Shineanthology’s Weblog

An anthology of optimistic, near future SF

Archive for December 27, 2009

Tentative Steps Forward: West Africa, North Australia, San Francisco, Brazil, the World

Sometimes I can’t help but wonder why—in the SF blogosphere —a post about whether SF should or should not die effortlessly draws more eyeballs than near-future SF stories that demonstrate its relevance. Partly, I suspect, because stories do not contain links to other articles. Still, it’s a bit of a shame that articles with a negative undertone get more attention than stories with a positive message. Or maybe I’m just comparing apples to pears.

Therefore an article about positive developments in the world (I’ve already posted plenty of those). Here’s one development that particularly caught my attention, because it is a solution that addresses several problems at the same time:

→In West Africa, native fruits have a big future:

(from New Scientist, November 7, 2009. Yes, it’s six weeks old, and I’m catching up on my NS reading. But this is an item that will remain relevant for—at least—several decades, showing that near-future, optimistic SF does not need to have a one or two-year expiration date.)

For those not subscribing to New Scientist, the article is online.

To quote:

“Domesticating wild fruit like bush mango has changed our lives.”

“It is a peasant revolution taking place in the fields of Africa’s smallholders.”

In short, African farming smallholders are switching to local wild fruits, making both more food and more money, and creating more biodiversity and environmental sustainability in the process.

The advantages combine to make a sum larger than the separate parts:

  • fruit trees exist in a large variety (over 300 different ones in Cameroon alone);
  • fruit trees are much better resistant against droughts than mass crops like cassava, maize and wheat;
  • in the domestication programme, local knowledge and science—after some initial mistrust, which was overcome by the good results—are combined;
  • all low-tech, no fancy equipment needed;
  • fruit trees generate income year-round (not just three months like, for example, cacao);
  • they thrive in a diversity situation (many different tree crops on one land), creating a habitat for wildlife and environmental sustainability;
  • people not only get better food, but with the extra income they buy school fees for their children, decent healthcare, and improved housing;

Let’s call it ‘win/win squared’!

Obviously, there is still a very long way to go, and there will be large obstacles to overcome—especially worries about a level playing field against big agriculture: check out some of the comments in the comment section—but this is nevertheless a tentative step forward, not only in Africa, but it’s happening in North Australia, as well (see also some of the comments in the comment section of the article).

A similar interesting development is the rise of urban beekeeping as honeybee numbers have been falling to catastrophic levels, with the counter-intuitive result that people in cities are helping to keep honeybees alive, both genetically and increasingly in larger numbers. Many thanks to Cameo Wood—who runs Her Majesty’s Secret Beekeeper in the Mission District—for informing me about this when she showed Ellen Kushner, Delia Sherman and me around in San Francisco, courtesy of Borderlands Books.

These are just two examples of how important changes can arise from small origins, and not necessarily need to come from big technological shifts.

By way of contrast, two examples of implementing change directly on the larger scale (keeping in mind that the previous examples are already adding up in sheer numbers):

  • Growing biofuel without razing the rainforest (also via New Scientist): an interview with plant scientist Marcus Buckeridge;
  • The  2009 Human Development Report: common migration misconceptions are challenged (“Migration can be a force for good, contributing significantly to human development,” says United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator Helen Clark.)

To restate (as I’ve done over and over on this site): good things and optimistic developments are happening on this planet: they’re just underreported, underrated and—I suspect—underestimated. Let’s keep looking forward, and work on a better future.

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The Week in Tweet, Week 35

Like thunder and lightning, @outshine‘s so exciting!

Monday August 24:

[Quote for the Monday] “Nevertheless, I remain firmly convinced that not only is being overly conscious a disease, but so is being conscious at all.”

[Source] Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821 – 1881) / Russian novelist / Notes from the Underground.

Tuesday August 25:

Hyper-intelligent—music & lyrics—neo-fusion metal that went against the zeitgeist with pizzazz: forgotten classic too much ahead of its time.

[#SoundBytes] Damn the Machine by Damn the Machine (1992) —http://is.gd/37p5B / A&M Records — http://is.gd/37pfA (if still available).

Wednesday August 26:

Thirty storeys down, the city bustled. Thirty thousand feet up, the wind farms bucked and swooped. Between them, Tom smiled and ate lunch.

[Bio] Alasdair Stuart is a writer, journalist and host of the podcast Pseudopod. He can be found online at: http://tinyurl.com/nyd8rp.

Thursday August 27:

Spoiler—This franchise-ending piece of drivel reaches its climax when the actors die horribly from watching a screening of their own movie.

[#Spitballs] The Final Destination / Directed by David R. Ellis /http://is.gd/2XNXX.

Friday August 28:

[Quote for the Friday] “Off with you! You’re a happy fellow, for you’ll give happiness and joy to many other people. There is nothing better or greater than that!”

[Source] Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 – 1827)/German composer/Said to Franz Liszt when Liszt, aged 11, had visited Beethoven & played for him.

Saturday August 29:

Reverse in works only. Good no machine travel time. Reference future for self to note.

[Bio] Paula R. Stiles, at: http://is.gd/kLAu, has sold SF, fantasy and horror stories to Strange Horizons, Jim Baen’s, Futures and others.

Sunday August 30:

Despite Constantine’s Holmesian notes, this isn’t a crime tale but a watery satire of reality TV, with rather poor art and an obvious twist.

[#ShineComics] DARK ENTRIES by Ian Rankin (script) and Werther Dell’edera; Vertigo Crime, 2009, $19.99 (digest-sized hardcover).