‘Peculiar a Predator’

August 23, 2015

tumblr_mbb4h4cx8M1rgxbgpo1_500Gloomy-gray overcast this early Sunday on California’s north coast, and although I’m used to the days-long marine layer, this particular batch feels more miserable than usual — maybe after seemingly weeks-long bright sunshine-filled skies, this latest fog cycle has become achingly oppressive.

Mix surreal smoke from burning giant, wooded-interior parts from all around where I’m sitting at my laptop, and you’ve got an environment most-definitely even beyond ‘cli-fi, challenging creative expression to examine ‘“…the radical changes of our pressing and strange reality.”

The actual, real-time complication in the accumulating history of this planet is mankind’s nefarious hand on the cruise control — supposedly, we’re now in the so-called Anthropocene age, the geological epoch where we’ve been at the helm, sucking up all the planet’s resources in abundance.
Stir in greed, along with the human propensity to kill, and kill more, in the effort to make sure we’ve got enough of whatever.

We’re a vicious species — via Quartz:

In fact, humans are no ordinary predators — they’re “super-predators.”
And our unnatural abilities are the subject of a newly published study by a team from University of Victoria in British Columbia.
It’s not just our tools, tech, and trade systems that make us unique.
It’s how we apply them.
Other predators mainly target juveniles, while humans kill up to 14 times more adult prey than other predators.
Shooting Bambi’s mother and sparing Bambi is actually not a kindness: Killing adults during their reproductively fruitful years causes populations to shrink and can throw entire food webs out of whack.

Chris Darimont, professor of geography, who led the study: ‘“The contemporary forces are stunning and underline just how peculiar a predator the human species has become.”

And in other human-predator news in the natural world — from environmental writer Chris Mooney at the Washington Post:

But the world’s forests are in serious trouble, according to a suite of papers out in this week’s issue of the journal Science.
The research systematically examines how forests are being damaged by the combined impacts of a changing climate and more human incursions.
“These papers document how humans have fundamentally altered forests across the globe and warn of potential broad-scale future declines in forest health, given increased demand for land and forest products combined with rapid climate change,” note Susan Trumbore of the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry and two coauthors in an overarching introduction to the suite of studies.

End game: ‘Put it all together, and it’s hard to read through the Science papers and not fear for the forests of the globe.  “Many of the trees alive today will experience temperatures and CO2 levels outside the range to which they are adapted,” note Trumbore and her colleagues.

Meanwhile, after that nifty quick-snack of shit biscuits, back to the top of this post and to the gloomy fog that’s inching beyond science-fiction into climate-fiction, and the quote noted — belongs to Claire L. Evans, who I’d never heard of until now.
According to her Wikipedia page, Evans is the lead singer of the pop duo ‘Yacht,’ based down in LA. She’s also a science journalist, and currently Futures Editor of Motherboard, Vice (magazine)‘s technology and science website.
The quote came from a piece at Creative Time Reports last week. I spied it at the Guardian.
A good read — some key points:

The mechanics of science fiction function at every level, from granular observations of everyday life to speculations on the cosmos, all while maintaining the human thread; it may be the only genre capable of such monumental shifts in scale.
And the Anthropocene requires scale: a geologic period with no end in sight, it will affect our lives and those of our distant descendants.

When today’s sci-fi blockbusters address ecological issues, they tend toward the dystopian.
Mad Max: Fury Road is an unflinching portrait of the world after water; the frozen tundra of Snowpiercer is the consequence of a failed climate-control experiment; even Godzilla rises from a warming sea.
But purely apocalyptic stories don’t help us reckon with reality’s slower, but equally devastating, emergencies – forests that vanish acre by acre, sea levels that rise a few millimeters each year, demand for consumer goods that gradually leeches the planet’s resources.

The point is that Anthropocene fiction isn’t just science fiction; nor is it just climate fiction.
It’s both those things and more.
It is all the stories we should tell our children: near-future tales of ecological systems, collapse, responsibility and possibility along with visions of long-term cohabitation with our own environment.
The point is to show them not just how the story ends but how we might get through the middle — while we still have a shot at changing it.

The horrible, achingly-depressive notion is the optimism — ‘a geologic period with no end in sight,’ yet in reality there is, and it’s not pretty, though, the great wad of humanity doesn’t understand yet.
Evans does grasp the current most-dire situation: ‘while we still have a shot at changing it.’

The way-overriding problem, however, is ourselves.

(Illustration: ‘Untitled,’ by the late Polish dystopian-surrealistic artist, Zdzislaw Beksinski, found here).

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