In “The Tamarisk Hunter,” Paolo Bacigalupi tells the story of Lolo, a “water tick” (someone who chops down tamarisk trees in order to retrieve water) living in a drought-ridden, future California. The drought is the result of the failure of today’s humans to act on climate change. There is a class of people in the region who are prohibited from drinking water (and so must steal it), while another class has access to all the water they need via a system of pipes, which are inaccessible to the lower class. This is why water ticks like Lolo hunt tamarisks; they need to in order to survive, even if doing so may endanger their lives.
This story somewhat resembles those of Cormac McCarthy, an author who is known for his apocalyptic westerns such as Blood Meridian and The Road (the latter of which may be based specifically on climate change as well). Bacigalupi’s story is one which may look like our visions of the future of our own lives, but it instead mirrors the lives of countless individuals experiencing water shortages today, who not only but who are deprived of water by people with opposing interests. This is happening presently in Bangladesh, Honduras, and Flint, Michigan, to name some examples.
This story successfully takes a pressing issue and turns it into a digestible, fascinating piece of fiction. Sadly, people tend to empathize more with fictional characters than with real people who are facing the same struggles. But in many ways, it is beneficial for writers to put a new spin on a relevant topic if the standard ways are falling short or if they seem too redundant. In the same way that satire can help many people view a contemporary issue in a new way, so too can fiction.