Cli-Fi Novel Review – The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood

26th April 2017

The Year of the Flood is the most immersive ‘cli-fi’ book I have read to date. Whilst I am slightly unsure about using the term cli-fi to describe this novel, it does present a dystopian future, whereby human influence has caused mass environmental degradation. Corporations are in charge, and get away with a great deal of corruption and immoral practices, including changing the genetic make-up of animals.

What scares me about this book, is how a lot of things mentioned are not a million miles away from where we are today. If fiction has the power to make us reflect on our current pathway and change direction, then this is a book that policymakers should take notice of. Needless to say the plot was relevant and pacey, apart from the Sermons by Adam One, which drew me away from the action. That being said, these sermons tended to be about different ‘Saint’s Days’. Atwood cleverly uses the Saints Days to educate us about environmental campaigners and activists (after whom the Saint’s Days are named), such as Rachel Carson. The lay reader picking up this novel with little background environmental or cli-fi knowledge, may then be tempted to discover who these ‘Saints’ are and what they did, which is a very subtle and intelligent way of educating people.

The characters in the book are well thought out and believable. I now understand that this book is part of a trilogy; this being the second book (preceded by Oryx and Crake, and followed by MaddAddam). I am interested to see how these books tie together, as many articles discussing cli-fi novels recommend The Year of the Flood, yet few mention the other two books.

Whilst the ending wasn’t exactly what I anticipated or hoped for, this is my favourite cli-fi novel so far and one I’d definitely recommend. I’m hoping the loose ends are tied up in the final book of the trilogy – MaddAddam.

“Cli-Fi” Added to the Oxford Dictionary

13th April 2017

A major milestone has been reached for the cli-fi genre, as “cli-fi” enters the Oxford Dictionary.

A recent blog post on oxforddictionaries.com states: “Cli-fi refers to the genre of fiction exploring issues around climate change and global warming, and is modelled after its hypernym sci-fi.”

The origin of cli-fi is explained here as follows: “Early 21st century: short for climate fiction or climate change fiction, on the pattern of sci-fi.” Furthermore, ‘cli-fi, like the science behind it, often presents bleak visions of the future.’

I would like to offer my congratulations to Dan Bloom who coined the term ‘cli-fi’, and all those writers who have written books in this genre.

Sources

Oxford Dictionaries blog about cli-fi – http://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/2017/04/oxford-dictionary-new-words/

Definition of cli-fi – https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/cli-fi

Silent Spring by Rachel Carson – Are Pesticides a Source of Cancer?

11th April 2017

Silent Spring is a seminal book by Rachel Carson, which is widely credited for igniting the fires of the environmental movement. Reading this, I am shocked by how little seems to have changed in the intervening 55 years since the book was published.

Carson shows how chemical insecticides and pesticides have gone beyond pest control and resulted in widespread death of fish, birds and larger animals. What we try and control in one part of the food chain has a knock on effect further down, and worryingly, not many people realise that we are also at the end of this food chain. I have often wondered whether rising rates of cancer in humans can be attributed to the chemicals we have sprayed on our foods and which we unwittingly ingest. Think about it, if the pesticides are toxic enough to kill insects, birds and fish – could they not also poison us, as living, breathing creatures as well? Carson makes a strong argument that this is indeed the case:

“Man has put the vast majority of carcinogens into the environment and he can, if he wishes, eliminate many of them. The chemical agents of cancer have become entrenched in our world in two ways: first, and ironically, through man’s search for a better and easier way of life; second, because the manufacture and sale of such chemicals has become an accepted part of our economy and our way of life.”

Furthermore recent scientific studies have shown that pesticides are harmful to our health. An article in the Guardian, available here states that:

  • The idea that pesticides are essential to feed a fast-growing global population is a myth, according to UN food and pollution experts.
  • The report said: “Chronic exposure to pesticides has been linked to cancer, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, hormone disruption, developmental disorders and sterility.” It also highlighted the risk to children from pesticide contamination of food, citing 23 deaths in India in 2013 and 39 in China in 2014.
  • The report says pesticides have “catastrophic impacts on the environment, human health and society as a whole”, including an estimated 200,000 deaths a year from acute poisoning.

In addition, a separate article in the Guardian available here, notes that farms may actually be MORE productive without using pesticides and insecticides:

  • By comparing similar farms using high or low levels of pesticides, the scientists found that 94% of farms would lose no production if they cut pesticides and two-fifths of these would actually produce more.
  • The results were most startling for insecticides: lower levels would result in more production in 86% of farms and no farms at all would lose production.
  • The research also indicated that 78% of farms would be equally or more profitable when using less pesticide of all types.

I think it goes without saying that we need to urgently examine whether we need to be using pesticides and insecticides at all in this day and age. If there is significant evidence that pesticides are causing cancer and a range of other serious illnesses, we need to put a stop to their use. Moreover, we have evidence as shown above that we don’t need to use pesticides and insecticides on our crops. This is yet another case of manipulation by big companies, who are causing unnecessary illness, death and environmental degradation in the name of profits. It’s time to stop this.

Top 5 Pesticide Companies

As a matter of interest, this article from August 2016, lists the top 5 pesticide companies as:

  • Syngenta
  • Bayer
  • Dow and Du Pont
  • BASF
  • Monsanto

Sources

Silent Spring by Rachel Carson – https://www.amazon.co.uk/d/Books/Silent-Spring-Penguin-Modern-Classics-Rachel-Carson/0141184949

Deaths caused by pesticides – https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/mar/07/un-experts-denounce-myth-pesticides-are-necessary-to-feed-the-world

Farms more productive without insecticides – https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/apr/06/farms-could-slash-pesticide-use-without-losses-research-reveals

Top 5 pesticide companies – http://www.investopedia.com/articles/markets-economy/082516/top-5-pesticide-companies-world-syt-dow.asp