Transcript: Podship Earth Episode 025: Sci-Fi

JARED BLUMENFELD: Welcome to Podship Earth. This is your host, Jared Blumenfeld. I grew up watching Dr. Who, Star Trek, ET, Day of the Triffids andRed Dwarf. Sci-fi totally captivated me and still does. I just finished watching the new season of Westworldand love the show Altered Carbon, but it wasn't until I read and listened to New York 2140,a novel by Kim Stanley Robinson that I understood the powerful way in which climate change and science fiction are colliding. 2140 is a book about the future, written with the benefit of hindsight. We can predict with a high degree of certainty that melting ice from Greenland and Antarctica, the warming oceans and subsiding coastlines will all contribute to rising sea levels. There is an inevitability to sea level rise that is palpable today. Robinson writes a novel set within an accurate scientific forecast. In 2140, Stan Robinson does what a generation of environmental advocacy has failed to do- make climate change personal. The book is focused on Madison Square in New York, and each chapter is narrated by different character - the building manager, an intertidal derivatives trader, a cloud TV star, a city bureaucrat with political ambitions, two orphan boys, an NYPD inspector, and two homeless computer programmers. The story includes a treasure hunt, kidnapping, romance, politics, and high finance interspersed with an additional narrator, the citizen, who affords Stanley Robinson the opportunity to punch his message home. 2140 describes two pulses of sea level rise- the first increase of 10 feet occurs between 2052 and 2061, the next 40 feet arrive at the beginning of the 2100’s. Kim Stanley Robinson is the author of more than nineteen novels and is considered the preeminent science fiction writer in the U.S. today. I meet up with Robinson in his hometown of Davis, California. It's about 95 degrees so we sit outside and order some drinks. I start by asking Stan, “what attracts us to science fiction?” 

 

KIM STANLEY ROBINSON: Well, I think it's an interest in ideas and in the future and in wildness that maybe we don't have in our suburban middle American lives right now. It has been mostly an American and an Anglo thing. Every citizen of the industrialized countries has an image of its own future that gets expressed in the science fiction and when countries get industrialized, they suddenly develop a science fiction like China now and maybe India later. So, it began in England and in America and then, there was the Soviet science fiction. And so, it's a function of the industrial imaginary it once you are at our level of civilization, science fiction is the realism of your moment in the sense that things are changing so fast that you don't have stability, you don't have a sense of deep past. You have a sense that the future is already impinging on you and everything is changing.  So, then science fiction becomes your form of realism, and so that's how I got to science fiction. And that's how I think all science fiction readers come to it. 

 

JARED BLUMENFELD: Science fiction seems like such a great tool for helping us. See the future impacts of environmental issues in a way that other literary genres don't seem able to achieve. 

 

KIM STANLEY ROBINSON: Science fiction, by having a trajectory into the future, it does stuff that so-called literary realism just is incapable of. Amitav Ghosh talking about in The Great Derangement, his book about how literary fiction, the only fiction that matters, can't portray climate change, well he's missed the boat. Science fiction is the realism of our time, the strongest literature of our time, and he's doing some kind of weird historical fiction and worrying about it. Well, he should write science fiction and when you're writing science fiction, and especially in our moment, what's strange is that no one can predict the real future that's going to come. That's impossible. So, from our moment, you could have a complete catastrophe 200 years from now. It could be a mass extinction event that would hammer humanity itself and that's completely realistic given the trajectory that we're on.  But also, given our technological powers, our scientific powers and our maybe growing political savvy, our social skills as a global village, it's also possible that from this moment we could create quite a prosperous utopian society 200 years from now. And what I think is disorienting and weird and makes our moment feel so weird is both of those are possible. They’re physically possible. They're socially possible and they're as far apart as they could be. They're almost 180 degrees. It's frightening how wide apart they are and yet both are possible. And I will say also the middle is unlikely. If we trend towards the bad, it’s is going to be really bad. If we fight and get towards the good, it's going to be really good. And the middle is sort of like this attenuating peninsula, like you're hiking in a ridge in New Mexico with steep dropoffs on both sides, and you got to stay on the ridge, but if you drop off the side that goes towards the good, there you're going to go, there's going to be momentum. If you drop off towards the bad, it’s going to be harder than hell to shift back over the ridge. So, it's a strange moment in history. I suspect that every moment in history felt really strange and unprecedented, but I'm saying this moment is maybe more unprecedented than ever before. 

 

JARED BLUMENFELD: How did you decide, Stan, to focus your novel on climate change and why did you set it in New York? 

 

KIM STANLEY ROBINSON: I wanted to write about New York and I was interested in doing another climate change novel that took on this different angle of sea level rise because there was this James Hansen paper that was published, actually after I started, but confirming the notion that even the temperature rise that we've already created might result in quite drastic sea level rise. And it really comes down to the ice mass that’s perched on Antarctica that is unstable, and so, a small rise in temperature, especially ocean temperature, could cause a huge amount of ice to crash into the sea pretty rapidly. So, I wanted to write about New York as a kind of Venice, and yet, I wanted to be semi-realistic about it and talk about real dangers. So, I had to put it out to the year 2140 just to give enough time for something quite drastic like that to happen. So, all these things combined to make a good opportunity for a science fiction novel that discussed all this stuff. I also wanted to talk about global finance and how that's crucial to climate change. 

 

JARED BLUMENFELD: I mean, I love the book. It's kind of a romp. It’s got treasure hunts, has got all kinds of fun stuff happening. You also included this role of the citizen. Tell us a little bit about why you had the citizen, this kind of person that can stand up and say whatever they like about the situation.

 

KIM STANLEY ROBINSON: I’ve become kind of notorious as the science fiction writer that will do what people call expository lumps, which I would say is a nasty term, but better than the even worse term of the “Info dump.” So, you're not supposed to do those. Those are bad, and yet I think they're very important for science fiction to be able to explain what it wants. And the novel used to be filled with exposition and now this, this model that there's no such thing as a narrator and you have to have nothing but dramatized scenes with an invisible narrator, well, that's crippling, and I've never believed in it. And in this novel, I had the citizen, so about every 10th chapter, every eighth chapter, I had the citizen going, a New York citizen, just an anonymous guy, a smart alec, sarcastic, cynical, a Yankee fan, all this kind of stuff that I'm not. And it was all there for me to make commentary on the action, to give the history, to give the commentary, to give the explanations to go into exposition mode while still having it be a comedy. Because by and large, that book is a comedy. 

 

JARED BLUMENFELD: Yeah, it's a comedy with a tragedy. Let's focus on capitalism because you, you know, you reserve a lot of your venom and ire for the system. 

 

KIM STANLEY ROBINSON: I have always been a leftist and an anti-capitalist and I think it's a system of ownership that is hierarchical where you get the one percent and everyone else. And so, this is not particularly alarming or news, everybody sees it now, and the question is, what do we do about it? I would say that in the capitalist system is a way of expropriating value and accumulating value in the form of capital from the work of everybody and from nature itself, from the productive values of the rest of the biosphere, get concentrated into capital and then owned by a small minority of the people. So that's the system I'm describing. And it's not a revolutionary to say that. We're all in it. We all see what's going on. So, then what do you do? 

 

JARED BLUMENFELD: That always is the next question. Yes, capitalism is contributing to destroying the planet. But what do we replace it with? Talking of which, Stan, how do you price something that you can't do without, like clean air?

 

KIM STANLEY ROBINSON: Since it never valued nature, those were all externalities in the technical economic sense of capitalism, then you need to begin to value them and say, these natural services are so valuable that we can't live without them. So, in a way they're kind of priceless. So how do you value, how do you price something that you can't do without, you can't live without? The natural systems. Uh, can you put a dollar value on that? Well, not very adequately because if you were to say supply and demand and you needed it in order to live, then the demand is kind of an infinity. So, everything that is important for life support is worth infinity. So that doesn't work when you're in a money system. So then artificial values are assigned, and they've been too low and we're burning up the world for our generation when the future generations are going to be handed a degraded biosphere that won't support them properly. So, if you were to price that stuff, it would be a change and it would have to come from other than the market system because the market system is always wrong. 

 

JARED BLUMENFELD: Why is this system always wrong? 

KIM STANLEY ROBINSON: Buyers want things as cheaply as possible because they're broke. Sellers want to stay in business, so they offer things for as cheaply as they possibly can and still make a profit and they're in competition with each other. So, they begin to lie, they began to sell things for less than it costs to make them. Everybody does that and they pretend that they're making a profit, but what they're really doing is ripping off the future and the natural world in order to sell stuff cheaply enough to stay in business when actually it was more expensive in the long view. And so, it's a Ponzi scheme in which all of us alive today, are ripping off the future generations who are eventually going to be handed the bill.

 

JARED BLUMENFELD: So okay, so who's going to pay the bill? 

 

KIM STANLEY ROBINSON: Standard Economics would say, Oh, future people are richer than us. We don't need to worry about them. We discount the future. But in reality, the future people are not going to be able to pay those bills. So, these cars that are passing by us here in Davis, you know, you could buy that one for about $30,000. Well, maybe it really should have cost about $200,000 or $500,000 if you're paying the true cost. But we don't charge ourselves that because we rip off the future. So, this is capitalism and what's interesting is to say, okay, okay, okay, that's true. I admit that, but what would it be better? How can we solve it? How can we replace the market when the market seems to be crowdsourced and democratic and at not a ruled by some tyrannical price center? Well, it's not obvious the answer to that. Not at all obvious and economics and economists let us down. They don't do political economy, they don't do speculative economics where they say, oh, well it'd be better to do this. They just analyze the system as it is and say, oh well maybe you could tweak this or that, but they never go to fundamentals. So, you know, this is what I, this is maybe what science fiction can do, and it's what at least I'm trying to do.

 

JARED BLUMENFELD: In 2140, the chapters are named after different economic theories, which is kind of bizarre. One is called the “tyranny of sunk

costs.” Stan, what does that mean? What are the tyranny of sunk costs? 

 

KIM STANLEY ROBINSON: Sure. This a term out of classical economics. And what it means is if you've sunk a lot of money into a project, a whole lot, then you don't want to abandon it and it's a case of throwing good money after bad and it would be more expensive to start new with something smarter than it would be to keep throwing money into something that is ill conceived in the first place. And it cracked me up as a term when I'm describing a New York that's flooded up to 50 feet higher than it is now. That those are definitely some costs and the tyranny of it is in New York, just as an example, but this is maybe a synecdoche or metonymy where New York stands for all of it. Some of that infrastructure would hold even through climate change even through a sea level rise and you would try to hold onto it and improve it and make it work in the new situation. Other parts of it will be utterly devastated and fall apart. So, there's something charismatic about New York in particular that I quite love as a Californian. It's a city that blows my mind and I think if Manhattan flooded permanently, lower Manhattan, people would stay there. People would the tyranny of sunk costs and also this kind of native inherent desire to stay somewhere beautiful. The skyscrapers that are sunk into bedrock would probably still be functional in the way that Venice is still functional. 

 

JARED BLUMENFELD: One of the things that 2140 highlights is that the one percent make a lot of money by betting on climate change. But right now, we seem to be spending way too much time worrying about saving the physical assets of the rich like downtown San Francisco buildings or Wall Street from sea level rise when in fact, the one percent seem like they're just going to be fine, no matter what happens.

 

KIM STANLEY ROBINSON: Yes, the prosperous West is going to be the last to suffer from the impacts of climate change while also being the first to cause them. So, the question becomes, what do you do about that? How can you perhaps act to compensate for that? Changed behavior by Americans would have a spectacularly more than proportional effect on the rest of the world because we are so much of the carbon burn and an ordinary American middle class, not someone in the top one percent, but just in the top 30 percent of the world burns 30 times more carbon than your ordinary citizen of India or China. So, these are spectacular numbers. It means that demographics means almost nothing because even though there's a billion Indians and 1.4 billion Chinese, if you run the numbers on energy burn, and if we, every one of us equals like 30 Indians than what we do is proportionally vastly more important than what they do. And so, it's worth thinking about these things and thinking not that you individually have to be a saint, although it is fun to live a stylish, low carbon burn life. It's more interesting than just burning carbon and living in a cocoon of crap. But, it needs to be systemic and institutional and political. And that's where we could do amazing things here by working on the laws, the corporations and corporate law of changing, of making the society, our society pay the true costs. Once we did that, we can find we can afford it and the world would be better off and follow our lead.  And we would be the crucial actors in that transformation. Because we're in a crisis moment and strangely, all this human history that's been, you know, 100,000 years and 10,000 years since the Paleolithic and the end of the ice age, and yet our generation is going to make a massive effect on which way the next four or 500 years is going to go. So, it's a peculiar moment to be stuck in and to think about.

 

JARED BLUMENFELD:  You say in the book that we can't imagine catastrophes until after they hit. What does that say about our character or character traits? 

 

KIM STANLEY ROBINSON: Well, I do think there's a kind of an evolutionary thing, not seeing the blind spot, this Greek word, “aporia,” not seeing. Derrida loved it and the Greek philosophers loved it and it’s a powerful term that we have blind spots in our mental vision, especially in the future. And it's very useful because if you see too clearly, you see, well, I'm going to die somewhere between 10 and 30 years, 40 years for younger people. And so, what does anything mean? And so that's not something we're capable of thinking. So, we're really good at not seeing disaster and catastrophe out of a personal bias. So, okay, you go on. But culturally, I think this is what Buddhism is really good at is saying, no, no, no, no, no, wait, we're all mortal. Even the moment is mortal, the universe is mortal. You are mortal. Don't worry about it. There were millions of years before you existed there believe millions of years after you exist. And it's a healthier attitude towards mortality that maybe we really need right now because the world's in a situation, a kind of crisis centuries long, so we aren't going to solve that problem of climate change, of environmental degradation in our lifetimes. But we still have to act like we can do something positive towards it, like scaffolding, like you would scaffold the cathedral, but scaffolding is actually a universal action of constructing complexity and keeping things going. So, this is what we need to keep in mind and take a kind of a Buddhist attitude that even though everything changes always and we're not going to be here forever, there is still good and useful work to be done.

 

JARED BLUMENFELD: One of the things, it was just very powerful from a literary perspective, and it really impacted me when I was reading the book was when the barriers, the levees around New York City finally broke, they've really broke. And this idea that we can somehow use walls to hold back the ocean. I mean you kind of give it a large degree of folly. 

 

KIM STANLEY ROBINSON: Yes. It's a stopgap measure that it would depend on the idea that there's going to be a maximum limit, for instance, if sea level or of immigration, that if you could hold the line at that limit, it would never grow bigger, but in fact the disruptions coming in both oceans, sea level and in numbers of refugee immigrants around the world are both going to rise to the point where they'll overwhelm these walls and then there's going to be a cracking moment of disaster. So instead of coping with it in an ameliorative way, you have this attempt to deny it entirely at which point there is a break and it's worse than if you had admitted it all along. So, it has a social and a physical aspect to it. 

 

JARED BLUMENFELD: We like to think of concrete as a solution to all our problems and it might not be. But the other thing that you talk about at the end of kind of a political campaign is they eventually pass a Piketty tax. What does that mean? 

 

KIM STANLEY ROBINSON: Well, Thomas Piketty, the French economist, did a useful thing in a peculiar way, because he has this 900-page tome that tells you that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, which you're already knew. So, it's kind of hilarious. I call it “the sky is blue” science where somebody goes to enormous effort to prove to you that the sky is blue, and you go, oh, okay, good. So the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, but he's documented it in economic detail in quantitative methods that are standard economic methodology. And then he said, well, what could we do to combat that? And he talked about simply progressive taxation, but his extra touch was that you don't just have progressive taxation on individual incomes, which we used to have in America and they are quite powerful, but you can hide your individual income.  If you're rich enough, you can toss it under the rug by various kinds of financial ploys and then you don't really have very much of an income year to year even though your asset base is huge. Well, what Piketty said was let's tax progressively also assets at that point. The bigger the corporation, the bigger their taxes are getting hit with on their asset base rather than their income and they would begin to break themselves into smaller and smaller units in order to avoid paying taxes. And what I didn't realize when I read his book, and I loved his idea, is that in France, French corporations are already taxed at like one-point five percent of their asset base, that they simply paid to the French state every year. And that's why the French government is still flush enough to have health care and free education through college and the various- the Department of Culture and the other things that constitute a French lifestyle as opposed to a standard neo-liberal capitalist lifestyle. So, if these are ordinary legislative acts that a left party could pursue, and if they were to institute them, it would actually make fundamental changes in our culture. So, I love this. I call them Piketty taxes because I'm a, he's the one that introduced them into the general culture and B, the Wall Street Journal and The Economist were completely incapable of saying why these would be bad. Oh, this is such an unrealistic idea, but they couldn't say one word as to why they wouldn't work or why they'd be bad because they would work, and they would be good. 

 

JARED BLUMENFELD: How do you get your new ideas on economics, like. how are you reaching out to the world to get idea? 

KIM STANLEY ROBINSON: Well, I'm lucky in that I'm part of a group based at UC Santa Cruz. Because of the books I've already written, I'm in contact with any number of radical economists who are way more sophisticated in this field than I am because I'm really just an English major and a storyteller, but a magpie of ideas. But what's interesting is that I have good judgment in terms of what ideas would translate into good stories, good narratives of possible futures that could happen because of other people's ideas. So sometimes I think of myself as like the telephone operator in a 1940’s movie that's plugging in cords from different voices and I'm just orchestrating the plugins.  I'll let this voice talk, I'll let this voice talk. And New York 2140 is a perfect example of that. Let's let a bunch of voices talk and see what kind of story comes out of it.                                      

 

JARED BLUMENFELD: One of the characters in your book, Stan, in 2140 is called Emilia. And I love her. She helps transport polar bears or tries to from the Arctic where they can no longer survive, to Antarctica. I was just reading in the paper that this is actually coming to fruition now. Right now, with conservationists considering moving the last rhinos from east Africa to, of all places I guess it's because it's pretty hot, Australia. So, what are the wildlife impacts of climate change?

 

KIM STANLEY ROBINSON: Sure. We’re in terrible trouble there. The mass extinction is the worst part of climate change and the other mammals are in particularly bad trouble, but all of the rest of the living creatures of earth and a mass extinction event is a bad thing morally and aesthetically, but also practically in that it'll hammer us also. So, there's assisted migration. This is a concept in conservation biology. They don't like the name, but at least they've got, they're stuck with the name, they've got to talk about it. And the idea is that you - Let's keep these wild species alive. Only three percent of the meat on the planet is wild. The rest of it is us and our domestic beasts. And so, this is a kind of emergency situation where I love this idea of rhinos in Australia because then what you have are people protecting the animals rather than poaching them and killing them.  And there should be economic value, of course. We need to have a post capitalist system where to the extent that you're taking care of wildlife, you are also making value in the world that you need to get compensated for. And so, you have a stewardship; you have the idea of land stewards and of animal stewards, game keepers they used to call them, except now you wouldn’t be keeping them in order to get killed by the aristocracy. You'd be keeping them in order to keep them alive. And this could become a career that would be quite beautiful. That would be very fulfilling as a human thing to do. Like what did you do with your life? Well, I managed to help keep the rhinos alive. That would be an incredible accomplishment. And it stands for all the rest of them. So, I wrote about it in its most crazy and comic form, you know polar bears, they might not survive in the Arctic if it warms up too much. And then the Antarctic will stay colder and icier. And yet there's never been Polar bears in the Arctic environment; it would be in many ways a disaster, for the local weddell seals. It would definitely be a disaster, but it might keep the polar bears alive. And then, you know, 300 years later, you could collect them all and bring them back to the Arctic if you had managed to stabilize the climate and draw down the carbon. 

 

JARED BLUMENFELD: What originally drew you to nature and you know, just writing about this stuff, I mean, you and I got to know each other through talking about the Sierras. Like how did you fall in love with nature? 

 

KIM STANLEY ROBINSON: It was in the ocean. I grew up in suburbia in southern California and I should be barking mad. What saved me was the ocean. I was a body surfer and we lived about 10 miles from the coast and my mom, God bless her, would drive me out there at the drop of a hat because she liked it herself. And so, from early childhood through my college years, what my nature was, was going out in the ocean and getting tossed about by the waves. And I thought I would never not do that. I, I loved it beyond all things, and it kept me sane. But then I moved here to Davis. I was in inland and I had friends take me up to the Sierra Nevada and so my love for nature has shifted from oceans to mountains and we are lucky in California, the Sierra Nevada is this huge range, 400 miles long, 60 miles wide. And all the wilderness in protected. I was just up there last week and there are wild animals everywhere and they're not afraid of humans. They've never been shot. They don't care. And they're skittish of course because they're smart enough to know that we're weird, but they're not frightened. And it's amazing how vibrant it is. Once you get above 9,000 feet, there's not a whole lot up there because there isn't much of a nutrient base, but what there can be up there is up there and it's an incredible privilege to walk amongst these creatures and and realize they're not being helped by humans, but they're not being hurt by humans too much except systemically. And they're living in their lives and getting along and it's just a very beautiful experience. So yeah, beaches to mountains and I’m very much of a California guy.                

 

JARED BLUMENFELD: One of the things I really like about your writing is that you manage to keep a sense of humor, whereas if you go and see

movies right now, they all seem to be of a very dystopian bent, which can kind of get old. I don't know. 

 

KIM STANLEY ROBINSON: Sure. Dystopias are a real phenomenon now because they are an expression of our fears and we have a lot of fears right now. And especially young people. So, there's a lot of YA literature that is heavily dystopian and something like the Hunger Games is a real expression of how life feels now when you're young. So, I don't I think there's a real function there. I don't put down dystopia, but eventually it gets too easy and there needs to be something more. There's a complacency like, okay, everything's going to hell. There's nothing I can do. Therefore, I just give up or I party. But many dystopias end with revolution. Really. Like this is intolerable, we have to fight. But also, what do you fight for? And then you need utopia. You need to talk about hopes if we, if we did things well, and we continued to keep our hearts, then good things could come with that. And you need to describe what are those good things. What would it look like? What would it feel like? Would I still be me if I lived in utopia or would I have become some bland, you know, a tasteless automaton, which I think is the fear. Like if you have to change, will you still be yourself? And this is, I think the fear of utopia and the necessity that you write lots of utopias. Well wait, you still are going to have death, you're still going to have love and unrequited love. Things are going to be monstrously dramatic and difficult even in utopia. And so that's the story I've been trying to tell. This is the story of things going right that still can't overcome a mortality or lost love or any of these things that will continue to make like life tragic for the individual but comic for the society. This is the Utopian balance.

 

JARED BLUMENFELD: Have readers of yours - they know you, so they understand how you write and what you write about  - when you wrote about climate change is it is a subject that they were like, could you get off the soapbox, like why are you talking about climate change or are they understanding a little of both? 

 

KIM STANLEY ROBINSON: Yes. I think that now I am considered to be a highly political writer, a guy often on the soapbox and maybe I was more fun before climate change hit my work, but that was a long time ago and I've been a specifically trying to make climate change fun. Which I know sounds stupid, but what I mean is there's a comedy to coping. Bad things are going to happen. We're going to have to cope with them. Humans are ludicrous in all situations. And so, I'm thinking, can I make a fun story out of this catastrophe that we're facing and hopefully dealing with. The comedy of coping, I think is the name of the last chapter. In any case, that's what I've been trying for. And you're right, my readers know me. If they liked this kind of thing, they're sticking with me. If they don't, then I'm sort of like a quirky figure within the science fiction community. I'm like the weirdo, the boy scout/ communist baseball player. I mean, who the heck is Stan Robinson? Well, in the Science Fiction community, they're very tolerant. They like having the spread of writers that include quirky, strange people and different attitudes. That's part of the joy. Science fiction is not monolithic. There are raging right wingers and dreamy left-wingers like me and one part of the scientific community is enjoying their own tolerance for all this stuff together. So, I'm basically okay, you know, at this point of a brand, a particularly silly brand, but it's okay. I'm enjoying it and I have readers. So, I think I fill a function.

 

JARED BLUMENFELD: If only Stan Robinson had been L. Ron Hubbard, scientology would have looked different. 

 

KIM STANLEY ROBINSON: Oh yes. Well, Hubbard was a fool and a con man. 

 

JARED BLUMENFELD: Okay. So, L. Ron Hubbard aside, there does appear to be a religious fervor to some of your work.

KIM STANLEY ROBINSON: Sure. I think that's right. I think you're, I think you're seeing something there from my mom being from Zion, Illinois, from my grandparents being evangelicals, and also literature is my religion. I mean I believe in it as a way of making meaning out of the world, which I take it is what religions do, well literature is my religion. So, I think that probably comes through. 

 

JARED BLUMENFELD: And hiking just finally, I mean, hiking in the Sierra for me is a religious experience. 

KIM STANLEY ROBINSON: Oh, for sure. I just got out of there after week and there's a kind of a - it's not quite ecstasy because you are not out of your body. You're in your body and your body is often working really, really hard and you're thinking, oh my God, I'm an aging animal and I'm not as strong as I was five years ago. But there's something so beautiful about it. So beautiful. It has to be like a religious experience. It's an aesthetic experience, and literature is an aesthetic experience. So here I think the creation of meaning is, is it, it's not all that mystical. It's very much like, here we are, we're animals, we're in this world, this particular part of the world is spectacularly dramatic and beautiful, and why not enjoy it? This question that Gary Snyder has, what now is lacking? And you know you get out of the past, you get out of the future, here in the present and right now is a very good moment. 

 

JARED BLUMENFELD: Thanks so much to Stan Robinson for spending time with us today and for focusing his love of nature, understanding of science and economics, and his sense of humor on writing science fiction that reminds us of who we are. Ultimately, the power of Stan Robinson’s work is we now know what the future might hold, so we now have the opportunity to turn that scenario into fiction. What I took away from talking to Stan today is that our fear of our own mortality, which the Greeks called “aporia,” blinds us from examining all kinds of difficult topics from climate change to inequality. The good news is that once we know our vision is impaired, we can go and do something about improving it. Science fiction helps us see a world just beyond the horizon and on issues like artificial intelligence, singularity, and now the environment, sci-fi is now informing real science.  Thank you so much for being part of the Podship Earth journey. From the entire Podship Earth crew, sound engineer, Rob Spate, producer Nancy Ferranti, executive producer David Kahn, and me, Jared Blumenfeld, have a fabulous Sci-fi filled week.