Welcome to BookView Interview, a conversation series where BookView talks to authors.
Recently, we talked to SAM BLEICHER, author and adjunct professor of law at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., about his writing and recently released futuristic thriller Guardians of the Solar Shield: Earth’s Climate Mirrors Under Attack 2029-37 (read the review here).
SAM BLEICHER is an adjunct professor of law at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. From June 2014 to November 2018, he was a member and vice chair of the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board. He is an active Member of the League of Conservation Voters and its Climate Victory Council.
He holds a J.D. degree from Harvard Law School and B.A. degree from Northwestern University, Phi Beta Kappa with honors in economics. His novel, “The Plot to Cool the Planet” draws on his experience as a senior official in the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and Department of State; a law firm partner and lobbyist; and a law professor in the United States, China, and Russia.
In 2013, he published “APPOINTMENTS, A Novel of Politics in Our Nation’s Capital” under the pen name David Carmell. It’s available on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Appointments-Novel-Politics-Nations-Capital-ebook/dp/B00E4A1XM6
You have a solid “non-fiction” foundation in academia – why did you decide to write “Guardians of the Solar Shield” and “The Plot to Cool the Planet” as novels, rather than addressing issues related to climate change in non-fiction books?
I wrote these novels for several reasons. First, I wanted to provide a more hopeful vision of the future than we are getting from both advocates and opponents of action. Advocates of action tend to emphasize the necessity for radical transformation of our entire global economic and social structure to mitigate climate change, which seems unacceptable, if not impossible, to many national leaders and most of the public. Opponents of action on climate change tend to argue either that immediate action is unnecessary, or that the situation is already hopeless. Many governments around the world seem to think the task is too big, too demanding, too impossible. I want to suggest that bold, unconventional steps forward are possible if we try.
Second, I have seen what happens to non-fiction reports on the challenges of climate change. First, scientific research reports are typically carefully balanced, narrowed, and qualified. They don’t provide clear policy guidance or arouse an emotional response. Government policymakers focus on those findings and conclusions that reinforce their particular policy priorities. Media coverage of these reports is often slanted to fit into a different, more immediate political story. The general public rarely reads or acts on the implicit policy messages in non-fiction reports.
Third, I have observed that most people instinctively become far more engrossed in the fate of a handful of human beings, even fictional ones, than in statistical studies of the thousands, millions, or billions of faceless, anonymous human beings who will suffer. I want readers of “Guardians of the Solar Shield” and “The Plot to Cool the Planet”to empathize with my characters and come to care about what they are attempting to accomplish. I hope they will absorb some of their urgent desire to slow the global warming threat.
Fourth, I enjoyed the challenge of taking this complex scientific and political reality and creating human stories that would engage readers’ attention and sympathy. Even so, they still drastically simplify the scientific and political complexities obstructing efforts to change the future of our planet.
Is the science and engineering in your novels real, or science fiction?
I have made a serious effort to present the current scientific, social, and political realities as clearly and accurately as my knowledge and understanding allow. Of course, the specific events in “Guardians of the Solar Shield” and “The Plot to Cool the Planet” occur in the future. I have no reason to believe the specific circumstances will ever arise. But I think they qualify as plausible realities, not simply fantasies.
Are the government decision-making processes in your novel realistic?
I worked for a decade inside various government agencies at a senior level, and many more decades trying to understand and interpret government processes to clients and colleagues as a lawyer in private practice. I also spent many years as a professor teaching environmental law and international law, mulling over my experience.
Any single description of governmental decision-making at any level is inevitably a shorthand description of the total constellation of inputs and outputs that culminate in a government policy. That reality is demonstrated in books by high-level participants in government decisions, whether Allied military decisions in World War II or the operation of the Trump White House. I believe both “Guardians of the Solar Shield” and “The Plot to Cool the Planet” realistically capture the essence and flavor of actual government decision-making.
It’s clear from reading your books that you feel climate disruption is an issue that needs to be addressed sooner rather than later. Are your books a battle cry?
In some ways, yes. But the battle is primarily political and diplomatic, not a great military conflict or a heroic crusade. The characters in “Guardians of the Solar Shield” and “The Plot to Cool the Planet” are real human beings with strengths and weaknesses, personal anxieties and ambitions. They learn and grow and seize opportunities, make hard choices that affect themselves and others, and sometimes suffer severe consequences, fairly or unfairly. The global policy systems in which they operate produce unforeseeable outcomes, for better and worse, in what I believe is a plausible way.
One of the significant obstacles to action on climate disruption is the current United Nations governance structure, which is deeply tilted toward inaction. The Security Council veto power and the lack of any reliable UN funding mechanism make it impossible for the UN to drive the economic transformation that must take place quickly if our species is to avoid extinction.
What are the most dire consequences of climate change?
The range of consequencesof climate change will vary significantly from place to place, from decade to decade, and from one social class and economic livelihood to another. But it will have an ever-intensifying, cumulative adverse impact. Without prompt action, the long-term result will be the same for everyone – much of the planet will be uninhabitable because of drought and desert, and most of the world’s urban coastal areas will drown. These conditions will shrink the planet’s ability to support earth’s current human population, resulting in vast social, economic, and political upheavals, and ultimately the collapse of civilization as we know it, long before all earthly life faces final extinction.
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