Slow Catastrophes, Speculative Futures, Science & Imagination: Rewriting and Rethinking Sustainability

slow-catastrophes-uncertain-revivals-cover-525x600Slow Catastrophes, Uncertain Revivals (2016, free eBook) features 5 stories created by students in “Slow Catastrophes, Speculative Futures, Science & Imagination: Rewriting and Rethinking Sustainability”, a course by Michele Speitz at Furman University in South Carolina.

Taking inspiration from Project Hieroglyph‘s “visions for a better future” and an essay by Kim Stanley Robinson for the 2013 Worldwatch Institute Report (Is It Too Late?, .pdf), the course “challenged students to draw on multiple disciplines—across the sciences and the humanities—in order to create works of science fiction that might inspire us to address the multifarious complications bound up with climate change, that might embolden us to confront what some see as an impossibility: to be able to say ‘Yes, sustainability is still possible.’

“So the question could be changed from Is it too late? to How much damage will we let happen? Then we could flip that revised question to its positive formulation: How much will we save? How much of the biosphere will we save? That’s the real question. When we ask that question, it reminds us: life is robust. Restorations can be made. Everything but extinctions can be made better. So there is reason for hope. We can think of our work as saving things that will come back stronger later. Even in the bad present, we can create inoculants and refugia for a better time.”
Kim Stanley Robinson, Is It Too Late?

Actually, in the stories, some level of sustainability may become possible only after some  epic catastrophe. In Curing the Misssippi Delta (Graham Browning), young Camden ends up clandestinely testing a “cure evil by evil” way of allowing life to come back to the waters of the Mississippi delta – with no clue as to whether it’ll work; in A world after tomorrow (Anna Peterson), staged in 2490, young Hurricane tries not to wonder whether secluded high-rise cities surrounded by farms and an inaccessible “nature” is really a good “NewLife” to live; in Green With Empathy (Elisa Edmondson), possibly the most original story of the five, humans have had to make a choice: take a pill to enable them to photosynthesize, and remain on earth being the only species forbidden to hunt, or move to Mars; in the very well-written The Collectives (Elly Gay), the search for tech fixes to environmental issues creates as many problems as it solves until Elliott coerces everyone in her secluded university compound to join minds and forces – and here the story ends; and Chains of Ivy (Hagan Capnerhurst) describes how 5 surviving inmates in an old prison create an unlikely community, growing their own non-GMO plants fertilized with… human bodies?

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