After Hurricane Ida last month, our power went out for, it turns out, a whole week. The eight major transmission lines for the city of New Orleans and suburbs went through one single decrepit tower, which collapsed under the storm, draping the lines into the Mississippi River and leaving the whole region without power for days.
After a late-summer hurricane it always becomes extremely hot. The storm sucks up all the moisture over the Gulf of Mexico and precipitates it, so after the storm passes, the sky is clear and the sun in August or September is absolutely brutal. And with the power out, no AC. People die in these circumstances. My husband couldn’t handle the heat, so we decamped to his parent’s house north of Baton Rouge. Their power was out for less than a day.
“We can’t keep doing this, ” I said as we drove north, skirting Lake Pontchartrain, the water and sky a vista of blue.
“We can go to my sister’s if we can’t go to Mom’s next time,” he said.
“No,” I said, “I mean Louisiana! This is going to keep happening. These storms that spin up from nothing to a Category 4 or 5 in 48 hours. That’s not enough time to prepare. To evacuate.”
“Nope,” he said.
“And we can’t keep cleaning up these messes. My God, all the power going through one tower, what the hell! It’s climate change. These storms are going to keep happening. We need to harden this place, south Louisiana. We can’t keep getting caught with our pants down. Spending billions of dollars we don’t have for recovery.”
“That’s not going to happen,” he said. Louisiana is a very poor and red state.
“It has to! Somehow.” I looked at the marsh grasses beside the lake, shining in the sun, ideas tumbling in my head. “Maybe I should write a book about it.”
“You just did!” he said.
I did, sort of. Climate change and the ensuing havoc are part of the backstory of THE PONO WAY, an integral part of the character’s lives. The very first page mentions how coffee, real coffee, has become a scarce and expensive luxury. The second page lists a litany of chaos and destruction that is the normal course of events “two centuries into the Anthropocene era of mass extinction and climate change.” The destruction of the environment is part of the background tenor of everyday life in Pono, my island state. It’s largely why Pono was created (it’s an artificial sea-steading) and why many of its inhabitants migrated there, to escape the instability of the mainlands. Including my protagonist, Jake Weintraub.
But the Ponoans come to discover that even a thousand miles of ocean can’t really protect them from the danger and dysfunction of the broken, corrupt remnants of North America forever.
So yes, calling attention to climate change and its ensuing disasters is part of why I wrote that book. Part of why I write at all. My last book was about an epic, civilization-ending apocalypse too. [Daughter of Atlas: A Novel of the Fall of Atlantis, if you haven’t read it yet. 😉 ] And that, too, was caused by unchecked human greed and pillaging of the earth.
It’s important to me. Society has been talking about ecological collapse and doing nothing about it for my entire lifetime. This is my way of doing something.
But there’s more yet to write. I was imagining a story where a bunch of solarpunk misfits take over Baton Rouge and turn it into a green, sustainable, New New Orleans. Baton Rouge is as far north as the Mississippi is safely navigable for the huge container ships that provide so much of Louisiana’s revenue. Far enough north that it won’t be under water in a hundred years. It is the state capitol and a university town, home of LSU, my alma mater. It’s the logical place to migrate to.
Because we will have to migrate, one day. Everyone in south Louisiana. I hope it’s done in a just and peaceful manner. Instead of some kind of Mad Max land rush.
To make something happen, you first have to imagine it.
That’s what I do. You can help me by reading my books, yeah? 😉