? Maybe it is already starting.