Lorin R. Robinson talks with Book Glow about the writing of his book of cli-fi themed short stories, Tales from The Warming.
BG: You seem to be making an effort to rename the phenomenon known as global warming. Why call it “the warming?”
LR: I’m just trying to get out in front. It’s well known that language tends to simplify over time. Why keep calling it “global warming” when “global” is redundant? In any case, the book needed a good title. Somehow, Tales of The Global Warming didn’t quite do it. Incidentally, I’m not a fan of the term “climate change.” I view it as a euphemism concocted by the polluters to help them dodge responsibility by blaming a changing climate and not the 40B tons of CO² dumped annually into the atmosphere. “Climate change” is in the same category as “friendly fire” and “collateral damage.”
BG: Why did you decide to write a book of short stories about the warming and not take a more traditional novelistic approach?
LR: Climate Fiction is all over the map in terms of how it handles the subject matter. I originally thought I’d write a novel with a traditional story arc. But I quickly realized that the format was too restrictive for what I had in mind. I wanted to roam the globe over time to write about the human impact of the climate crisis. I wanted to put “real” people in harm’s way to imagine how they’d react. I also wanted to look at creative ways in which people might strive to mitigate the warming’s effects. Short stories allowed me to do that.
BG: The time frame for the stories is 2022-2059. Why?
LR: I wanted to frame the stories in the context of the near-term; the context of the world as we still know it. I believe readers can better relate to what’s familiar and get a sense for how warming-related catastrophes will evolve. Unfortunately, the warming is insidious. Unlike most natural disasters, it has crept up on us. Every small increase in global temperature, every few additional inches of sea level, every increase in violent or unpredictable weather has been incremental and viewed as “the new normal.”
BG: You don’t sound optimistic about the future. Aren’t efforts being made to reduce green-house gas emissions?
LR: I believe the warming will have civilization-changing impact and that the world of 2117 will not be a place we would recognize. “Too little, too late” sums up efforts to curb the coming crisis. All the recent talk notwithstanding, we continue to flood the atmosphere with CO² at the rate of 1,200 tons per second. And there’s no end in sight. A chemist will tell you that the CO₂ molecule is extremely robust. That means it takes a long time to disintegrate—up to 90 years, depending on temperature and pressure. So, every molecule that goes up some smokestack or out some exhaust pipe today will, potentially, be up there causing trouble into the next century. Thus, if we stopped burning all fossil fuels today and converted tomorrow to solar, wind, nuclear, hydroelectric and thermal energy sources, the warming would continue.
BG: With that in mind, I guess it doesn’t really matter that President Trump, unlike his predecessor, denies the existence of global warming. You say nothing can be done about it anyway.
LR: No, I don’t mean to imply that we are completely helpless at this point. Drastic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions now and in future could help blunt and shorten the impact of the warming. However, Trump, our denier-in-chief, appears to plan to do exactly the opposite.
BG: What do you hope readers will take away from your book?
LR: The first thing I hope is that people will read it. Climate Fiction suffers from the “bringer-of-bad-news” syndrome. You know. Kill the messenger. Humankind is adept at the practice of selective exposure. If we think some information is scary or contrary to our existing beliefs, we often won’t expose ourselves to it. These stories, though based on worst-case scenarios presented by climate science, are humanistic. They are peopled by characters looking and often finding solutions to the challenges presented by the warming. The primary takeaway is that, while it may be too late to stop the crisis, there are ways to mitigate its effects.