We're back! This season we're tackling Green Earth, KSR's revised, single-volume edition of the Science in the Capital trilogy. The trilogy was originally published from 2004 to 2007. Green Earth was put out in 2015.
In this first episode we discuss the (un)likability of the novel's main characters, and the way the book seems to set the table for KSR's agenda for his following novels, particularly Shaman, 2312, New York 2140, and The Ministry for the Future. We talk about how Green Earth feels very much a Bush-era book, when it was still possible to believe that the main impediment to addressing climate change was anti-science attitudes that had infested an entire party in American politics, before the Obama era revealed that the real problem was far deeper, including obviously capitalism itself, but also something far more intractable, an approach to reality that was impervious to "just the facts" or "trust science" platitudes.
One thing Green Earth does that feels very of its moment as we read it from 2022 is its attempt to make palpable the presence of climate change in everyday life. In the early 2000s, it was still possible, on an exceptionally hot day, to joke casually about "global warming," without actually feeling what that meant. From today's perspective, when fires, floods, hurricanes, tornados, bomb cyclones, heat waves, polar vortexes, et al. hit with unprecedented regularity, that attitude feels like it comes from a place of (for lack of a better word) privilege. Green Earth attempts to make those events felt by a very specific kind of historical (fictional) subject: the hyper-productive, uber-educated, scientist-bureaucrat, engaged in the banalities of the everyday in the fields of both domesticity and national politics. What is it like for a person who is raising a child and running a household, and might, at a moment's notice, be face-to-face with the President, to experience climate change firsthand? In part what we see here is KSR's attempt to bring what he had developed throughout the Mars Trilogy home--to Earth, to everyday life, to the mundane, to the United States. In taking the energies of the Mars Trilogy and localizing them, Green Earth feels like a hinge moment in his writing, while still pursuing familiar questions and concerns: what will shock someone out of inaction to action, what is it like to live in a body on a planet, how does politics happen, where are we in history, and how do we move forward?
We hope to be a bit more, shall we say, efficient with this book than we were with 2312, and we're excited to share our thoughts with you!
If you're curious, Matt and Hilary are also now published KSR scholars, having written a review for New Labor Forum, which can be found here.
Thank you for the gift of your time, and we hope you enjoy this season!
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