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POINT OF VIEW: A Week in Shit City

Save the World

I’m neck-deep in shit.

Not literally, thank the stars. And if you thought this was going to be a column about what an awful week I just had, you’ll be sorely disappointed.

The COP26 climate change conference just wrapped up in Dublin. And while the latest accords and agreements weren’t nearly enough to stave off the worst effects of climate change, still it was something. Governments around the world are finally starting to get serious about the issue after receiving pressure from us, the people. Whether it’s too little, too late remains to be seen.

With this as the backdrop, I just finished reading an amazing seventy-five (yay!) submissions for our 2022 hopepunk clifi anthology “Save the World,” the follow-up to 2021’s popular “Fix the World.” This time, the focus of the anthology is solely on climate change.

The stories run the gamut – from changes little and big, and from hope almost lost to unbridled optimism. They were so good that I had to choose twenty of them this time, up from twelve last year. In some cases had to pick between stories that covered similar ground but often in very different ways.

So why am I talking about shit?

I’m writing my own story for the antho, about a little idea I had a while back. You’re probably familiar with the idea of a sourdough starter – a combination of fermented dough, yeast and bacteria. With sourdough, you put a bit of the starter into bread, and it changes the character of the dough, giving it that distinctive wonderfully sour flavoring.

What if we could create a bacterial “starter” that sucked carbon dioxide out of the air and fixed it into something that would lock it in place for decades or centuries? In my case, I chose interlocking bricks that could be easily used to build homes.

So what would be the ideal medium for my carbon starter? I needed something that humans always have at hand, no matter where they are, in regular and plentiful supply.

And then I hit on it. Human waste. I know, right? But think about it. As long as we are alive, we generate waste, and usually it’s just that – waste.

Ergo, I am neck deep in shit as I write my own possible way to save the planet.

Any actions to steer us away from mad-made disaster will likely take decades. There’s probably no one big fix – instead, the “solution” will likely require an interlocking host of changes big and small, many of which will require us doing things we’re uncomfortable with – Yellow, let it mellow, brown, flush it down, right? We’ll have to give up some of our own personal comforts, or at least stretch them a bit and set the thermostat to 78 instead of 68 in the summer. We’ll likely be forced to give up some things we’ve all become accustomed to – cheap gas, 72 flavors of Oreos, etc. And some things that are required may even disgust us.

Like using shit to build houses, or drinking recycled water.

But what’s the price of inaction?

Mark and I never had kids, but we have family who does. I have friends with grandkids who will live in this world (barring a major medical breakthrough in immortality in the next few years) a lot longer than we will, and I want them to inherit a livable world.

So if that means living in shit city for a week, count me in.

What would you change or give up to fight for a better, cooler world for the next generation?

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