Thursday, March 4, 2010

Crazy but Fairly Likely

What is going to happen if the predicted global warming occurs?

Paolo Bacigalupi is a sci-fi author writing out of Colorado. He is the author of the Nebula nominated Wind-Up Girl and a phenomenal book of short fiction entitled Pump Six and Other Stories. He also writes for an environmental rag, where he most have a lot of time to think about what will happen if the environment goes the wrong way.

If infrastructure goes the way of the dinosaur, Bacigalupi pretty much has it in the bag. It's likely that we will move quickly away from the fossil fuels that have caused so many problems. What happens though if we don't get an alternate system set up? Society has some major problems at this point. The basic pieces of American modern culture change quickly and drastically. Population crashes, we either all gather to urban areas, or disperse ourselves across the country in small bands. All support for the suburbs is eliminated. There will be massive movement of people.

Bacigalupi's stories are so cool because his explanation for the crash of society is solidly based on where we are now and what we won't have. His future allows for generipping and manipulation of entire species. The work is done on a computer powered by a treadle. Think about how much work it would take just to process a gene sequence.

Calories become extremely important. Anything that needs to be powered needs to be powered by wind, water, or as Bacigalupi posits the work of giant modified elephants that only purpose is to take the calories they burn and put them in giant "kink springs" that will effectively hold the joules.

Because the ability to burn calories in order to get power becomes essential to run any advanced technology, any one that can control food production puts themselves in a position of immense power. A company entitle AgriGene creates a weevil that will eat the grain that is powering society, at the same time creating a grain that is resistant to the same weevil that they engineered. I would guess that is a pretty decent way to create a monopoly. Paolo's writing is so slick.

Wind-up Girl is a most read. Pick it up! This is a novel of ideas that are probably a lot closer than we think. Maybe this will be the survival guide for the 22nd century.