As the GreenPunk Manifesto states, the genre “Envisions a world in which the detritus of consumer culture as propagated by the Elite is appropriated and repurposed by the masses toward the reconstruction of a devastated ecology and the address of social ill.”
I’ve been assuming that the devastation of the ecology and the social ills mentioned here would be outcomes deriving from the natural course of what’s going on in the real world now, such as the continuing, unchecked amassing of that “detritus of consumer culture,” the persistent failure of governments and individuals to take climate change seriously, the acceleration of overpopulation, and many other obvious problems and impending calamities. But what if all these crises, bad as they are, are made even worse by the attempts to fix them?
Stephen D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner’s new book, SuperFreakonomics, has attracted attention and controversy for its segment on climate change in which they dismiss the idea that carbon mitigation ought to be a big part of the near-term strategy for the moderating the planet’s temperature increase. Instead, they say that since the problem seems to be that the planet is getting warmer, then the solution is simply to make it cooler. They suggest undertaking a big geo-engineering project involving pumping massive quantities of sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere. Like a gigantic volcanic eruption, this new layer of pollutant would screen the planet from some of the sun’s rays and cool us down.
Personally I think this idea sounds both preposterous and highly dangerous. I don’t have the scientific expertise to explain exactly why I think that, but Professor Raymond Pierrehumbert of the University of Chicago does, and he does so with great panache in this open letter to Stephen Levitt.
While I doubt that it would be a good idea to do this kind of geo-engineering experiment in the real world, it occurred to me that something like the sulfur dioxide pump could be good fodder for a fictional world in the GreenPunk genre. Large-scale projects could lend themselves to epic stories. What other giant climate mitigation schemes are people thinking about?