Bill McKibben on SF

Bill McKibben ( founder of 350.org) has long advocated for more people to use the power of art to tackle climate change. He recently appeared on the podcast Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy.

“I wrote a piece maybe 15 years ago arguing that there had been very limited artistic response to climate change, which was odd given the scale and magnitude,” he says. “And I’m very glad to see that changing on every front.”

One group of artists who has tackled climate change is science fiction writers, with authors like Kim Stanley Robinson, Paolo Bacigalupi, and Tobias Buckell comprising the so-called “cli-fi” movement. In particular McKibben praises Kim Stanley Robinson’s recent novel New York 2140, which depicts a future in which rising seas have transformed New York into a city of canals. “For my money the best science fiction—and in many ways the best fiction—of the last year was New York 2140,” he says. “It’s a wonderful and oddly cheerful book, I must say. I really, really enjoyed it.”

McKibbben also praises science fiction writers for addressing the dangers of emerging technologies like genetic engineering, nanotechnology, and AI.

“I’ve thought for the last 20 years that science fiction was really the only realm where people were dealing intelligently with some of these questions,” he says. “They were the only people who were having to perform the thought experiment of putting the potential power of these technologies up against the scale of human beings—of their characters—and just figuring out that human beings quickly got overwhelmed by technology at this scale.”

Listen to the complete interview with Bill McKibben in Episode 293 of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy.

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