Sunday, May 3, 2015

Books Push Back

Twice in the past month writers asked to see my new book Industrial Oz coming out before the Paris Climate Conference in December.  "Word or PDF?"  I asked.  Both wanted hard copies.

I liked this because hard copies are more intimate, more human.  We are, after all, hard copies ourselves. Maybe hard copies push back against the info glut and social media in cyberspace.  I recently fished beside a well-known angler in Washington.  "I heard you had a fish blog," he said, "but I never looked at it -- too busy fishing."  Made sense to me. While speaking, he hooked and caught a bright 12 pound data-driven hen steelhead, if data we are talking about is what ecologist Eugene Odom said has been "flowing for millions of years."

If cyberspace continues to take over, I imagine in the future, before you date, you will read about a person first instead of making mistakes we all make.  Prospective Jane or Jack will hand you a bio drive to wade through medical history, genetics, life expectancy, etc.  But something essential and mysterious will still be hidden.  Something about the way neurons fire, misfire, and fail to fire, and something about choices made, choices never made, and choices that will happen.

In contrast, salmon and steelhead feel the urge, choose an attractive partner, and mate.  The river takes care of the rest. Somewhere between data-wading and instant gratification of salmon-love, there must be a balance.

Watching spawning salmon, I reflect that when I die, my ashes are going in a secret river, not blasted into cyberspace.

NASA scientists tell us cyberspace may one day have trouble due to solar storms.  On July 23, 2012, Earth was only a week ahead of a solar storm passing through our orbit, which, if it hit, would have disabled even toilets "because urban water supplies largely rely on electric pumps," according to NASA. An article at Science News reported such a storm would "knock modern civilization back to the 18th century." This NASA Science Casts video, which explains the event, cites a National Academy of Sciences study noting a direct hit, calculated by physicist Pete Riley at 12% in the next 10 years, would mean an "economic impact [which] could exceed 2 trillion dollars."

I guess that means my poem "What If One Night a Big Solar Storm Went By?"
in Industrial Oz may not be that far off.

Then there is the global warming issue. According to columnist Paul B. Farrell, a Scientific American research study estimated $60 trillion could be taxpayers' global warming cost by the year 2100. Farrell noted the global GDP is $75 trillion. By 2100 human population is expected to be 11 billion. That means even if we are lucky enough to maintain output, which we won't be, $15 trillion to take care of everything else with an extra 4 billion people.  According to Isaac Asimov, most humans lead "a miserable, starvation level of existence. And it will just get worse as the population continues to go up [. . .] Democracy cannot survive overpopulation. Human dignity cannot survive it. Convenience and decency cannot survive it. As you put more and more people onto the world, the value of life not only declines, it disappears." Some, reading this, may wonder, "Yeah, but will I be able to afford my Netflix?"

It would be great if our money could buy us another planet to live on, but the light-year distance between life-friendly planets is too far for our technology and, dare I say, our ideology, not to mention the problem of astronauts' brains fried by radiation which exceeds damage even from watching "Fox News" (see comments section below article). As Shelley noted in his famous poem "Ozymandias," Impermanence is law.

Impermanence is another reason books matter.

I'd better get an extra fishing rod in case that solar storm thing happens.

Just in case of solar flares or global warming catatrophe, I put one of my historical poems on clay which is good for the next three ice ages, if humans survive.  Otherwise, maybe highly-adaptable roaches, expected to outlast us, will read it with their feet which I guess is a little better than not being read at all, as many modern poets complain.  Take heart. I wonder how well Shelley would have done competing against Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram for the precious few moments any of us have on Earth. How many hits or visits would "Ozymandias" have had compared to "Ozzy Osbourne," and, with all those salmon and steelhead to catch, would it have mattered anyway?

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