1970s Science Fiction Environmental Demonstration Ideas


John Brunner was a British science fiction writer active from the 1950s to the 1990s. Some of his work was really prescient, mainly the four novels Standing on Zanzibar (1968), The irregular orbit (1969), The sheep looks up (1972) and The Shockwave Rider (1975), where the term worm for a computer virus was coined, which have been called the “Club of Rome Quartet” because they deal with overpopulation, ecological collapse, and runaway technology.

In The sheep looks up (ISBN 0-345-24948-8-195), Brunner comes very close to predicting the recent Just Stop Oil traffic blockages, right down to the symbol they use, a skull and crossbones:

Sharp on nine the Trainites [environmental protesters] had strewn caltraps across the pavement and created a monumental twelve-by-seven-block skirmish. The fuzz, as usual, was elsewhere—there were always plenty of well-wishers ready to create a diversion. It was impossible to guess how many allies the movement had; at first glance, however, one could say that in New York, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, or San Francisco, people were likely to cheer, while in the surrounding suburbs or in the Midwest, people were likely to cheer. fetch weapons. In other words, they had the least support in the regions that voted for Prexy.

Then the broken down cars had their windows opaqued with a cheap commercial compound used to etch the glass, and slogans were painted on their doors. Some were long: THIS VEHICLE IS DANGEROUS TO LIFE AND LIMB. Many were short: IT STICKS! But the most common of all was the universally known slogan: STOP, YOU ARE KILLING ME!

And in any case, the inscription ended in a rough egg shape above a saltire – the simplified ideogrammatic version of the invariable trainite symbol, a skull and crossbones reduced to

I always liked the way The sheep looks up ends with USAmerica having declared war on an enemy it cannot name, which is simply all the poisons we have thrown to the winds coming back to poison us and a woman in Ireland greeting someone at the door.

Opening the door to the visiting doctor, also to apologize for the flour she had on her hands – she had cooked – Mrs Byrne snorted. Smoke! And if she could smell it with her bad head cold, it must be a tremendous fire!

“We should call the brigade!” she exclaimed. “Is it a hayrick?”

“The brigade would have a long way to go,” the doctor told him dryly. “It’s from America. The wind is blowing that way.”

My full notes are available at https://hubeventsnotes.blogspot.com/2022/11/the-sheep-look-up.html

Steve Baer was one of the hippie dome builders in the 1960s © ™ all rights reserved working in Drop City building Zomes from the repurposed metal roofs of scrapped automobiles. He also invented a series of passive solar designs and founded the Zomeworks company to manufacture his products and designs.

In his book, Sunspots (Albuquerque, NM: Zomeworks Corporation, 1975, 1977) he imagined a different vision of the environmental manifestations of the future in a story called “The Sun Riots”:

A week earlier, during a protest, a large van was driven past the crowd. The driver, a swarthy man in his mid-40s, opened the rear doors and began to pass square mirrors. “Give them some sunshine.”

A few dozen mirrors began playing sunbeams on a police car following behind the protest. The officers were taken by surprise. The driver managed to back the car into the street, but not before his partner, panicked by the glare and rapidly rising temperature, jumped out and ran. More and more mirrors had come out in the crowd now. The crowd shone like a bank of crystals…

Mirror crowds are completely silent. They walk everywhere. A town hall clerk said: ‘They looked so funny – a whole crowd of them standing as still as they could standing at these mirrors and then pretty soon the shop opposite went burned.”

He also imagined a response from an anti-solar and energetically independentist government:

On the outskirts of town, the helicopters were circling and taking up fixed positions – you could see the crew members struggling with the lines as the guy wires were lowered.

A large white patch of frost and snow, an island of gray and white amid greenish brown, marked their target.

It was a method of non-violent control for dissidents who were disconnecting from the electrical system and going solar…

My own preference is more practical and everyday. The daily practice of a kind of solar swadeshi, locally produced, a variation on Gandhi’s “satyagraha soul”. I have a room in my off grid rented apartment for my reading lights at night through some small solar panels in one south facing window, solar flashlights and backup power in another south facing window, and a small solar light and charger on my backpack which I use as a bike light.

It is also solar civil protection, the light, the battery and the telephone or radio that you are supposed to have on hand in case of an emergency.

This year, I’m giving away solar battery chargers with rechargeable batteries as Christmas gifts. Maybe it will become a movement.

I don’t know what you’ll do with it,

But I know what I’m going to do about it. I am fair

will walk away. Maybe

A small part will die if I’m not there

no longer feed him.

excerpt from “Chicago Poem” by Lew Welch



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