Monday, July 27, 2015

The Water Knife

"The Water Knife" is the second adult novel by Paolo Bacigalupi. Paulo is one of the bards of the coming climate crisis.

This is an extremely violent book. I think it is intended to shock us into realizing how desperate the lives of refugees are. In this case the refugees are primarily Texans, trying to flee future drought into the southwest and California. Their desperation is probably not that different from African refugees who are trying to escape drought right now. I have to admit, Texans are acting like such jerks lately, say with their reaction to Operation Jade Helm for example, that I got a guilty pleasure from having the victims here be mostly Texans.

The novel's pacing is very tight and the cast of characters is relatively small. The plot is very nicely twisted, worthy of Film Noir. I would guess the movie rights to this are already sold, and it will make a great film. Too bad Danny Trejo is too old to play the title character.

There are some nice insights into the various cognitive impairments that are allowing us to ignore or deny the climate crisis.

“If I could put my finger on the moment we genuinely fucked ourselves, it was the moment we decided that data was something you could use words like believe or disbelieve around.”
Another major component of the story is the book "Cadillac Desert", by Marc Reisner. Published in 1993 and subtitled "The American West and Its Disappearing Water", it is apparently the roadmap for what is going to happen with water in the southwest, winding up in the dire straits in which "The Water Knife" is set.
“It’s wallpaper. Every water manager, every bureaucrat — even you got that damn book. All of you with your nice hard-copy first editions, all of you pretending you know shit.” He opened his eyes blearily. “Acting like you all saw this shit coming.”

He closed his eyes again and slumped back against the door. “That guy Reisner, now. That man saw things. He looked. All these people now, though? The ones who put that book up like a trophy? They’re the ones who stood by and let it all happen. They call him one of their prophets now. But they weren’t listening back then. Back then no one gave a shit about what that man said.”

I probably won't read "Cadillac Desert". I have seen projected drought reaching as far north as Kentucky by 2100. I will probably keep living in the Ohio Valley, 13 miles from the Kentucky River and 54 miles from the Ohio River, the greatest waterway between the Appalachians and the Mississippi. But meanwhile, good luck to people in the southwest in the coming decades.

William Gibson said "The future is already here — it's just not very evenly distributed." Unfortunately this is and will be very true for the climate crisis as well. The countries in the temperate zones who put most of the carbon in the air will be affected much less severely than countries in the tropics. We can only hope that Climate Justice will win the day.


Stephen Perrenod said...

Thanks Chris, nice review. Loved Windup Girl especially since living in Bangkok now and when I read it. He captures Thai culture and mores well. We have mucho water here and are sinking into the Gulf of Thailand.

Chris Heinz said...

Nice to hear from you Stephen. Yeouch, good luck in Bangkok!