Sci-Fi Writers Discuss Climate Catastrophe: Robert J Sawyer, Author Of Hominids

robert-j-sawyer-author-photo-by-bernard-clark-colorThe big announcement came this weekend that over 190 nations had signed on to an agreement in Paris to move their economies in the general direction of away from fossil fuels. It’s being hailed as historic.

All nations signing on to the Paris Agreement, rich or poor, have committed to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions with the overall goal being to limit global warming to well below 2° Celsius. Included in the document is even an aspirational target of 1.5°C.

Yay, team. But there’s still no popping of corks around the Dechene household. I’ve yet to get over the betrayal of the Kyoto Accord. And while world leaders were forging this climate deal, their trade ministers and business-development minions continue to toil away at a series of trade deals like the TPP and CETA that may make any international program to curb carbon emissions completely moot

As I said in the comments to another post (on a completely different topic), pessimism is my operating system. And that’s especially true where international climate change treaties are concerned. I see no reason to update to the new optimism OS. It’s barely out of beta.

For now, I’m going to wait and see what the Koch Brothers’ countermove is.

Thing is, I really, REALLY hope the world got it right this time. The alternative — runaway global warming — is just too awful to contemplate.

But contemplate we did. For the current Prairie Dog, we contacted three Canadian science fiction writers and asked them what our planet may face if these international deals continue to fail. They had a lot of very sobering things to say on the subject. So much I couldn’t fit everything into the article. So I’m posting longer versions of those interviews here.

This is the third and final interview in the series. It’s with Hugo and Nebula award winning author Robert J Sawyer who’s 23rd novel, Quantum Night, is coming out in March. It’s set largely in Saskatoon, in and around the Canadian Light Source. 


PRAIRIE DOG: What happens to the planet and our society if these climate summits keep failing and we don’t find a way to limit global warming?

ROBERT J SAWYER: My fervent hope is, just like any group of unruly teenagers who have deadlines months in advance for school assignments, they get their homework done at the last possible moment. Of course, there are those who think we’ve passed the last possible moment to contain it to under two degrees. I am hoping that finally all of the time wasting will come to an end.

So I don’t want to be painted as the guy who says, “We’re doomed and here is what it’s like.” 

That said, if we do drop the ball across the globe and we do face two degrees or more celsius of change, it’s going to be a completely different world.

Continue reading “Sci-Fi Writers Discuss Climate Catastrophe: Robert J Sawyer, Author Of Hominids

Sci-Fi Writers Discuss Climate Catastrophe: Nina Munteanu, Author Of Darwin’s Paradox

nina-nov2015To mark the end of the COP21 climate conference in Paris, I contacted three Canadian science fiction writers and asked them what might happen to the planet if we can’t reach an international deal on greenhouse gas reductions. The article that came out of those conversations is titled Apocalypse Hot and is in the Dec 10 Prairie Dog.

The writers I spoke with covered more stuff than I could cram into my meagre word allotment. So, I’m publishing longer versions of those interviews here.

This is the second interview in the series. It’s with Nina Munteanu, a limnologist, ecologist and author of award-nominated speculative novels, short stories and non-fiction such as The Splintered Universe trilogy and The Last Summoner. She is co-editor of Europa SF and currently teaches writing courses at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. Her non-fiction reflection on the meaning of water, Water Is…, is coming out soon.

We spoke for over an hour and I didn’t transcribe the entire conversation. Here are some highlights…


NINA MUNTEANU on what climate change is doing to the water: We are 70per cent water, the planet is 70 per cent water. Water is all around us and we are part of the hydrological cycle whether we think of that way or not.

Climate change is only an aspect of what’s going on with water. We’re talking about over population, the misallocation and misuse of resources including water. The way water is being used, it’s traded on the stock exchange right now. it’s commodified. I had a thing about how many Americans drink bottled water versus whatever else. It’s huge. We’ve commodified water. We grab it from one watershed — there’s the word mining water — they grab it from one water shed and then they bottle it and then they send it off to somewhere else.

Continue reading “Sci-Fi Writers Discuss Climate Catastrophe: Nina Munteanu, Author Of Darwin’s Paradox

Sci-Fi Writers Discuss Climate Catastrophe: Julie Czerneda, Author Of A Play Of Shadow

Photo by Roger Czerneda Photography
Photo by Roger Czerneda Photography

To mark the end of another global climate summit — the COP21 conference in Paris — I contacted three Canadian science fiction writers and asked them what they thought were some plausible scenarios for the planet if we fail to solve our carbon problem. The article that came out of those conversations is titled Apocalypse Hot and appears in the Dec 10 Prairie Dog.

The writers I spoke with covered a lot of ground but I only had space in the paper to use a few short quotes. So, I’m publishing longer versions of the interviews here on Dog Blog.

First up is Julie Czerneda. She is the author of the novel, This Gulf Of Time And Stars. And she is also the author of A Play Of Shadow, which won the Aurora Award for Best Novel shortly after I interviewed her. Czerneda did graduate studies in biology at the University of Saskatchewan and taught biology at the University of Waterloo. 


PRAIRIE DOG: Many climate scientists and science writers who cover global warming argue that the only way we can hope to keep to 2°C of warming — if that’s even possible any more — is through a major, coordinated international effort. And yet the summits we’ve held on global warming have either failed outright or have come to weak conclusions. Many of those same scientists and writers argue that COP21 in Paris is our last chance to get this right. From your position as a science fiction writer, what do you see happening to the planet and our society if we keep failing at these international summits?

JULIE CZERNEDA: The landscape around us will change. We will have no say in that change. We will have different living things. We will have us, I don’t want to dwell on the failure of food crops, but what we grow and what we eat will have to change. There won’t be the vast prairie landscapes, there won’t be the fruit belts and areas that grow rice. Areas will be diminished or flooded. We’ll have to make shifts to deal with food shortages and changing diets. Our kids may not be able to afford the kinds of things we do now which is having lots of cattle. A good steak may be something we can’t afford in the future.

Continue reading “Sci-Fi Writers Discuss Climate Catastrophe: Julie Czerneda, Author Of A Play Of Shadow

Digestible Budget Nuggets! They’re Easy To Digest!

Council met last night for a special, marathon meeting on the 2016 city budgets. Here are all my tweets so you can live every minute of a six hour council session.

But since you’ve probably got better stuff to do with your day, I’ll spoil the highlights: Council was able to reduce the proposed 3.9% property tax increase to 3.3%. And they dropped the proposed utility rate increase from 6% to 5%.

You can follow all my live-tweeting of city stuff at @PDCityHall.

There will be a summary of the council meeting in the next issue of Prairie Dog (out Thursday). And I think it’s a safe bet that we’ll be discussing the budget on Thursday’s Queen City Improvement Bureau — that’s the radio show I do with Aidan Morgan every Thursday evening at 7pm on 91.3 CJTR (episode archive here).

This Week At City Hall: Café Patios On Hill Ave Cut 50%, Condo Policy Disaster Averted, Getting Ready To Welcome Refugees

thisweekatcityhallHere it is: 100% twitter-distilled city council meeting for your mid-morning clicking pleasure. It’s all here. The debate, the clever repartee, the feel-good speechifying, the Chad Novak. Everything except the boring bits.

And if you don’t like the slick slideshow viewer that’s below, click on over to my Storify site for the whole thing on a page.

You can follow all my Regina-related live tweeting at @PDCityHall.

This Week At City Hall: Street Names, Pension Problem, Road Closures

thisweekatcityhallRecommendations from the Civic Naming Committee and reports about road closures don’t usually become the marquee items on council’s agenda. But they did this week.

Also on the agenda: appointing an interim city manager, solving the city’s unfunded pension liability, shuffling around reserve balances, revising the housing incentives policy and more.

Here’s the Storify of all the live tweeting I did through the meeting. You can catch all the thrilling, moment-to-moment twitter action next council meeting by following my city hall account, @PDCityHall.

Election 2015: A Halfassed Postmortem

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cdnelxncircleIt’s day two of Trudeau 2.0 and I’m still hungover. Holy crap: epic election bender. Considering how surprising and epochal Monday night’s results were I wanted to craft a comprehensive think piece for the blog covering all I’ve learned from this marathon campaign. But I suspect all I’ll be able to squeeze from my inflamed and throbbing brain box are a few opinion turds.

Here goes…

Continue reading “Election 2015: A Halfassed Postmortem”

Election 2015: Joe Clark Of 1979 Vs Stephen Harper Of 2015

cdnelxncircleI was procrastinating last night by watching clips from old election debates. I was struck by three things: how much better suits were in 1961, how much better debates were 30 plus years ago, and by how utterly reasonable conservatives sounded in the pre-CPC days.

Take this clip from Joe Clark’s opening statement in the 1979 leaders debate. Swap out the name “Trudeau” and it sounds like a rebuke of Stephen Harper’s record.

It’s really too bad Joe got kicked to the curb back in 2003 when the Reform-cum-Alliance consumed the Progressive Conservatives. I could’ve voted for a guy like Joe Clark.

Election 2015: My Official Endorsement

cdnelxncircleThis election, I’ve realized that federal politics are all about a futile quest for sincerity, gifts being randomly handed out to your supporters, and disappointment. That’s why I am endorsing The Great Pumpkin for Prime Minister. He’s the other big orange guy you really want to believe will be awesome when he arrives at the end of October but who always lets you down.

Vote for hope. Vote for the Great Pumpkin.

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Election 2015: You Want To Talk Ethics? Let’s Talk Ethics! [Updated]

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cdnelxncircle

It’s the last day of this marathon campaign and the issue on which Monday’s vote may turn is ethics — specifically, the questionable ethics of our notorious… Dan Gagnier!

*record scratch* Whaaa-a-a? Seriously? Trudeau’s campaign co-chair sending emails to a pipeline company is the scandal that could decide the fate of Harper’s government?

What the living fuck?!?

I have been waiting all election for ethics to become a voting issue. It is the thing that Harper is most vulnerable on. But there were five leaders debates and exactly how many times was the Duffy trial brought up? Was it zero? By my count, it was zero.

So it’s kind of infuriating to have to sit through days of Stephen Harper smugly telling Canadians that the Gagnier scandal proves that the Liberals haven’t changed a whit from the days of the Sponsorship Scandal, while the Prime Minister himself sits at the centre of a vast web of evil, surrounded by shady characters, dubious personalities, liars, villains and felons.

Let’s run through the names of Harper’s sketchy pals, associates and appointees. But I’ll have to put them after the jump because the list is so long…

Continue reading “Election 2015: You Want To Talk Ethics? Let’s Talk Ethics! [Updated]”

Election 2015: Dubious Endorsement Scandal Deepens

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cdnelxncircleMaybe you missed it? In the latest issue of Prairie Dog, the paper’s corporate overlords penned an endorsement of Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party. It’s odd because so much that’s appeared in those pages over the years has been highly critical of Harper’s regime and yet there it is. Lines like: “You must elect a majority government led by Stephen Harper,” “Canada needs steady leadership in the years ahead,” and “In Stephen Harper’s Canada, markets talk and hippy bullshit walks.”

Despicable. I couldn’t sleep at night if I didn’t speak out against such corporatist shilling.

But it turns out the scandalous behaviour runs much deeper than merely caving to pressure from the bosses. After some Googling, I’ve discovered that many of the lines penned by Prairie Dog‘s owners were plagiarized.

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Election 2015: Conservative’s Goodyear Brings Misinfo To Science Fight

A hi-tech science gizmo at the Experimental Lakes Area.
A hi-tech science gizmo at the Experimental Lakes Area.

Happy Thanksgiving everybody. Hope I’m not intruding on your happy family weekend with this blog post which, I’m sorry to say, will only provide more fuel for you inner rage monkey. But I’ve just been listening to the all-party science debate that CBC’s Quirks and Quarks put on yesterday. And I have to share.

Holy crapping Darwin finch. The Conservatives can’t even stick close to the facts in a discussion of science when they’re talking to actual scientists.

The panel Quirks host Bob McDonald put together included Lynne Quarmby for the Green Party (who is a professor and Chair of the Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry at Simon Fraser University); Marc Garneau for the Liberal Party (who is a former Canadian astronaut); Megan Leslie for the NDP (who is her party’s environment critic); and, Gary Goodyear for the Conservatives (who has weird ideas about evolution and is also a chiropractor).

It’s actually pretty fascinating to hear how casually Goodyear is able to litter the debate with misinformation. It would take hours to adequately debunk every single Harper-friendly myth he perpetuates over the course of the hour. But as I’m heading out the door soon to gorge myself on turkey in a few minutes and expect to be so doped out by tryptophan later on, I only have time to take on one of Goodyear’s howlers.

Continue reading “Election 2015: Conservative’s Goodyear Brings Misinfo To Science Fight”

Election 2015: Where In The World Is Trent Fraser? (And, For That Matter, All The Other CPC Candidates)

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cdnelxncircleUPDATE: Surprise. According to the L-P’s Emma Graney, Trent Fraser will be at tomorrow night’s televised Access debate.

Last week, Trent Fraser, Conservative candidate for Regina–Lewvan, informed the CBC that skipping public debates and forums is part of his party’s election strategy.

Personally, his confession strikes me as a pretty serious gaffe but it hasn’t received much attention. Not even locally. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that this would get overshadowed by that other cornerstone of the Conservative’s election strategy:

Stoking fears of terrorist fifth-columnists!

I guess we’ll find out tonight if Fraser is sticking to the Conservative playbook as there’s another forum for candidates in Regina–Lewvan. It’s being put on by the Cathedral Community Association board at the Cathedral Neighbourhood Centre. (That’s across the street from the 13th Ave Safeway at 2900 13th Ave. Show starts at 7pm Show up earlier if you want a seat.)

Continue reading “Election 2015: Where In The World Is Trent Fraser? (And, For That Matter, All The Other CPC Candidates)”

Election 2015: Pro Life Magazine Disappears Interview With Wascana CPC Candidate Michael Kram

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Part of Choose Life News’ interview with Michael Kram. I generated this image from the pdf I downloaded from their site.

cdnelxncircleHey ladies! Wascana Conservative Candidate Michael Kram has a message for you. Your access to safe, legal abortions? He wants to take that away from you and if he gets elected on October 19, he would like to “join the pro-life caucus and move right to life issues forward.”

That quote, and many more like it, are from an interview with Kram that appeared in the September 2015 issue of Choose Life News.

Only you can’t read it there.

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Election 2015: Conservative Candidate Considers Deporting Mulcair

cdnelxncircleHere’s Brad Butt, Conservative MP for Mississauga–Streetsville, explaining how the Harper government could use Bill C-24 to strip NDP leader, Thomas Mulcair, of his Canadian citizenship. But, hey, they’re not monsters. They’d only do this if Mulcair committed treason.

See? Perfectly reasonable.

Of course, the Conservatives also passed Bill C-51 which is basically a handbook for how to brand environmentalists as terrorists — or, for that matter, anyone else whose actions the police deem interferes in some thoroughly subjective way with Canadian industry. You participate in a blockade that slows truck traffic down a highway? You’re a terrorist. You write a blog post arguing maybe blockading highways is a reasonable form of protest? You’re supporting terrorism. So you’re a terrorist.

And terrorism is treason.

So, Mr Mulcair, if Harper wins on the 19th, you might want to keep a bag packed.

Election 2015: The Problem With Polls Isn’t Poll Proliferation It’s Partypooping Pundits

EDITnanosnumberssept27

cdnelxncircleI’ve read a bunch of think pieces lately that warn against the abundance of poll coverage in this election. There’s a lot of talk about how unreliable various polling methods are, how confusing it can be for voters to have so much conflicting data flying about and how political journalism suffers when it becomes obsessed with numbers. The consensus seems to be that we shouldn’t turn an election into a horse race.

Who are these joykillers?

You know why people go to horse races? Because they’re exciting. When you put a couple bucks down on Foggy Before Breakfast to show, all that matters for the next half hour is whether or not that mare can beat those eight-to-one odds. And when I rise in the morning, call up threehundredeight.com in my browser and track where all the various lines and graphs are sitting, it turns the election into a Kentucky Derby in my head.

No, fuck that. Better: goddamn Mario Kart. With power ups, Koopa shells and banana peels. The election becomes a brightly coloured, pixellated thrillfest. And it’s about the only thing in a day that can set my calcified heart to beating.

Continue reading “Election 2015: The Problem With Polls Isn’t Poll Proliferation It’s Partypooping Pundits”

Election 2015: So This Happened…

wastedvotesign

cdnelxncircleWe have a Green Party sign on our front lawn and last night somebody spray painted “wasted vote” across it.

You know the election’s close and emotions are running high when even the taggers and vandals are thinking about strategic voting.

I’m not even a little bit annoyed that our sign was defaced. It’s an important election and when shit like this happens it just means people are paying attention. Plus, it gives me an excuse to tell the story of why we have that Green Party sign.

Continue reading “Election 2015: So This Happened…”

Election 2015: French Language Debate Provides More Proof Canada Is Awful

cdnelxncircleHarper and Duceppe were able to come to common cause in last night’s French-language debate on CBC. I’m sure it gave both men the warm fuzzies to finally get to be such good chums, even if it was over their joint willingness to court the basest, most racist elements in Canadian society.

The question they linked arms and sang anti-Kumbayas over was on niqabs and whether they should be banned during citizenship ceremonies, with both men arguing the government should be in the business of telling women to dress less modestly than they feel comfortable with if they want to be out in public interfacing with our nation’s bureaucracies.

Apparently Quebec at the political level agrees unanimously with them on this — that’d be the entire national assembly and all the province’s big city mayors. Meanwhile, nationally, polls are saying over 70 per cent of Canadians are also niqab-averse.

Taken all together it just adds fuel to my thesis from Monday’s blog post that Canadians are secretly really horrible people at heart. They don’t want to be seen doing or saying horrible things, so they’ll vote Harper into another majority government because he’ll say and do all the horribleness for them.

Nice work Harper and Duceppe at putting yourselves forward as options for the asshole and coward vote.

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Election 2015: Random, Folksy, Stephen Harper-Themed Sayings

cdnelxncircleI’m writing this thing about the election and I get to this point where I think I need a folksy saying. And I say to myself, “I want something like ‘Every time a bell rings an angel gets its wings,’ except it’d be about Harper.”

That line about bells and angels is from Zuzu Bailey in It’s A Wonderful Life and it has this great Mad Libs structure: “Every time [blank] a [blank happens]“. It’s been used by comedians for-basically-ever. My personal favourite is from Dylan Moran: “Berlusconi, in Italy, right… He’s so fucking crooked he sleeps on a spiral staircase! So thoroughly corrupt, every time he smiles an angel gets gonorrhoea!”

Anyway, I wanted something like that. Except I’m no Dylan Moran so I was thinking, shit, wouldn’t it be great if there was a random generator for this sort of thing? Then my job would be done. And I googled and googled and there was nothing quite right so I thought, great, I’ll just have to do it myself. And that means I could put my actual work aside for a while and take on this utterly useless exercise.

Here it is for your amusement and/or use in your next article about the election. All you need is a ten-sided die (because everybody has ten-sided dice lying around their house, right? RIGHT?!). Roll it twice, once for each column, and you can make your own folksy sayings like “You know what they say, every time Harper goes up a point in the polls somewhere an oil executive gets a hard-on.”

Farper-randomizer