This week’s reading, The Tamarisk Hunter by Paulo Bacigalupi, was an interesting change of pace the more academic readings we’ve mostly been exploring. It offered a descriptive, artistic perspective into what a post-global warming world might look like, in many ways more real than what any scholarly article could offer. As Bill McKibben says in his introduction to the collection of stories, “With climate change we face the biggest single thing human beings have ever done, so big as to be almost invisible… Since global warming seems, almost by definition, hard to imagine… it gets short shrift.” Artists, he says, by giving us a vivid image of what we find difficult to imagine, help take the reality of climate change from abstract to real. Furthermore, by painting hopeful pictures, they give us the courage to face what we might otherwise hide from. This is the first step towards change.
The Tamarisk Hunter is about a man who destroys tamarisk trees (which suck water out of the Colorado River) for a small daily wage and a water bounty. In the time it is set, California has bought out the water rights for the Colorado River, leaving the rest of the country in a severe drought. At the end of the story, the water bounty program is cut by the government and he is forced to move north in search of a richer watershed.
This story is striking because it is not an unrealistic prediction of the future. I think this kind of writing is important because it opens our eyes to a different kind of reality than science can offer, and hopefully will help snap us out of our denial and into action. If we don’t respond to facts, we just might respond to fiction.