Considering I’ve read precisely one book by the guy (the awesome Red Mars), I have a lot of affection for Kim Stanley Robinson. If I read more SF/F, he’d be up there in my reading list I’m sure.
Making Light linked to this KSR interview, which I found compelling reading. He’s written a lot on the subject of massive planetary changes – either human induced, as in the Mars books, or the 40/50/60 series describing the Earth undergoing significant climate change. In the interview he discusses some of the interface between psychology and change, and expresses quite succinctly how we are living, as a species, unsustainably:
I’m advocating a kind of alteration of our imagined relationship to the planet. I think it’d be more fun – and also more sustainable. We’re always thinking that we’re much more powerful than we are, because we’re boosted by technological powers that exert a really, really high cost on the environment – a cost that isn’t calculated and that isn’t put into the price of things. It’s exteriorized from our fake economy. And it’s very profitable for certain elements in our society for us to continue to wander around in this dream-state and be upset about everything.
I love that first bit – an ‘alteration of our imagined relationship to the planet’. That’s fascinating stuff. There’s a massive headshift needed so we see the planet and our dynamic interactions with it in a more comprehensive way. A whole new frame for “the environment” is kicking its way into discourse, slowly – for example, thanks in no small part to Al Gore, there is now widespread acceptance that planetary-scale systems can be sensitive and responsive to human activity, which is a massive change in perspective compared to pretty much all human history before now.
KSR also waxes lyrical about the value of low-impact pleasures such as walking in the park and having a drink with friends. His claim that the new high-impact diversions we’ve created for ourselves are fundamentally psychologically unsatisfying is dubious, but I’m fully on-board with the idea that low-impact pleasures should be celebrated. These pleasures often sink out of view in the consumer society – there’s no money in going for a walk in the park, so there’s no marketing of that form of recreation. (As an aside, part of my great affection for roleplaying games is that they are low-impact activities; essentially they’re a structured form of hanging out with friends. There’s some interesting politics to RPGs. But that’s another post for another time.)
Anyway, go read the whole interview. It’s great and full of insights and quotable bits, and there’s a neat photo of Jimmy Carter inaugurating the White House solar panels in ’79, among other cool visuals. If you’re interested in sustainability, KSR’s perspective is worth your time.