The Great Betrayal

On October 24th, this year, many thousands of people across the globe performed an action or campaign to publicize the number 350 and to put pressure on their governments to come up with a binding climate treaty in Copenhagen in December.  The number 350 ppm is the highest amount of carbon dioxide that scientists think the Earth’s climate can tolerate, above which we are looking at catastrophic warming scenarios reminiscent of apocalyptic science fiction.  There were over 5000 events in a coordinated global movement spearheaded by

The response of world leaders?  They agreed not to come up with a binding treaty in Copenhagen. 

In other words they are going to go there, talk, probably play golf, and go home.  In the meantime the world is warming faster than our science can explain and the window of time before irreversible feedback loops begin (some have already started) is getting narrower and narrower, from 4 years (estimated by an IPCC report in 2007) to two years and shrinking.  And the carbon dioxide continues to go up — currently we are close to 390 ppm and rising.

There is a very interesting interview with Kim Stanley Robinson in which he makes it quite clear that what we are up against is capitalism itself — he pits science versus capitalism (which is likely an oversimplification given what capitalists do with science) in the context of global warming. 

Given all this, and assuming that the destruction of the biosphere is not an option, and recognizing that there will be ecological deterioration for decades or centuries even if we do what needs to be done — in other words the choice is between reversible hell and irreversible worse-than-hell — given all this, what is to be done?

Let me repeat that: if we assume that destruction of the biosphere is not an option, what would it take to slow and ultimately stop global warming?

What would we have to do if we cannot depend on governments?

What would we have to do despite the campaigns of corporations and climate change deniers?

Currently sites like and organizations like Greenpeace have been directing their action toward putting pressure on government leaders.  This is fine and necessary, but is it enough?  Should these groups focus their attention on different strategies?  If so, what would these strategies be?

And lastly, where is the science fiction that deals with the current crisis?  In other words, who are the writers, after Robinson and his Science in the Capitol series, who are taking this up?


10 Responses to “The Great Betrayal”

  1. Val Says:

    I came here hoping to see comments that should show me other people had an idea of what to do. But I don’t see any.

    And I don’t know what to do either, besides feel helpless and angry.

    Would a general strike get through? Would a general strike even be feasible?

    • Vandana Singh Says:

      Apologies for the late reply. I’ve been thinking about your question since you asked it. I don’t think there is enough passiona nd information about this subject that people would be willing to go on a general strike. Not now, anyway. I wish I could say I have a better answer.

      But I also just read Rebecca Solnit’s book, Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities. It addresses how movements gather momentum and the convoluted, indirect and sometimes un predictable ways they have impact. It is not a Pollyanna-ish book. I found it rather encouraging.

      Got to keep doing whatever needs to be done.


  2. steveshervais Says:

    The only other SF that comes to mind is David Brin’s “Earth”, which solves the problem with a “deux ex …magma”, and Niven & Pournell’s “Fallen Angels”, which spoofs the concept by positing global cooling. Interestingly enough, the latest research shows we could have a period of local North Atlantic cooling and glaciation if the ocean currents are disrupted with fresh water.

    • Vandana Singh Says:

      I remember David Brin’s Earth. I enjoyed it a lot back then. Wish we could have a deux ex something that would do the trick. Haven’t read Fallen angels but I do know about the possibility of a North Atlantic cooling. Brrr. Did you read Kim Stanley Robinson’s Science in the Capital series?

      Know any good SF that tackels complex systems like global weather?


  3. Global Warming « FoundOnWeb Says:

    […] By steveshervais Over on Antariksh Yatra, there is a discussion of the state of the effort to fight global warming. The problem is that, as […]

  4. Ryan Viergutz Says:


    I found you as I was looking for Indian science fiction. Ever heard of Bruce Sterling’s Viridian Movement? It might be what you want. Maybe. Bog knows I’m angry too.

  5. Kurt Says:

    Re SF: The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi (and Pump Six). Sometimes stories speak strongly to a current crisis by setting the tale in a world where that crisis is the norm. J.G. Ballard did some of that, too, in The Drowned World.

    In many ways we are bequeathing an alien world to our grandchildren–following that analogy, a fair amount of planet-based SF applies. But perhaps not strongly enough. And then they are (only) stories that people can read in relative comfort and discuss without cost.

    Perhaps the best thing we can do is learn and to share what we learn, and broadcast. That takes time, but proceeding by following a trend makes people terribly easy to manipulate. And makes it easy for them to give up and say (like GWB), “We’ll be dead so what does it matter–good luck, kids, we did what we could, and you’ll adapt or you won’t. Because we couldn’t agree.”

    Ways to make a difference: help people learn, guide them to good sources, lead in discussions, suggest or promote or identify ongoing action, keep philosophizing to a minimum, steer clear of agendas other than those that directly address the major issues.

    • Vandana Singh Says:

      Kurt, what I really want to see in fiction are stories that address how we avoid the apocalypse.

      Some of it will be individual action, some of it will be collective stuff. A book that comes to mind is a YA novel called The Fourth Horseman by Kate Thompson. It does not directly address global warming but presents a scenario where individuals, in this case kids, take action to avert disaster. Without magic or deux ex machina type devices as I recall. Check it out.

      I’ve just read Rebecca Solnit’s book (see above reply to Val’s comment) and have to digest that for a bit and write more on the subject.

      Keep writing and thinking and acting!


  6. Global Warming « FoundOnWeb Says:

    […] By FoundOnWeb Over on Antariksh Yatra, there is a discussion of the state of the effort to fight global warming. The problem is that, as […]

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