Writing about the Earth

As this past weekend was Earth Day, I wanted to reflect for a moment on the State of the Earth and how it relates to my writing.  I wish I could say that I planted a tree or cleaned up garbage in a national park for the event, but I think I just have to be happy that I stuck a cereal box in the recycling bin and planted some zucchini in the backyard garden.  I also went to see the movie Chimpanzee, with the understanding that a portion of the proceeds from the film during this weekend would go towards the Jane Goodall Foundation, so that was a good cause, I felt.  It was a good nature film as far as nature films go, and my daughter learned a thing or two, including the fact that yes, chimpanzees are similar to humans in that they do hunt other animals for meat–mainly monkeys.  And they also wage war on each other.

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So this got me to thinking about writing and the environment.  In the movie, one of the most amazing shots is the opening shot of the jungle, stretching as far as the eye can see.  It made me wonder–how many places are left on earth where you can fill a movie screen with nothing but wilderness, and no sign of man?  I can’t imagine there are all that many places left.  The other thought that came to me was how fragile this ecosystem is, how the animals depend on the trees for their fruit and nuts, how the population is carefully controlled by the old system of supply and demand.  The jungle can only support so many animals.  If they increase too much, they die of starvation.

How long can man continue to increase before we hit that wall ourselves?

I think unfortunately we’re going to start seeing the answer there, which brings me back to writing.  I know I don’t have nearly enough hours in the day to read all the short stories and novels written these days, but I haven’t really seen in my searches through Amazon or reviews of short stories on Locus about writers tackling this issue.  I write mostly fantasy and science fiction, and currently there are plenty of dystopian scenarios. But most of them tend to be more about how technology wiped out man.  Sure there are the natural disaster movies.  I enjoy many of them, including Day After Tomorrow.  But I don’t credit the movie for having much real science.

The idea of a world of scarcity, where nature has struck back and taught man the lesson of balance, is one that I would like to tackle someday, very likely in a novel.  I’m going to continue to look to see what else has been written on the subject.  Meanwhile, I’ll take a lesson from the chimps.

Manage your resources.

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