So yesterday David and I watched Snowpiercer and the movie was fantastic, but it got me thinking about how we deal with weather and climate change in science fiction stories. From what I can find there seems to be two different story telling methods to deal with the environment in stories. One is that basically nature tries to overcompensate for what has happened and there is an apocalyptic environmental event of some sort or a dystopic turn in the weather, usually causing a great deal of problem for any people. The other is that we try and control the weather in some way and that either goes well or goes very, very poorly. There are numerous examples of all these scenarios throughout various science fiction stories.
The Natural Apocalypse or Dystopia
As mentioned, one example is the natural apocalypse or dystopia. These can come in a couple of forms actually. One is that nature takes a crazy shift and the weather just starts going crazy. Examples of this are movies such as 2012 and Day After Tomorrow. These movies both show the weather doing something completely extreme due to various reasons and usually wiping out part or most of humanity in some way. The weather just causes such chaos that humanity does not have time to adapt to what is happening and things just fall apart.
Another type of nature winning out or dying off, however you want to view it, is the slow burn, where the story takes place far in the future and humanity is in crisis. The landscape and the environment of the world have changed so drastically that humanity is simply trying to survive. Examples of this are movies such as Waterworld and Mad Max. These two movies are polar opposites of each other, in more ways than one, but also on how they see the environment of the world changing. One shows the world dying out and the other has the world flooded, either of which would be extremely problematic.
Man Control Over Nature
Now the other way that the stories have dealt with the weather is to control it in some ways, which ends up with two different outcomes. One way is that the control of the weather actually works and this is used for good and bad purposes. In The Giver it is used to help create sameness because that way they can keep growing year round and no one has to worry about bad weather. Now sometimes it is a controlled area and shows a class separation of some sort that displays how they use weather control as a benefit to some, but not all. The other option is that the controlled weather is over the entire world and tends to not be of any focus on the story.
The other way is that we attempt to control the weather and it ends up going terribly, terribly wrong. The example of this is Snowpiercer, which is part of the reason that it is brilliant. I have to say the horrible outcome of trying to control the weather is a more realistic option in my opinion. The basic idea is that trying to control the weather does not go well, and I agree. In Snowpiercer they attempt to reverse global warming and end up causing a second ice age, which kills off most of humanity. This is the terrible potential outcome of trying to mess with Mother Nature.
Where’s the Balance
The one thing that I actually have trouble finding is stories that actually display a balance between nature and technology. It seems that either nature fights back or dies off against the use of natural resources or humanity attempts to dominate nature. Neither of these options seem to turn out very well and in most scenarios it does not feel very hopeful. Either we find some magic cure to bring the weather under our control or it all goes to hell one way or another. In a lot of ways I think there needs to be more of a discussion of finding a balance between the modern conveniences we enjoy and the affect it has on the natural world.