A brief glimpse into the future:
A brief glimpse into the future:
Photographer Chris Jordan has a series of pictures of dead albatrosses whose bellies revealed to be filled with pieces of plastic and other forms of human garbage.
…not a single piece of plastic in any of these photographs was moved, placed, manipulated, arranged, or altered in any way. These images depict the actual stomach contents of baby birds in one of the world’s most remote marine sanctuaries, more than 2000 miles from the nearest continent.
Spooky to say the least.
Let’s review, in case you are new to the GreenPunk site:
GreenPunk: a technophilic specific movement centered on characters using and being affected by the use of DIY renewable resources, recycling and repurposing. GreenPunk would emphasize the ability of the individual – and his or her responsibility – for positive ecological and social change.
First, let me tell you a short commercial shopping related story. Last fall, I bought a new DVD player that at my budget, felt like state of the art. A shiny black Toshiba that was going to max out the images and sounds onto my television for a long, long time. I did it as a cool gift for myself after seeing it at noveltystreet, I mean since there are a lot cool stuff and cool things to buy out there why not get one for myself right?
The DVD player died last month; it didn’t even last longer than 9 months. It cost originally about 100 dollars, talk about things you can buy. Getting an estimate wouldn’t be free and fixing it would actually cost probably double of what I paid without the discount. Unlike appliances from our parents’ generation, these so called awesome new devices are essentially disposable. Now I have to find out who I or where I can donate my shiny black DVD player.
I bought a new player today, through a cool online shop. I tried to find the cheapest DVD player possible at Target. 40 bucks, this time a metallic grey, and it does all the stuff the old one did. Now, when it dies and my heart turns even more brittle than before, my pocketbook won’t feel so bad. But what about the materials and the parts of these devices? Are they useless? Why do we think it’s just okay to throw stuff out so easily?
Ah, the agonies of the developed world.
The point of my story is not to tout my techno-fetishes. It is this: As writers, GreenPunk writers, what are our responsibilities to make sure that the tools of our trade are also reusable and renewable? Should we work only online, avoiding printouts on paper and ink consumption? Should we seek used computers to type out our essays and short stories for this Web site? Should we promote writing software, tools and computers that comply with green and sustainable practices? I’d love to start a discussion in the comments below on these topics. Writing is no longer a process that comes from notebooks and typewriters and reams of bond paper. Well, that’s being too hyperbolic. Many of us, I included, still write on paper. But should we be thinking harder about not using paper? Should we use our technologies to not only write interesting words and stories, but to also push further the ideas of GreenPunk?
You. Tell. Me.
Cesar Torres is a Chicago writer/online gift shopper. His blog “Urraca” chronicles his process and efforts in publishing. He writes fantasy, science fiction and other speculative fiction; He also blogs about gifts, online shopping and other cool things.
When I was a kid, punk rock was a novelty presented by the local media as something strange, weird, wicked, perverse and decadent. Obviously, I loved it from day one, and even though I was too little to be seriously into it, the words “punk rock” entered forever into my dictionary of all that is good and true in this world.
Later, when I first heard of something celled “cyberpunk”, I was hypnotized. What could possibly be wrong with something that sounded so cool? Punk, cyber, computers, hackers, police states, corporations, the struggle of common people against post-industrial society… It soon became a small obsession of mine, and has been one of my favourite aesthetical styles since then.
However, time passes, we grow older, maybe wiser, and over the years I witnessed the name “cyberpunk” slowly turn into a fashionable and senseless cultural label that lost most of its original meaning, if it ever had one. Back in the 1990s, everything had to be cyber-something to look cool and marketable. There were lots of trashy pop cultural products like Cybercops, Cyber Lions, Cybersex and stuff like that, and whatever had virtual reality in it was hot enough to sell.
Lately, Steampunk became another hot trend, as confirmed by the hordes of cosplayers invading the latest conventions. However, the more I see pictures of people dressed up in victorian outfits and carrying golden-coated handguns, the more I wonder if any of those people have ever seen an actual steam-powered engine working.
But what puzzles me is the choice of the word “punk”. Why is it steampunk, and not cybersteam? We must dissipate the marketing fog that obscures the meaning of things and check our good friend, the dictionary, to figure out what this actually means.
The prefix “cyber-” comes from greek:
The pilot’s art! Isn’t it beautiful?
So, cyber refers not only to machines, but mainly to the control of machines. That would explain why steampunkers are so fond of their costumes and don’t bother much about driving around in steam-powered cars.
Well, then what about the “punk” part? Our dictionary has a lot of meanings for it:
Well, what a diverse array of meanings. I prefer to believe that cyberpunk is rooted on definition number 8, its outcast characters struggling to survive on a corporate-controlled world. Sadly, over time, many people who embraced meaning number 5 of punk ended up becoming meaning number 1 in order to make a lot of money, leaving their fellow punks from definition 6 feeling like definition 3.
That being said, cyberpunk is the science-fiction based on the struggle of juvenile delinquents against the people who control the machines. Steampunk, on the other hand, is more like pseudo-trouble-makers who like to dress up like people did in the day and age of steam engines.
So… what about greenpunk?
Being a newly proposed “movement”, it’s had to say whatever it will become, but as a newly joined member of its ranks, I tend to believe we should work somewhere around meanings 9 and 10. Not that I want to set fire to whatever we have left of green in this sad blue planet of ours, no… But from all the definitions on that list, “setting fire to something” is the one that really sounds like revolution to me.
You see, the problem with punk rock is that it never evolved as a whole. Each subspecies of the punk rock family developed into something else, thus gaining new names, shapes and colours. The urgent lyrics of the nuclear era can still mean a lot to (some of) us, but the general idea of punk rock became just another fashionistic trend. Thanks to the endless power that media has to turn all that is true and pure into washed-out, clean, safe, family values forms of entertainment, punk rock too became a caricature of itself, losing most of its society-changing power.
As far as I can tell, in our societies, everybody knows we need to change in order to survive and create a healthy sustainable world for our kids to live in. But who is going to actually start this change? We are all apes, and we learn from examples. Rationality is something we take for granted. Every human being is capable of rational thinking, but it takes a long time and a lot of effort. Most people don’t bother much about being rational, as some economists are beginning to prove. And these people won’t act unless someone else shows them what to do, by setting examples to be followed. That is how memes work, and that is how most people chose their clothes, their jobs, and the movie they are going to see on the weekend. They need the example to follow, and they need an authorization to change.
I am not saying here that we are the best examples one should follow. But we can be the fire-starters of something new.
To close this sorry excuse for an article, I’d like to quote one of the greatest philosophers of the XX century – british crust-punk band Discharge:
The savage mutilation of the human race is set on course.
Protest and survive.
Protest and survive.
It’s up to us to change that course.
Protest and survive.
Protest and survive.
Apparently, I fear plastic bags more than murder itself.
Last night I dreamed that I, along with two other university buddies, committed a murder. The three of us were older now, no longer kids, each of us entering middle age with fully adult lives, each of us on our own forking paths of life. They resembled no one I know in real life, and even I did not really resemble myself. Crap, I might have even been straight in the dream, but I can’t recall very well. Yet somehow, a drunken evening and a foolish prank in a seedy corner of the city caused us to suffocate a transient stranger at a bar. It reeks of Hitchcock’s “Rope,” I know, but bear with me. It wasn’t quite like that.
You see, the details of the dream were all wrong. The swampy mansions of this place were more New Orleans and less Dickensian London. There’s no wide stretches of marshes cutting through the streets of London. I know that, and you know that. The Irish newsagent, wearing modern 21st century clothes at the corner belonged in present Dublin and not here. They sold butane lighters, as well as Snickers candy bars. The streets were filled with carriages drawn by horses, as well as the first few models of Ford motor cars. I might have even spotted a cell phone out of the corner of my eye. And yet, I knew we were in Dickens’ era, because the serial versions of his novels, like “Oliver Twist,” were widely available in the street and in the newspapers. We were in the 19th century, yet there were objects, people, and language out of time, Haunting my college friends and their poor choices in the back of a urine-stained bar.
Objects out of time were haunting me.
After we committed the murder, my two college buddies and I escaped with the body into a rougher part of town, dodging curious glances, and we hid in buildings, sought shelter in gas-lit alleys. We eventually ducked into buildings that oddly resembled a Chicago Greystone (again, completely out of place in the world of Dickens). My two friends did not fare well. You see, at some point, the police caught up with them, and they were arrested. I escaped with the body, which I stuffed into a black plastic bag. I knew that I had the upper hand, because a burlap or linen sack would smell, would stain, would lead the authorities to find me. But a plastic bag, well, we all know nothing quite escapes the man-made membrane of a plastic bag. I was the cleverest murderer.
The dream, terrifying in its intensity and its visceral images, struck me to my core. Could I really commit murder, but yet also plan to avoid the law and justice for such a crime? Apparently I could. Yet, my concerns in the dream were overshadowed by a bigger fear: That last statement by the police inspector, with his oiled curly moustache and wooden baton, chilled me to the bone. Right near the ending of the dream, he examined the car trunk where the body was hidden, but he did not ask me to open the black bag. He turned to me and said, “These black plastic bags are amazing, aren’t they? They are going to completely change our world.”
I awoke in a a terror, much before my alarm clock. I was terrified of the notion of the black bag, not as a tree-loving envrionmentalist, but much more. The trash bag somehow represented somethign large, and sinister. The black bag terrified me, both as a fiction, and as a reality.
My attempt will be to capture this type of dread, in fiction, and I plan to bring it here, to GreenPunk.net.
What is strange about the cop’s last statement, is that the fear of the implications of murder in the dream were minimal over the notion that the black plastic might live on through centuries, outliving generations of humans, while a body might take only a few months or years, to truly decompose.
How is it possible that writing, in particular fiction, doesn’t always survive the test of time? Many authors fade into obscurity, while a handful — and I mean just a handful — are still read centuries later? This type of longevity belongs to Charles Dickens. And yet, his writing is not plastic. His writing does not cause damage to natural resources, and does not leach chemicals into the soil or our bodies of water. We need to think about plastic and its impact.
Now matter how much controversy there may be over the biodegradability of plastics, we do know it’s a material that is here to stay. Would I turn last night’s dream into a piece of fiction? Perhaps. If the fictional Cesar of the dream did indeed get away with the murder, I’d follow the garbage bag containing the mutilated body through the centuries, to see if indede
Well, let’s make a choice, here and now. I will indeed turn last night’s nightmare into a short story, which I plan to feature here, on GreenPunk.net. How I use its elements is of course, up to me, but I do know that the disquieting dread I feel about the resiliency of plastic bags and their resistance to biodegrading will play some part in it. It will be a short story, and I will aim for about 2,000 words in length. Look for it here.
Plastic scares me folks. I want to put that fear on the page, somehow.
It’s about evolution of technology, about survival after the world has changed, grown up, grown beyond our industrial childish fantasies. It’s about techno scavengers putting everything together on the sly, building laptops from moldy circuit boards discarded in trash heaps. It’s about dumpster diving for tech, rebuilding it in a way that’s eco minded and eco friendly. We don’t use paper anymore, we don’t use anything anymore that we can’t reuse, that we can’t keep going. Computers are passed down, father to son, mother to daughter, generation to generation hammering away on the same old tech, but it keeps going and going because it doesn’t need to be thrown away anymore. It doesn’t need to be traded in anymore, built up anymore or tossed out anymore.
It’s about portability and freedom and respect to what’s blossoming. This is a new future. It’s a future about hope, about life after the collapse. It’s a future about man kind not just surviving, but about man kind loving the life of a post consumer frenzy world. It’s a world meant to last, meant to be put together and handed down. Technology as heirlooms. Food grown in ones own back yard and the new social centers of the post mall world. It’s a future where plastic is dead (long live plastic!) and where the world needs technocrats to keep on churning.
But of course, it can’t ever be that simple, can it? Out of the old monetary/wealth based society comes a social/elitist society were talent churns and everyone fights for popularity, for being highest on the ladder of who’s who, not with money or power but with ability and charisma. It’s not much of a change, but it is a change still. Worth is not valued on coppers and coins but how quick you can solder a motherboard back from the abyss and keep it going the next decade, two decades, century. It’s how well you cup your words and spill them out from your lips. It’s how well you influence, you create, you build.
It’s a world of tinkerers and toy makers, of silver tongued green heeled warriors philosophers. It’s not a Utopia by any means, there are those fighting still, and arguing still, and trying to grab and push and be better than all the other mugs scrambling by. It’s not a Negative Utopia or a Dystopia, either. It’s not a criticism, but a cry for hope. A cry for new possibilities in the wake of our own future. It’s our future. We built it. We can save it.
We are a collective of writers, artists, tinkerers and thinkers devoted to the exploration of an environmentally and socially conscious art movement that we have christened GreenPunk. You may read the original GreenPunk Manifesto.
The purpose of this website is to: further define and delineate the boundaries of this emergent genre; promote awareness and discussion of emergent environmental and social problems; and to create a centralized location for the dissemenation of education, art and fiction related to the same.
In accordance with our manifesto, we recognize GreenPunk as the following:
(A) A technophilic spec-fic movement centered on characters using and being affected by the use of DIY renewable resources, recycling and repurposing.
(B) Emphasizing the ability of the individual – and his or her responsibility – for positive ecological and social change.
(C) Envisions a world in which the detritus of consumer culture as propogated by the Elite is appropriated and repurposed by the masses toward the reconstruction of a devastated ecology and the address of social ills.
GreenPunk can be post-capitalist and post-consumer. What it isn’t is post-apocalyptic. While by necessity ecological changes and their effects on humanity are explored in GreenPunk literature, they are not fetishized or nihilistically embraced. While we recognize GreenPunk as being cognizant of social and environmental ills, we envision it as an essentially optimistic genre and a pragmatic-albeit idealistic-one: humanity has the potential to solve its problems if they are recognized and addressed in a creative manner.
It is likely that our manifesto and even our conception of GreenPunk will evolve over the duration of our discussion, and in the spirit of discussion we welcome your input.
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 […]
A brief glimpse into the future: http://www.gabeira.com.br/multimidia/fotos/1350-a-china-poluida-de-lu-guang
After being fed with plastic for a long time, they die of several different complications. Photographer Chris Jordan has a series of pictures of dead albatrosses whose bellies revealed to be filled with pieces of plastic and other forms of human garbage. …not a single piece of plastic in any of these photographs was moved, […]
This image, from Oregon State University, shows diatoms–single-celled marine lifeforms have been modified to create nanotech-backed solar cells. As explained in an article at greendiary.com, “Rigid shells of diatoms are attached to conductive glass creating a grid into which a soluble titanium dioxide is fed. Through dye-sensitized technology photons in the film bounce around striking […]
Let’s review, in case you are new to the GreenPunk site: GreenPunk: a technophilic specific movement centered on characters using and being affected by the use of DIY renewable resources, recycling and repurposing. GreenPunk would emphasize the ability of the individual – and his or her responsibility – for positive ecological and social change. First, […]
When GreenPunk becomes more fully developed, and when there eventually exists a large body of new fiction in the subgenre, I would imagine that it’s inevitable that certain tropes and character archetypes will come to be associated with it. I do not mean that as a negative thing, just an interesting likelihood. For example, today […]