Wednesday, December 08, 2004


Posted by goatchurch at 1:11 AM
Just a few plugs for the more extreme (aka mundane) viewpoints. I always advocate taking a look at which is where I first saw the Peak Oil theory mentioned, as well as a critique of the pure fiction and denial of material laws on which most modern economic theory is based.

First of all, depletion of natural reserves, catastrophic climate change, and the collapse of civilization are all strictly mundane concepts which have been virtually off-limit to most SF. They are mundane because there are no physical laws that deny their possibility, strong evidence for such occurrences in the past, and a recent history of similar events.

The only argument against such happenings is that in our enlightened state and magnificent ability to invent unknown technology to see our way out of it (ie fictional engineering), such foreseeable happenings are unconscionable. But as Einstein said: "Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former."

You cannot argue that modern SF is an escape from these horrible futures, because it has never confronted them in the first place, so it cannot be a reaction to it. Mundane SF barely exists. People don't avoid writing it because they have made an informed choice. It's simply not within the rut that the literature is in now.

Clearly, we do not now have a sustainable world economy. This is defined as a state where the destruction, waste and depletion of the resources of the planet (soil, species, wood, clean water, coal) does not exceed its primary production. Achieving a sustainable economy is as inevitable as death because we are in a closed system. It cannot be avoided. It's as easy to imagine as building one of those ecosystems in a jar: just close the lid. You know those little examples where you put something like a plant and a beetle in the same system, and the plant photosynthesizes to make oxygen, and the beetle breaths and nibbles the plant? How long to they last? Remember, biosphere 2 and how it showed up the limits about what we know? Of course, the plant and beetle may die and leave you only with a bit of scum in the bottom of the jar. The contents still represents a sustainable closed system for as long as the lid stays closed -- just not a very attractive one.

Any Mundane story set in the future (200-300 years, for example) must have a sustainable, zero-waste economy at its heart. It would look nothing like what we have now. Either there would not be many humans on the planet, or we are still numerous and our lives would be lived considerably differently.

Who cares if this concept is condemned as being "ecologically aware" and "preachy"? There's a blind spot here, and well-funded PR companies have made it their deliberate task to convince you that this type of thinking is seriously uncool. It's their job. Don't fall for it. Work round it.

More ranting at: The Myron Ebell Climate