A Full Life
May 26, 2019 5:17 PM   Subscribe

Miami was fucked, and now the word finally sounded right. It described the world Rue experienced every day. The one the grownups in her life seemed bent on pretending didn’t exist. Like if they pretended really, really hard, they’d be okay. Like they’d pretended the Miami seawalls were big enough. Like Nona had pretended that flying on airplanes was fine. They’d closed their eyes and pretended. And now everyone was fucked.
posted by Memo (68 comments total) 52 users marked this as a favorite
 
Why would you build seawalls around Miami? It's built on limestone.
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 5:27 PM on May 26 [9 favorites]


Why would you build seawalls around Miami?

Because a lot of what we do as a species is performance art, essentially, and the promise of effectiveness is more important than actually being effective.

The world of that story is going to have a war which kills billions.
posted by maxwelton at 5:41 PM on May 26 [32 favorites]


Corrected title: A Fully Fucked Life.
posted by oneswellfoop at 5:43 PM on May 26 [2 favorites]


Yep.
posted by salt grass at 5:51 PM on May 26 [1 favorite]


And There Will Come Soft Rains for the climate change generation.
posted by biogeo at 5:55 PM on May 26 [7 favorites]


Whoa...that was...very very good and whoa...too real
posted by supermedusa at 5:55 PM on May 26 [5 favorites]


If only our seawalls were as good as our paywalls.
posted by glonous keming at 6:01 PM on May 26 [12 favorites]


If only our seawalls were as good as our paywalls.

Intellectual property being more valuable than real property is a 21st century aphorism.
posted by Reasonably Everything Happens at 6:08 PM on May 26 [28 favorites]


Kind of a Threads vibe to it. Although maybe this is the prequel.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 6:09 PM on May 26


This is exactly what I think is going to happen. I'm sorry.
posted by hydropsyche at 6:14 PM on May 26 [22 favorites]


All over the country, people’s homes were being destroyed by sea-level rise, forest fires, droughts, storms, and floods. People were going reffee, and leaving behind ruined houses. And mountains of debt. So now, along with mortgage companies and insurance companies, banks started failing. Armando’s shorting of Miami—he’d explained to Rue that “shorting” meant “betting a place was going to get fucked”—only worked if there was a safe place to stash his winnings.

Six months after Rue and her mother moved to New York, the FDIC collapsed, and the dollar fell off a cliff. Bank after bank went down. Traders all over Manhattan went bankrupt. Whole hedge funds. Wall Street ground to a halt. Checking accounts froze. People lost their savings, lost 401(k)s, 529s, IRAs—

It was like all the money in the world evaporated.


Even my unreconstructed Reaganite father believes something like this could happen, albeit on a less total scale. He recently made the decision not to buy coastal retirement real estate in Florida because he's convinced it will become uninsurable or prohibitively expensive to insure in his lifetime (he's in his mid-70s).
posted by ryanshepard at 6:17 PM on May 26 [11 favorites]


Ah, Paolo Bacigalupi.

I read The Windup Girl and it was a huge bummer. It was actually kind of inconsistent in its pessimism in that there was advanced technology shown that could have made things slightly less shitty but it didn't get used even when it was the more efficient solution. (Like, why have people whose job it is to wind mechanical springs when a genetically engineered animal could do it at much lower cost-per-calorie? The only reason is to show yet again just how much of a crapsack world it is.)

But I sort of enjoyed it, so I started reading Pump 6 and other stories. The thing about short stories is that the reader is not as invested in the characters so the author can get away with much more horrible things happening to them. Needless to say, I got as far as The Fluted Girl and noped out of Mr Bacigalupi's career.

So I guess what I'm trying to say (beyond "here's a humorous story about my reading habits") is that I'm pretty sure this is despair porn and I don't know if it's particularly responsible for MIT review to publish it.
posted by suetanvil at 6:34 PM on May 26 [30 favorites]


Didn’t read far fetched to me, and also found the impact to be more about the inter generational anger and conflict than the nature of flooding or temps or whatever. Despair porn seems like a pretty weird and convenient way to dismiss any fiction that makes one feel uncomfortable with a possible future.
posted by lazaruslong at 6:56 PM on May 26 [21 favorites]


I dunno, if someone had written a short story about the Titanic hitting an iceberg, would that have been despair porn? I mean, the ship was unsinkable. Everyone knew that, so why whine about some ice?

(I'm actually not being flippant when I say that)
posted by aramaic at 6:56 PM on May 26 [7 favorites]


I'm sure there will be performance art projects as climate change really starts to bite, but seawalls around Miami isn't going to be one, and if it was the issue would not be that they weren't 'high enough'. The water literally bubbles out of the ground. I'm not surprised to see it's Bacigalupi -- as suetanvil notes, he tends to specialize in despair porn rather than accuracy.

Not that I don't think we're fucked, but at least try to get it right.
posted by tavella at 6:56 PM on May 26 [5 favorites]


It’s fiction. It’s specualtive fiction. Why do you insist on an author “getting it right”? That’s such a bizarre thing to say, to me.
posted by lazaruslong at 6:57 PM on May 26 [18 favorites]


At the end of last summer, after 20 years of living in Austin, record storms and flooding caused an emergency water boil for about 6 days.

That was enough for me to see that global warming was here already and no one is prepared.

I will never move back and I had a hard time believing anyone in this future scenario would move there either.

I wonder what the migration patterns will be in the coming decades. For all animals, including humans.
posted by nikaspark at 7:03 PM on May 26 [10 favorites]


The seawalls seem perfectly plausible to me. Building them would cost billions. Well-connected companies would sell them to politicians. Politicians who were either completely ignorant of the science and geology, or who knew perfectly well the seawalls would be useless but they knew they'd get contributions and kickbacks from the relevant PACs.

Honestly, the Miami seawalls were the most believeable part of the story. That's how America works. And why America is fucked.
posted by Teegeeack AV Club Secretary at 7:07 PM on May 26 [26 favorites]


most believable part of the story...

$14 Billion New Orleans Flood System, Completed Less Than a Year Ago, Already Obsolete

Wake up and smell the anthropocene
posted by Reasonably Everything Happens at 7:12 PM on May 26 [35 favorites]


I bet Nona would also have thought this was despair porn.
posted by Memo at 7:14 PM on May 26 [16 favorites]


Didn't we just have an FPP recently about the Miami real estate market and how folks there were convincing themselves that obviously doomed projects like seawalls and pump stations were going to save the city?

Ah, yes, here we go, previously.
posted by biogeo at 7:29 PM on May 26 [33 favorites]


Over the weekend, Obihiro on the eastern tip of Hokkaido recorded a high temperature of 37.8 degrees celsius. A gym teacher just came back into the staff room talking about how brutally hot it is outside, and that it's still just only May.

I have to go upstairs now, and teach English to a bunch of Japanese kids who have, in their short lives, lived all over the world, with their parents being sent overseas to work abroad, and the kids following along. They're an interesting bunch, some of them with fascinating stories to tell, and what should be a bright future ahead of them. And somehow, after reading this story, I have to go up and act like I think the scanning for information activity I've thrown together is a real and worthwhile thing, and I honestly don't know that I can keep that act up much longer.

I know I'm not the only one out there that feels like this, but the good news is that I've got, what, twenty years, give or take, before I'm dead. These kids, they're 13. They'll have to endure shit I'll never even be able to dream of, and me losing it and talking about how fucked they are isn't something that's going to help, so, happy face it is.
posted by Ghidorah at 7:38 PM on May 26 [43 favorites]


$14 Billion New Orleans Flood System, Completed Less Than a Year Ago, Already Obsolete

These levees were begun in 1947, and have 60-90 miles of delta wetlands, which grow vertically, in front.

The analogy you are looking for are the $32 billion levees that the corps wants, in order to close off Galveston Bay, right on the Gulf. That is meeting some good opposition, that project is having trouble, and is not approved. You can support groups like bayou city waterkeeper, who oppose the project, for the sake of saving the bay, as well as to protect people.

But yeah, all of these are built to insure real estate, not to protect humans.
posted by eustatic at 7:48 PM on May 26 [4 favorites]


The seawalls seem perfectly plausible to me. Building them would cost billions.

The enormous rip off of the border wall is a very obvious preview.
posted by ryanshepard at 7:54 PM on May 26 [8 favorites]


Rue: good name.

And what a stinger in the story's tail.
posted by doctornemo at 8:19 PM on May 26


Yeah, as the enormity of global warming sinks in and the Green New Deal makes headlines, the thing that has jumped out at me the most is people raising the objection over how do we decarbonize flying. Like... we don’t? We just shut the entire thing down.
posted by Automocar at 8:38 PM on May 26 [5 favorites]


Automocar, you're speaking to something that makes me realize that, in the story, essentially, I'm Nona. My life as it is wouldn't exist without the cheap air travel that allowed me to come to Japan, make a life here, yet still be able to return home for important life events. I've been here so long that the outcry against air travel, at least in regards to it becoming a mainstream idea that is gaining considerable traction, it just wasn't something I'd ever heard about.

And yeah, essentially, my life is predicated on something that probably shouldn't exist. That is a brutally difficult thing to parse, and I can't say it's something I'll ever figure out. I do know that I've enjoyed a wide range of experiences that people just coming into adulthood might never have, and that my enjoyment of those experiences has played it's own part in that. Moreover, I know that my ignorance is not, was not, and will not be a valid excuse.

Hell, I'm not even asking for advice on how to deal with this knowledge. I get it. I'm just sort of here, registering the dawning realization that, yeah, I'm Nona, and my students are the main character. Just like her, I didn't think of my actions as evil, or destructive. And yet, I know that my interpretation of events will have very little resemblance to the interpretation of the children I teach, when things are well and truly recognized as fucked.
posted by Ghidorah at 9:00 PM on May 26 [31 favorites]


That ending was right. I have no children and no council to offer, even if I did. But as extinction rates rise, extreme weather worsens, and droughts push migrants into countries now toying with fascism as a legitimate response, I might hug my hypothetical offspring and beg their forgiveness.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 9:36 PM on May 26 [1 favorite]


It’s fiction. It’s specualtive fiction. Why do you insist on an author “getting it right”? That’s such a bizarre thing to say, to me.

Because if your stance is how grim and realistic you are, then I expect you to get minimally easy things right, like having any idea of how the hydrology and future of Miami works. Otherwise, it's just being a poseur.

Didn't we just have an FPP recently about the Miami real estate market and how folks there were convincing themselves that obviously doomed projects like seawalls and pump stations were going to save the city?

The article you linked to has a paragraph about how sea walls are impossible in Miami, and not even the promotional agents suggest otherwise.

You want fucking grim, try something like Graydon Saunders on the subject. Fun fact: the C3 photosynthetic pathway, which nearly all our food crops use, breaks down more and more the higher the temperature goes. Oh, and by the end of this century, there's going to be places on the planet where the wet bulb temperature reaches high that it will be lethal to all humans without air conditioning. And then there's the fact that most of our oxygen comes from ocean photosynthesis, which acidification is going to damage severely.

Bacigalupi and his elephants winding springs that have enough stored energy to launch themselves into orbit? Just a clown.
posted by tavella at 10:49 PM on May 26 [9 favorites]


Wow, “just a clown”? That’s pretty harsh. I quite liked The Water Knife.
posted by thedaniel at 10:57 PM on May 26 [1 favorite]


Yup, I'm Nona. And we're considering having a little Rue of our own. Someone somewhere once said that having children is an act of optimism, and... I don't know. We human-ed our way into this mess, can we human ourselves out of it? I have no idea.
posted by bring a tuba to a knife fight at 11:07 PM on May 26 [3 favorites]


You want fucking grim, try something like Graydon Saunders on the subject.

I kinda felt that way, too, but to be fair this story isn't depicting "by the end of this century," is it? But since it is focusing more on the transitional period, and more comprehensible disasters, it ends up a bit generic apocalypse.
posted by atoxyl at 11:39 PM on May 26 [1 favorite]


But, I mean, I don't think it's really trying to be hard SF? The story could be much more detached from the realistic implications of climate change and still make the same point.
posted by atoxyl at 11:48 PM on May 26 [2 favorites]


So this is sort of like 21st-century Grapes Of Wrath riff, with the dust bowl and the moving around and the dying and all that. Two thoughts:

- Setting it as a straight-up generation rift is too pat, cause the systematic causes of the disaster isn't just that grandma went to Japan once, it's a whole chain of selfish usage of resources by governments/businesses and covering up the cost of it.

- This story lacks the few bits of human hope that still were in Grapes of Wrath, where it showed how we could come together to help each other.

What gives me some hope when I think of these incoming events is that there will be so many opportunities to be the helpers, and that even if things go to shit, there can still be kindness and love in those dark times.
posted by smasuch at 12:03 AM on May 27 [8 favorites]


That... sounds a lot like looking on the bright side of a cholera epidemic because at least there will be a bunch of nice nurses.
posted by Justinian at 2:23 AM on May 27 [13 favorites]


I would be interested if anyone would elaborate on the case for shutting down, or even drastically restricting, air travel. A cross-America flight emits perhaps a ton of CO2 per passenger. That seems like a very manageable amount to deal with; for example, planting a single tree can sequester that much over its lifetime, and current carbon capture technology can extract a ton of CO2 for about $100. Increasing the cost of plane tickets by $100 is a lot, but obviously there are still a lot of people who would strongly prefer to fly if airlines passed that full cost onto passengers and charged $100 more per trip, so enshrining that in regulation sounds vastly better than shutting it down.

(In practice, I try to donate enough to the Clean Air Task Force to more than offset my consumption, which does research and advocacy and seems to have a track record of being successful in causing emissions to be reduced.)

I see these comments about air travel frequently here when climate change comes up; what am I missing?
posted by value of information at 2:57 AM on May 27 [7 favorites]


A lot of people look at air travel as a pure luxury rather than any sort of necessity, and so believe it can be given up fairly easily. Some might even suggest such a move has moral dimension. But while I used to think widespread air travel was a decent and plausible target for climate action it's become clear that isn't particularly true.

That sort of individual-centric focus on combating climate change isn't just less effective than government-centric action, it may actually be counterproductive and cannibalize support for much more effective solutions.

The only thing that will combat climate change effectively is electing people who will pass significantly carbon taxes as well as quickly move to phase out fossil fuels for electricity generation. Everything else is a feel good measure.

Also my pet peeve is people who decry air travel while living in a single family home with a yard. Move to a city! High density housing is the future! But that's just me and I acknowledge that is still individual-centric.
posted by Justinian at 3:25 AM on May 27 [26 favorites]


The least talked about, yet most effective easy thing we can all do individually and collectively, to combat this cascading, accelerating climate disaster is to stop or seriously cut down on eating corpses.
posted by chance at 4:30 AM on May 27 [4 favorites]


Move to a city! High density housing is the future! But that's just me and I acknowledge that is still individual-centric.

That's just it: cities, at least on the coasts and increasingly in desirable blue states in the interior, are unaffordable on your average middle-class income. And these days, in some states with affordable cities, it's dangerous to have a uterus (among other things). So this is yet another problem that needs a collective solution.

"Drive till you qualify" is unfortunately a thing.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 5:29 AM on May 27 [11 favorites]


I also strongly disliked that this was Nona's fault for not living a life Bacigalupi approves of instead of something that came about because of a lack of regulation, a lack of government-sponsored large-scale R&D in lower-carbon techs and sequestration, etc.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 6:17 AM on May 27 [18 favorites]


Soooo... seawalls are usually built to stop erosion and stop erosion and prevent things like tsunamis and the storm surge from hurricanes from damaging buildings further inland, not to prevent flooding. That's why the linked article mentions that they are not a solution to flooding.

It is entirely reasonable that seawalls would be built to try and prevent damage from increasingly intense hurricanes.

And maybe I'm just a pessimist, but this seemed like an optimistic story, only extrapolating events that are happening now a little further... no serious mass wars or political instability, just an economic crash, no new problems that we hadn't even thought of yet, just slightly bigger versions of what's happening now.
posted by Zalzidrax at 7:26 AM on May 27 [2 favorites]


I also strongly disliked that this was Nona's fault for not living a life Bacigalupi approves of

Hey, I agree with this, but then again it's Rue's generation we'll have to justify our decisions to, not each other.

I mean, don't we express resentment regularly on this site against Boomers as a category, for their shortsightedness and neoliberalism?
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 7:32 AM on May 27 [6 favorites]


I think there's plenty of blame to go around.
posted by allthinky at 7:51 AM on May 27


Well, that's the thing, isn't it? We're all Nona. But to not be Nona is to advocate for individual action, and as someone (I believe right here on the blue) put quite succinctly: "If your solution begins with 'If everyone would just...', then you can stop right there, because never once in the history of everyone, did everyone 'just' anything." They won't. We won't. Not until we have no other choice.

I already don't eat (much) meat. I don't drive a car enough for it to matter what kind of car I drive. I don't fly for business or recreation. But I might as well, if it comes to it, as none of that solves any problem we have.

So, I'm unashamedly going to continue to live the fullest life I can within the structures that are available to me, and I'm going to enthusiastically vote for politicians that have the best chance of narrowing those structures into more globally sustainable ones, and if (when) that fails.... well, the climate will narrow those structures for us one way or another.
posted by Xyanthilous P. Harrierstick at 8:05 AM on May 27 [24 favorites]


That seems like a very manageable amount to deal with; for example, planting a single tree can sequester that much over its lifetime, and current carbon capture technology can extract a ton of CO2 for about $100.

Well, a flight emits a ton of carbon for every four hours of flying time, and an acre of trees will capture 2.5 tons of carbon in a year. The global aviation industry emitted approximately 740 million tons of carbon last year. So... I don’t know, you do the math. Doesn’t really seem to scale.

Capture technology is a solution, but the carbon needs to be stored somewhere.

So basically, people say that flying needs to be shut down because there is no realistic way to mitigate the carbon emissions, and there are no good options for powering it with renewable energy.
posted by Automocar at 8:33 AM on May 27 [3 favorites]


The problem is not really carbon emission, it's carbon extraction. Focusing on industries like air travel hits only one aspect of the economic demand for fossil fuels. The proper target for regulation is at the supply, the fossil fuel extractors.

I don’t know, you do the math.

Okay! From those numbers, 740 million tons of carbon per year corresponds to 296 million acres, or 1.2 million square kilometers. For comparison, the total area of the Amazon rainforest that has been deforested since 1970 is estimated at about 784 thousand square kilometers. So if the deforestation of the Amazon were to be somehow reversed that would offset about 65% of the current emissions from air travel. That's a higher fraction than I expected, and a good reminder that deforestation is a big contributor to global warming. So with major reforestation projects across the globe, you could probably capture the current carbon output of the air travel industry, though probably not by a huge factor. You also need to ensure that the carbon captured in biomass isn't returned to the atmosphere by respiration or combustion, which probably means careful forest management projects to periodically clearcut sections of mature forest and bury all of the biomass somewhere in the Earth's crust where it can't decompose.

So you're probably not going to successfully offset the entire aviation industry in its current state with reforestation, but you actually could offset a decent fraction of it. A scaled-back aviation industry using offset fossil fuels could actually be sustainable in theory. A scaled-back aviation industry using biofuels (assuming biologically-derived jet fuel could be economically produced) that don't require offsets would be better.

An economy that bans fossil fuel extraction without balanced offsets or a fully-funded mitigation strategy, in which worrying about whether aviation specifically is sustainable becomes irrelevant, would be best.
posted by biogeo at 9:19 AM on May 27 [13 favorites]


I don't buy blaming Nona. Every executive flies all the time, even many average business people fly to a client location weekly, in the name of corporate profit. How about making air travel responsible for the true cost? Blame people in great big houses that are not very well built, not very well insulated, not built for the climate, no solar, but icy cold AC in summer, toasty heat in winter, in every room. HOAs that disallow clotheslines. Great big green polluting lawns. Golf courses. Enormous overpowered cars as the norm. Private jets.

The wealthy will have enclaves at Moosehead Lake, Lake Michigan, Lake Washington, Elon Musk wants to escape to space. Many of them will perish in floods, tornadoes and hurricanes, but many will support some live-in help in their hidey-holes. I guess a lot of geezers have been radicalized by Fox News, but I've gone the other way, and I think I'm not alone. Fucking Peak Capitalism.

There are things we can and must do, especially the US.
posted by theora55 at 10:53 AM on May 27 [6 favorites]


What gives me some hope when I think of these incoming events is that there will be so many opportunities to be the helpers, and that even if things go to shit, there can still be kindness and love in those dark times.

Hi. I'm one of the people actively planning and preparing to be a helper.

There's a reason why I've been collecting permaculture and off-grid life skills, wildcraft and foraging skills, first aid and more - because I can see and anticipate refugee diaspora happening within my lifetime, right here where I live. There's a reason why I like to volunteer at food banks and the like. It keeps these skills of patience, calm and caring well honed.

Because this diaspora is already happening in slow motion with the homeless and housing crisis, and I already am putting these "helper" skills to work - and a lot people don't still don't seem to realize that this crisis of homelessness and human misery is self-created by us, by the neoliberal capitalist system we're participating in and supporting.


But I don't actually want to be a helper. I've thought about this a lot and that future is bleak, hungry, not fun and likely filled with social strife and violence and a lot of very not nice things, like opportunistic rape and murder.

Yay, maybe - maybe I get to help some miserable, hungry people be a little less miserable. Maybe I get shot by some redneck that likes my camping gear and he takes it for his family because he thinks might makes right, that my weirdo hippy queer life is worth less than his families - or simply because I don't have or want a gun. Maybe I'm visibly, obviously transfemme and I am the target of sexual violence in addition to robbery. (Yay, that sure makes me want to be a helper and not run for the hills!)


I DO NOT WANT TO BE A HELPER. I would like to not even be thinking in these terms. What I want is for people to try to fix this fucked up system before it crashes and burns into warfare and chaos.

I want more people to want to be helpers by helping themselves out of this fucked up system.

Every so often for the last year or two I keep finding myself typing and asking "Hey, is it time for a General Strike yet?"

Because that's pretty much the one thing the oligarchs and 1%-er capitalists are going to listen to, and we have, oh, until robots can replace human labor which is happening, oh, right now. At some point in the near future withholding labor will no longer be an effective threat or lever.

But I'm not joking or being flippant. People really need to try to stop thinking in terms of not just living paycheck to paycheck, but rethinking paychecks entirely.

And, well, I too can list the many thousands of cynical reasons about human nature and reality why this is not likely to be possible without some extreme crisis or event driving it.


What I actually want is good, close friends in my life, to sit in a pleasant garden and smoke ridiculously potent weed, eat lots of fresh vegetables, listen to and make good music, ride my bike often, pet a floofy cat and contemplate how nice it is for nice people to get along and share nice things and to live on such a nice, pleasant planet.

I don't want to change the world, get rich or famous, be a jet-setting globe trotter. I do not desire to be remembered beyond my life - I have no fear of my mortality or impermanence. I just want to be a hobbit living in a nice little hobbit hole, smoking my long pipe on the porch of Bag End.

That's basically it, the grand total of my life-long ambitions.

And so maybe I do that here and now, because it might not be here, later. Maybe I do that now to charge up my batteries for what appears to be an epic shit hurricane forming not too far off on the horizon. Maybe I'm avoiding things I know I could and should be doing more of.


This future isn't just coming. It's already here. If you're not already directly experiencing this - if you've never found yourself eating out of or sleeping behind a dumpster, if you've never had to live out of your car for more than a month, if you've never found yourself on the march thanks to economic instability - you may be fortunate and part of the rapidly vanishing middle class.

What are you going to do with your time, freedom and economic privilege? Today, not tomorrow? What are you doing right now?

What are you doing to help?
posted by loquacious at 11:06 AM on May 27 [27 favorites]


Because this diaspora is already happening in slow motion with the homeless and housing crisis

Or, as another prescient SF writer is alleged to have said, "The future is already here. It's just not evenly distributed yet."
posted by sobell at 1:23 PM on May 27 [5 favorites]


I won’t be making any Rues for this reason and many others, such as not wanting to, but I don’t understand the optimism of having a kid at this late date.
posted by silby at 5:27 PM on May 27 [9 favorites]


If nobody ever had kids when things in the future looked bleak we'd have gone extinct a long, long time ago. Some people would consider that a positive I guess. I am not one of them.

Anybody reading this thread who has a kid would be doing so in the expectation that they have a better chance of a good life than 99% of children born in history (given the demographics of Metafilter). They aren't guaranteed that, of course. But then again, who is?
posted by Justinian at 5:54 PM on May 27


I’d certainly have fewer problems if I hadn’t been born is sort of where I fall down on that matter.
posted by silby at 8:13 PM on May 27 [2 favorites]


Move to a city! High density housing is the future! But that's just me and I acknowledge that is still individual-centric.


That apartment in the city has to exist before you move to it. I live in a freestanding house, and I feel no guilt for it because I've done my bit in keeping my city council pressured to support urban infill and reform zoning to enable more of it. Apartments are being built in my town, and if they get snapped up (which they will) I will continue to feel no guilt. Before you move to a housing unit, it needs to exist. And if it doesn't, then the first step is to make sure the construction of your ideal housing unit is at the very minimum legal.
posted by ocschwar at 8:50 PM on May 27


That... sounds a lot like looking on the bright side of a cholera epidemic because at least there will be a bunch of nice nurses.

I'm not saying it's good, I'm just saying that's why I'm not already laying down in a coffin.

I DO NOT WANT TO BE A HELPER. I would like to not even be thinking in these terms. What I want is for people to try to fix this fucked up system before it crashes and burns into warfare and chaos.

Yeah me too! But I'm pretty convinced we're heading there, been thinking about it for the last 25 years and lost my last bits of hope we could actually avoid it after people thought bitcoin was a great enough idea to run back any energy system savings we've made, so now I've got the attitude of "let's do what we can, I guess"

What are you doing to help?
Donating to homeless shelters, lgbt refugee organizations, gave a few hundred bucks directly to trans people so they could pay their rent or get their passports before trump came in. I'm doing stuff now, thanks.
posted by smasuch at 9:04 PM on May 27 [1 favorite]


I said to the little one's mother that there's no future for her here in Georgia. I got ignored because I'm, "wrong about everything."
posted by ob1quixote at 9:58 PM on May 27


I don't think the story is actually blaming Nona though?

I read Rue's resentment of Nona as being something deeply felt and personally true but not, like, an accurate/logical placement of causal blame for how fucked the world Rue lives in is. She hates Nona for having gotten to not worry about any of this shit, for having gotten to fly across the world, go where she wanted just because she wanted to, while Rue's been forced to move for her entire life by the consequences of what an entire planet of people (including her Nona) were wilfully ignoring while they went where they wanted to go and did what they wanted to do. The fact that for most of those people there wasn't a lot of actual choice in the matter of how to go where they needed to go or how to do what they needed to do, because of the systems they were living in, isn't relevant to Rue's perspective--she just knows her Nona got to live a full life and Rue's stuck with a fucked life in a fucked world.
posted by some_kind_of_toaster at 10:28 PM on May 27 [14 favorites]


And anyway, you can't fantasize about strangling a megacorp.
posted by some_kind_of_toaster at 10:31 PM on May 27 [4 favorites]


I was going to say I tend more toward William Gibson's future-gaming than full-on Bacigalupi forecasting, and then I realized that Gibson's "jackpot" theory is basically the same thing: a century of slow disasters: each could have been preventable on their own, but a combination of oligarchical inertia and relentlessness -- climate change disaster after climate change disaster, and society falling apart because there's no aid, no economic recovery, no public health, no people after a while.

Bacigalupi's story is pretty much a mid-jackpot narrative. The crises keep on coming and the people who could have acted (and refused to) are dying of natural causes while their successors are dying of man-made consequences.

I highly recommend Gibson's The Peripheral. It predates Richard Cooke's "Total Depravity: The Origins of the Drug Epidemic Laid Bare" by years, but when I read the latter last week, I thought, "Holy shit, it's the jackpot in Appalachia."
posted by sobell at 10:33 PM on May 27 [3 favorites]


I agree with some_kind_of_toaster. We do not 100% know, in the world of this story, precisely how to allot blame and what each person deserves or should have done. Rue's POV is tight, constrained; Rue resents Nona (who is, on some level, available and safe for her to resent, unlike the gangs, governments, etc.) and the story does not ask you to believe that this resentment is one you should necessarily share, just that it is understandable that Rue would come to feel it.
posted by brainwane at 3:53 AM on May 28


Memo, thank you for this FPP. The story reminds me of some of Jo Walton's or Maureen McHugh's work, focusing on the domestic lives of tossed-about people in the wakes of giant world-shifting catastrophes.
posted by brainwane at 3:56 AM on May 28 [1 favorite]


And anyway, you can't fantasize about strangling a megacorp.

Hey man, no one says what happens in my fantasies but me.
posted by biogeo at 7:17 AM on May 28 [7 favorites]


Nona was probably told over and over that only "Ugly Americans" don't do some international travel, that OMG most Americans Don't! Have! Passports! and that is such a bad thing and we are international laughingstocks because of it, and travel - preferably "adventure" travel, don't be a tourist, ew! is the highest and best good one can aspire to - experiences, not possessions!

And yet if jet travel is really an environment-destroyer, what is a good liberal to do? It's like the "live in a city" argument - people don't own suburban homes because they hate the earth, they buy them because city living is unaffordable and can come with a lot of restrictions (evil landlords, no-pet policies, etc.).

Sure, Rue blames Nona because she's there and it's easier than blaming mindsets and corporations, but it's not like Nona could really have made a difference.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 9:46 AM on May 28 [4 favorites]


What are you doing to help?
Donating to homeless shelters, lgbt refugee organizations, gave a few hundred bucks directly to trans people so they could pay their rent or get their passports before trump came in. I'm doing stuff now, thanks.


Awesome! Hearing about this kind of stuff makes me happy. A rather large number of people have helped me both in the past and present, and it has effectively saved my life and helped give me the breathing room to figure out a whole lot of stuff and get things done.


To be more gentle and clear, my question of "What are you doing to help?" is less accusatory and more intended to be thought-provoking and rhetorical, hoping to prompt self reflection like "Wait, what am I doing to help?" and "What can I do to help?" - and perhaps more importantly asking the question "What can I stop doing that's not helpful?"

Most people I know in my circle of friends and on MeFi are really generous and helpful, and mindful of their impact and personal carbon footprint.


If anyone would like to chat about these things, inbox is open, email is on profile. I'm a good person to ask questions about how to help and approach your local homeless people, how to get into volunteering, ideas for urban to rural permaculture and sane, rational preparedness and food storage.

Anyone with a stable home or apartment can store a food supply. I've been able to do it on effectively zero budget just by going to a food bank and collecting cans and dry staples like rice, bean and lentils. If rationed well I could feed 3-4 people for at least a month! (You better like beans, though.)

This sort of food security and planning can lead to, say, being ready for a general strike or economic instability.
posted by loquacious at 10:16 AM on May 28 [1 favorite]


people don't own suburban homes because they hate the earth, they buy them because city living is unaffordable and can come with a lot of restrictions (evil landlords, no-pet policies, etc.).
posted by Rosie M. Banks


I find it to be exactly the opposite - city living is loads more affordable (provided you rent an apartment instead of buying a house), and suburban living comes with tons of restrictions - no easy public transportation, needing a car, with its attendant costs, living in a neighborhood with tons of restrictions such as keeping your yard a certain way, not allowed to paint your house, not able to SELL your house because of property values, property taxes, being stuck with a house that you can't live in when you're older cause of stairs, etc. Or at least those are the horror stories I've heard the most.
posted by agregoli at 10:26 AM on May 28 [1 favorite]


YMMV definitely on the affordability of urban vs. suburban living. I live in an area where there has long been a shortage of rentals, and I find that owning is much more affordable and less restrictive than renting, with good landlords being few and far between.

The bottom line is that Nona or any other individual really couldn't have stopped the global warming juggernaut by, say, not taking that one trip or buying that one house.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 11:16 AM on May 28 [1 favorite]


people don't own suburban homes because they hate the earth, they buy them because...

... that's what we were taught we should do, that's what the tax code said we should do, and most importantly, for anybody not already living in a big city, it's the path of least resistance.
posted by Aardvark Cheeselog at 2:36 PM on May 28


I kinda feel like Nona in this story, especially as I'm envisioning her as close to my cohort's age, and Rue is about the age of my son. (I'm 20 years older than many of my son's peer's parents.)

I traveled a lot. Not so much in the last 20 years, but before that, I filled passport books with stamps. I've experienced things that he will never get to experience. I feel bad when he finds my travel journals and photo albums, because those places are gone, and even if they weren't, it's not financially feasible any more to take a "gap year" and bum around Europe, picking up paying gigs along the way to support your itinerant lifestyle. Just like it's not feasible for him to go to college and pay for it by working as a bartender, like I did. I found a receipt for my final semester of undergrad, it was a 15 hour semester, and the bill was less than a thousand dollars. That same school today would cost almost 15,000 for the same semester. Thanks, republicans and your deregulation of universities. We've been saving since he was born, and we don't have enough to even pay for 2 years.

He and his cohort are depressed. They are angry. And they are beginning to feel like it's hopeless, and I don't blame them.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 2:48 PM on May 28 [5 favorites]


> Anyone with a stable home or apartment can store a food supply. I've been able to do it on effectively zero budget just by going to a food bank and collecting cans and dry staples like rice, bean and lentils. If rationed well I could feed 3-4 people for at least a month!

Is that okay to do?
posted by lucidium at 7:15 AM on May 30


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