Archive for June, 2009

In India

June 27, 2009

I am currently in India with family.  The family has moved from Delhi to one of its satellite towns.  Although it feels strange not to be in Delhi proper, this area has its advantages. 

I have been sick with an awful cold but am recovering and slowly feeling vaguely human.  It is unbelievably hot, hotter than I remember Delhi summers to be.  In the day the sunlight at the bottom edge of the window curtains is a white hot line like the edge of a furnace.  It is impossible to go out in the day because of the loo, the mad, hot wind that can make you sick.  All this is familiar but the degree of heat for days on end is not.  The power outages are familiar too, occuring several times a day.  The inverters save us by powering ceiling fans and lights in key rooms when the electricity fails. 

Despite the heat, early mornings are full of birds yelling and singing lustily.  I have seen some old friends.  The red-wattled lapwings in the area cry out all morning.  I suspect some of them are demented enough to want to nest in he empty field in front of the house, and they seem to be complaining about the cricket-playing kids, the pariah dogs and the cats that prowl the area.  Lapwings are ground nesters, which is nuts to begin with. 

There are also peacocks on rooftops uttering their cat-like miaows and flocks of Brahminy mynahs shrieking like cheeky schoolboys in the verandah.  But most exciting for me was that I actually saw a koel.  I’ve always loved their melodious voices but they are supposed to be very shy birds.  I think I’ve only seen one once before in all my life.  This morning when I heard one call very close by, I went to the front gate and peered up at the trees.  There was a black bird hidden in the leaves, scratching its head with its foot.  It paused, called out a long, beautiful note, and then resumed scratching.  I was thrilled!

The monsoons are supposed to be late and mild this year, which is really bad news for the crops. 

Yesterday I was able to venture out to a bookstore with family.  Got a collection of stories by Ismat Chughtai (in Hindi) and (among other things) Manjula Padmanabhan’s new SF novel, Escape.  I’m looking forward to some good reading.

Talking of good reading my sanity was saved during my sickness by two detective stories by Marcia Muller and the remarkable new fantasy: The Red Wolf Conspiracy by Robert V.S. Redick.  I really enjoyed the book — the complexity, the inventiveness, the world-building, the action scenes — although I have the vague notion that I enjoyed the first two-thirds or so more than the last third of the book.  Still I am really keen to read the next book in the trilogy.

More updates soon.

“The most unrealistic person in the world is the cynic, not the dreamer”

June 11, 2009

I’ve been too busy lately to write anything of substance on this blog, but thanks to Kurt Kremer this remarkable speech — the 2009 commencement address at the University of Portland by Paul Hawken — came my way. 


When asked if I am pessimistic or optimistic about the future, my answer is always the same: If you look at the science about what is happening on earth and aren’t pessimistic, you don’t understand the data. But if you meet the people who are working to restore this earth and the lives of the poor, and you aren’t optimistic, you haven’t got a pulse. What I see everywhere in the world are ordinary people willing to confront despair, power, and incalculable odds in order to restore some semblance of grace, justice, and beauty to this world.

And also:

What do we know about life? In the words of biologist Janine Benyus, life creates the conditions that are conducive to life. I can think of no better motto for a future economy. We have tens of thousands of abandoned homes without people and tens of thousands of abandoned people without homes. We have failed bankers advising failed regulators on how to save failed assets. We are the only species on the planet without full employment. Brilliant. We have an economy that tells us that it is cheaper to destroy earth in real time rather than renew, restore, and sustain it. You can print money to bail out a bank but you can’t print life to bail out a planet. At present we are stealing the future, selling it in the present, and calling it gross domestic product. We can just as easily have an economy that is based on healing the future instead of stealing it. We can either create assets for the future or take the assets of the future. One is called restoration and the other exploitation. And whenever we exploit the earth we exploit people and cause untold suffering. Working for the earth is not a way to get rich, it is a way to be rich.

This is also of relevance to an essay I wrote last October as a guest blogger at Jeff VanderMeer’s site, called Science Fiction and the End of the World

Here’s to hope.