Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
07/31/15 -- Vol. 34, No. 5, Whole Number 1869

Co-Editor: Mark Leeper,
Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper,
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        Comic Con Is Coming to Old Bridge!
        Science Fiction (and Other) Discussion Groups, Films,
                Lectures, etc. (NJ)
        My Picks for Turner Classic Films in August (comments
                by Mark R. Leeper)
        THE THREE BODY PROBLEM by Cixin Liu (translated by Ken Liu)
                (book review by Joe Karpierz)
        THE THREE-BODY PROBLEM by Cixin Liu (translated by Ken Liu)
                (book review by Gwendolyn Karpierz)
        THE DARK BETWEEN THE STARS by Kevin J. Anderson (book review
                by Gwendolyn Karpierz)
        AURORA and ORPHANS OF THE SKY (letter of comment
                by Taras Wolansky)
        This Week's Reading (ON CARE FOR OUR COMMON HOME)
                (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)


TOPIC: Comic Con Is Coming to Old Bridge!

Well, sort of.  The Old Bridge Library will be holding "Comic Con"
on Saturday, August 15, 11AM to 4PM.  Guests include Anthony
Schiavino (Sergeant Zero, Ghosts with Guns), Neil Vokes (Spider-
Man, Superman Adventures), and Tom Smith (artist/colorist for
Marvel, DC).

It will be held in conjunction with their "Doctor Who Comics Day"

See for details and updates.

[Note that this is in no way connected to "Comic-Con", a registered
trademark of San Diego Comic-Con International.]


TOPIC: Science Fiction (and Other) Discussion Groups, Films,
Lectures, etc. (NJ)

        and "Vintage Season" by Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore,
        Middletown (NJ) Public Library, 5:30PM
August 15: Comic Con, Old Bridge (NJ) Public Library, 11AM-4PM
August 21: SIDDHARTHA by Herman Hesse, Old Bridge (NJ) Public
        Library, 7PM
September 10:
September 24: "The Marching Morons" by C. M. Kornbluth, "Baby Is
        Three" by Theodore Sturgeon, and "The Ballad of Lost C'Mell"
        by Cordwainer Smith (all in SCIENCE FICTION HALL OF FAME
        VOLUME 2A), Old Bridge (NJ) Public Library, 7PM

Speculative Fiction Lectures (subject to change):

August: no lecture
September 12: Carlotta Holton, Applying Local Myths & History into
        Speculative Fiction, Old Bridge (NJ) Public Library, 12N
October 3: Ellen Datlow, The State of Horror Fiction, Old Bridge
        (NJ) Public Library, 12N
November 7: Jennifer Walkup, Finding Your Voice in YA Speculative
        Fiction, Old Bridge (NJ) Public Library, 12N
December: no lecture

Northern New Jersey events are listed at:


TOPIC: My Picks for Turner Classic Films in August (comments by
Mark R. Leeper)

I have been making note of when TCM will run together six or so
films that are sort of on the same theme.  There had to be a name
for such a thing.  It seemed to me it was a small series of films
on one theme.  Last month it was a set of films of aliens invading
Earth.  I called it a "miniseries."  But no, that term implies it
is one long story.  There had to be a better word.  A term was on
the tip of my tongue, but I could not bring it to mind.  Than
someone wrote commenting how he liked the TCM film "marathons."
That was it.  My mental hiccup was over.  Thank you.  This month
all the great films run in one day in one *marathon*.  This month
it is a Michael Caine retrospective *marathon* and he has been in
some very good films.

You can sample two of Michael Caine's "Harry Palmer" films.  It
might have been better if they had also run what is in my opinion
the best of the Harry Palmer films, FUNERAL IN BERLIN, but two is
enough.  Back in 1965, about the same time that THUNDERBALL was
released, James Bond series producer Harry Saltzman launched what
he hoped would be a new series of spy films starring Michael Caine
and based on the spy novels of Len Deighton.  They were more
serious and more realistic than Ian Fleming's "Bond" novels.  First
problem to overcome: Deighton never names his secret agent.  The
novels are written in the first person and nobody refers to the
agent by name.  The film producers chose the bland name Harry
Palmer and muted Caine's looks behind heavy glasses.  Palmer lacks
James Bond's incredible luck and instead thinks his way out of
problems.  It corrects a lot of what is bad in the Bond series.

The whole idea of his agent is he is a sort of nameless,
nondescript character, a victim of the system he defends.  Palmer,
unlike Bond, is constantly one slip-up away from getting himself
killed.  When he complains that his boss was callous and extremely
reckless with his life, he is infuriatingly told, "That's what
you're paid for."  Three Deighton novels where adapted into Harry
Palmer films, THE IPCRESS FILE (1965), FUNERAL IN BERLIN (1966),
and BILLION DOLLAR BRAIN (1967).  There were two more films made
that nominally had Michael Caine playing Harry Palmer: BULLET TO
not based on Deighton novels and are disappointing exploitations of
the Palmer series.

There is no consensus on which of the first three Palmer films is
the best.  As I have said I would pick FUNERAL IN BERLIN, but THE
IPCRESS FILE is close.  Surrealist Ken Russell directed BILLION
DOLLAR BRAIN and took the style in the wrong direction.  But all
three are very good spy films and compare favorably with the James
Bond films.
THE IPCRESS FILE: [Thursday, August 6, 10:00 PM]
BILLION DOLLAR BRAIN: [Thursday, August 6, 9:45 AM]

Speaking of action adventures starring Michael Caine, the
surprisingly fun chase film THE WILBY CONSPIRACY is running that
same day.  Set in South Africa, this film caries a strong anti-
apartheid message, but the viewer will never mind that since this
film is at the same time a witty and engrossing action film.  Jim
Keogh (Caine) is extremely disinterested in politics, but much more
interested in his antiapartheid activist lawyer girlfriend.  He
meets his girlfriend at a courthouse where she is defending anti-
apartheid Shack Twala (Sidney Poitier).  From there events happen
faster than Keogh can follow.  Before he knows it he is a criminal
fugitive running with Twala from the fascist police, led by Major
Horn, Nicol Williamson in a *really* creepy role.  The story is how
Keogh finds commitment, but by the time it is over the viewer
cannot wait for someone to kill Horn.  [Thursday, August 6, 1:30

Best film of the Month?  If this is a Michael Caine retrospective
and you have read this column in the past you probably know what I
am going to pick.  Caine joins Sean Connery in the great THE MAN
WHO WOULD BE KING (1975) [Thursday, August 6, 3:30 PM]  [-mrl]


TOPIC: THE THREE BODY PROBLEM by Cixin Liu (translated by Ken Liu)
(copyright 2014 Tor (U.S. Edition), e-book, 399 pp, hardcover ISBN
978-0-7653-7706-7, e-book ISBN 978-1-4668-5344-7) (excerpt from the
Duel Fish Codices: a book review by Joe Karpierz)

I'm told there is a lot of great science fiction being produced in
non-English speaking countries.  Like most readers my age, I grew
up on stuff that was written in the United States, and occasionally
Great Britain, by white males.  That's just the way it was back in
those days.  I'm guessing that most readers in the U.S. today still
default to reading English language novels written by English
speaking writers.  We are typically not exposed to fiction from
other countries and cultures, and even if a book is translated into
English, we need to be made aware of that book before we'll pick it
up and read it. I honestly can't tell you how many translated
science fiction and fantasy books are sitting on bookstore shelves
waiting to be purchased and read.  Short of looking at every last
one of them--and I'm not going to do that--I don't know how I would
find out.

But in 2014, a book from whom I understand is arguably China's most
beloved science fiction author, Cixin Liu, received the translation
treatment by Ken Liu (no relation), and was published by Tor.
Before the book started getting some advance notice from folks in
the field (I heard about it for the first time on The Coode Street
Podcast last year), I'd never heard of Cixin Liu.  I *had* heard of
Ken Liu.  Ken Liu is one of the most talented short fiction writers
in the field today, with multiple Hugo awards already under his
belt, as well as a Nebula, among others.  However, I know
absolutely nothing about the book translation process and how well
the resulting work represents the original.  Thus, I'll talk about
what I do know, which is the story.

And what a story it is.  It's a throwback to 70s science fiction, a
first encounter and alien invasion story all rolled into one (and
that's not even true, since it's the first book of a trilogy, the
second of which, THE DARK FOREST, hits our shores this year,
translated by Joel Martinsen).  It's got science--lots of science--
and a bit of what looks like hand wavium going on at one point
(until I started reading some articles in a magazine that were
discussing something similar to what the hand waving was about--I
think).  It's grand in scope, has some terrific ideas, and really
can make us stop and think about whether we're all alone out here.

The story begins during the Chinese Cultural Revolution, and uses
it as a launching pad for all that goes forward.  A young woman,
who sees her father killed during the revolution, is assigned to a
military base in a remote part of China.  The more time she spends
there, the more she becomes trusted, and eventually she learns the
true nature of the project--to send signals into space to contact
alien life.  The young woman, Ye Wenjie (thank goodness for the
list of characters at the beginning of the book), learns of a way
to amplify the signals that are being sent.  She sends a signal
into deep space--and hence the trouble begins.

Over the course of the book we learn about the Trisolarans, an
alien race that lives in a planetary system that has three suns.
Trisolaran society is dying because of those three suns.  Cixin Liu
comes up with the clever idea of the Three Body game, wherein
players are challenged to find solutions to the Three Body Problem
(hence the name of the book) by interacting with characters from
history in societies that keep dying off because of the
unpredictability of the cycles of the three suns.  (I should note
that there really is something called the Three Body Problem; from
wikipedia:  In its traditional sense, the three-body problem is the
problem of taking an initial set of data that specifies the
positions, masses and velocities of three bodies for some
particular point in time and then determining the motions of the
three bodies, in accordance with the laws of classical mechanics
(Newton's laws of motion and of universal gravitation).). The Three
Body game is more than just a game--it is a gateway into a group of
people who are working together to plan for the coming of the

I don't want to give too many more details, as I could start
getting into spoiler territory, and I think the rest needs to be
discovered by the reader.  What I can say, however, is that book
not only chronicles how and why this group of individuals came
together, but it also explores how the Trisolarans plan to come to
earth to take over.  Yes, it's a hostile takeover, and there are no
financial personnel involved, although this is where the hand-
waving comes in and, in reality, I don't mind it in the least.
Whether a super-intelligent computer can be made by unfolding a
proton into two dimensions is not the point.  Just thinking about
the possibilities of being able to do that is the point, and indeed
in a larger sense has been how science fiction has gone about its
business since the field began.  You know, "wow, wouldn't it be
neat if we could do THAT?"

The other thing I enjoyed about this book is the peek it gives to
the reader into Chinese civilization around the time of the Chinese
Cultural Revolution going forward. Granted, it is just a peek, but
I'd never given much thought to political, military, and academic
life as well as the social status one acquires depending on who and
where one was at any given time during that period of Chinese

With regard to the translation, as I stated earlier, there's not
much I can say about it.  It's hard to be able to judge how well a
book is translated when you don't know the original.  I *can* tell
you that I've enjoyed Ken Liu's writing style when I have read his
short fiction, and I think that style comes through here. I can
tell it was a good, fast paced, and interesting read.  I was never
bored, and actually looked forward to reading the footnotes as I
was reading the main text.  I did NOT have same eagerness while I

If foreign language science fiction is like this, I need to read
more.  Even if it's not, I do look forward to the remaining two
books in the trilogy, and  hopefully there will be more
translations of Cixin Liu's work coming our way in the future.


TOPIC: THE THREE-BODY PROBLEM by Cixin Liu (translated by Ken Liu)
(copyright 2006, English translation 2014, Tor, $25.99 hardcover,
399pp, ISBN 978-0-7653-7706-7) (excerpt from the Duel Fish Codices:
a book review by Gwendolyn Karpierz)

Knowing that a book is translated from another language always
gives me pause when it comes time to judge it.  Are hiccups in the
writing style the fault of the author or the translator? Would
misunderstandings or stilted dialogue be eliminated in the
original? Yet none of those really mattered here--the one thing I
can say for sure is that Ken Liu's translation of THE THREE-BODY
PROBLEM was smooth and elegant; his footnotes were well-placed,
helpful, and unobtrusive; and I am convinced through this reading
that Cixin Liu is a great writer.

THE THREE-BODY PROBLEM begins in the Chinese Cultural Revolution
and subsequently follows a couple different characters: Ye Wenjie,
who watched her father be murdered during the Revolution for
refusing to renounce science; and Wang Miao, a scientist who works
with nanotechnology.  (A couple others have their stories told, but
these two are the primary foci.)  Ye Wenjie worked on a secret base
sending signals out into space; Wang Miao is contacted when some
prominent physicists commit suicide, begins discovering some very
odd things going on with the universe, and gets involved with a
video game called Three Body in which the players try to solve the
problem of three unpredictable suns destroying all civilization
with alarming frequency.  This game turns out to be modeled on an
actual alien planet suffering this very conundrum, but instead of
putting any hope in the players solving it (the three-body problem
is, after all, unsolvable), the aliens (Trisolarans) are coming to
take over a planet that doesn't have this issue with the suns...
i.e., Earth.

They don't intend to assimilate peacefully.  And unfortunately,
some people on Earth are disillusioned enough to be welcoming the
destruction of the human race.

THE THREE-BODY PROBLEM is an examination of where society splits on
whether or not humanity should be destroyed.  It's intriguing, to
be sure, and well-written.  I have some trouble accepting the way
people react to certain things: for example, the previously-
mentioned physicists supposedly commit suicide because they
discover that "physics does not exist" (or rather, that "the laws
of physics are not invariant across time and space"); and while I
am not a physicist, that seems like something of an overreaction.
A lot of the side characters in this novel were really
unbelievable, or somehow caricatures; I honestly had a lot of
trouble believing anybody would /want/ to play the Three Body game,
or that after playing it, they would instantly want to adopt
Trisolaran society.  Their 'motivations' were so flat and
unrealistic that I couldn't take them seriously--and consequently
couldn't really take any of the antagonists (who also wanted
Trisolaran society to subsume Earth) seriously either.

I guess I was never really /attached/ to the story told here--but
it was a good, well-told story, and I certainly enjoyed reading it.


TOPIC: THE DARK BETWEEN THE STARS by Kevin J. Anderson (copyright
2014, Tor, $27.99 hardcover, 656pp, ISBN 978-0-7653-3299-8)
(excerpt from the Duel Fish Codices: a book review by Gwendolyn

Before I go any farther, I have to admit that I didn't finish this
book.  In fact, if I'm being entirely honest, I didn't even get to
page fifty.  Page forty-two is where I abandoned ship.  Page forty-
two of six hundred and seventy-two.  Maybe that means you don't
want to take this review seriously, but I just couldn't make it any

I heard a lot of disdain directed toward THE DARK BETWEEN STARS
before I ever picked it up.  Everyone kept saying the writing style
was just atrocious.  Now, I am admittedly very picky about writing
style, but I was absolutely determined to give this book a fair
chance.  At least a hundred pages, I told myself.  That's enough to
see if there's anything salvageable beneath the poor writing.  An
intriguing plot, interesting characters--any reason to keep going.

I just...  I couldn't.

I can't really tell you what THE DARK BETWEEN STARS is actually
about, because I just didn't get far enough.  One could argue that
if you don't know what the book is about after forty pages then you
have a problem anyway, but since it's almost seven hundred pages
total, I suppose it has a little more leeway.  I do know that this
is a series set in the same universe as another of Anderson's space
epics, involving some but not all of the same characters.  To give
Anderson his due, I /can/ see why someone would enjoy this book.
He does a good job of conveying information from the previously-
told tales; I didn't feel like I was lost or missing something
because I hadn't read the other series.  There was probably too
much exposition because of the need to do this, but that wasn't
really what got to me.

What got to me was the dialogue.

Every single piece of dialogue was so.  Incredibly.  Bad.  It was
stilted.  It was unrealistic.  A character would say something and
the other person would respond with something that didn't actually
match up to what had just been said.  "As-you-know-Bob," which is a
technique where characters tell each other things they already know
in order to pass the info along to the reader, happens /all over
the place/.  It made me so angry that eventually, as I tried to
forge on through at least /fifty/ pages (since I wasn't going to
manage a hundred), I started zoning out any time anyone was
talking.  I just had to hope none of them said anything useful
because I couldn't bear to listen to them.  It was riddled with
pointless, redundant, or equally-unrealistic internal monologue.
It was just...  bad.

Honestly, there were a lot of other things wrong with this book in
the first forty-two pages.  For one thing, I have no clue what the
main conflict was--and really, you should know that in the first
/two/ pages of a novel.  The point-of-view shifted every three
pages, which is just excessive.  People just /did/ things that
didn't make a whole lot of sense.  ('Wow, these guards who are /on
our side/ are standing here /doing their job really well/.  Too bad
we don't like the job they're doing.  We'll just attack them.  It's
fine.  Clearly the best path to our goal.' NO.  STOP.  PLEASE JUST
STOP.) By the time I was thirty pages in, I dreaded picking up this
book, and in the end, I decided that life is really just too short
to spend seven hundred pages--or even a hundred--or even, as it
turns out, fifty--hating your favorite hobby.  [-gmk]


TOPIC: AURORA and ORPHANS OF THE SKY (letter of comment by Taras

In response to Evelyn's comments on AURORA and ORPHANS OF THE SKY
in the 07/24/15 issue of the MT VOID, Taras Wolansky writes:

A couple of comments on the joint review of Kim Stanley Robinson's
AURORA and Robert Heinlein's ORPHANS OF THE SKY:

"For example, one factor that Robinson addresses that no one seems
to have thought of before is that (because of their life spans)
bacteria and viruses evolve faster than humans. In a limited
ecosystem, this means that a deadly disease is much more likely to
develop than in a wider and more robust environment."

My first thought was, that can't be right: it flies in the face of
all experience.  Remember how sailors on long voyages would get
healthier the longer they were isolated.  In general, isolated
populations would start dying like flies only when strangers
arrived.  But it took me a while to figure out why it's wrong.
Under normal circumstances, our immune systems keep pathogens at
such low levels that they can't do much evolving.  That's why
epidemics arise in "reservoirs" of pathogens.

"In UNIVERSE, illiteracy is standard, and a lot of knowledge seems
to have been lost for some reason. (Given that pre-literate peoples
manage to transmit knowledge over many generations, the reason for
this is now [read: not?] clear.)"  In a pre-literate society,
everything more than a few generations old is part of the mythic
past.  Consider how the Plains Indians believed that the Great
Spirit gave them horses at the creation of the world.  They simply
forgot what we know actually happened.

There are Native American creationists who insist that they did not
come from Asia but were created in North America by their deity--
complete with horses, of course!  It's a bit of a dilemma for
modern anthropologies, who are required by the rules of political
correctness to at least pretend to take such oral "histories"
seriously.  [-tw]


TOPIC: This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)

I recently read a book on the current environmental crisis, ON CARE
FOR OUR COMMON HOME by Jorge Mario Bergoglio (ISBN 978-1-612-78386-
4) which actually has a lot of connections with AURORA by Kim
Stanley Robinson (which I reviewed last week).

I'll first note that this is written from a religious perspective
and for a primarily Christian audience, as Bergoglio says:
"Furthermore, although this [volume] welcomes dialogue with
everyone so that together we can seek paths of liberation, I would
like from the outset to show how faith convictions can offer
Christians, and some other believers as well, ample motivation to
care for nature and for the most vulnerable of their brothers and

He also starts out by disavowing the "Earth has been given
unconditionally to mankind" attitude one often hears: "... nowadays
we must forcefully reject the notion that our being created in
God's image and given dominion over the earth justifies absolute
domination over other creatures.  ... Clearly, the Bible has no
place for a tyrannical anthropocentrism unconcerned for other
creatures.  ...  Instead, our 'dominion' over the universe should
be understood more properly in the sense of responsible
stewardship."   And later, he again criticizes absolutism: "The
Christian tradition has never recognized the right to private
property as absolute or inviolable, and has stressed the social
purpose of all forms of private property."

Bergoglio does not take the stereotypical anti-evolution position,
but rather says, "Although change is part of the working of complex
systems, the speed with which human activity has developed
contrasts with the naturally slow pace of biological evolution."

(He does not endorse evolution exclusively, though, as he also
writes, "Human beings, even if we postulate a process of evolution,
also possess a uniqueness which cannot be fully explained by the
evolution of other open systems.")

While many authors try to separate environmental issues from other
issues, Bergoglio ties them together, noting, "There has been a
tragic rise in the number of migrants seeking to flee from the
growing poverty caused by environmental degradation.  They are not
recognized by international conventions as refugees..."

The bottom line, for Bergoglio anyway, seems to be, "We are part of
nature, included in it and thus in constant interaction with it.
...  We are faced not with two separate crises, one environmental
and the other social, but rather with one complex crisis which is
both social and environmental."
So ON CARE FOR OUR COMMON HOME spends a fair amount of time on
economics and on the problems of the poor.  Some of these are very
basic, such as access to safe drinking water.  But even these do
not get the attention they deserve.  "These days, they are
mentioned in international political and economic discussions, but
one often has the impression that their problems are brought up as
an afterthought, a question which gets added almost out of duty or
in a tangential way, if not treated merely as collateral damage.
...  This is due partly to the fact that many professionals,
opinion makers, communications media and centres of power, being
located in affluent urban areas, are far removed from the poor,
with little direct contact with their problems."

Bergoglio sees our attitudes as a continuum, saying, "It follows
that our indifference or cruelty towards fellow creatures of this
world sooner or later affects the treatment we mete out to other
human beings."  As a result of our indifference, he continues, "...
we continue to tolerate that some consider themselves more human
than others, as if they had been born with greater rights."

But he is saying that we institute a welfare state to solve the
problems of poverty, but rather that we should aspire to
Maimonides's highest level of charity, namely, providing the means
for someone to avoid the need for charity: "Helping the poor
financially must always be a provisional solution in the face of
pressing needs.  The broader objective should always be to allow
them a dignified life through work."

However, he does want some basic changes in our socio-economic
system.  As he notes, "To claim economic freedom while real
conditions bar many people from actual access to it, and while
possibilities for employment continue to shrink, is to practise a
doublespeak which brings politics into disrepute."  Later he is
even more specific, saying, "Saving banks at any cost, making the
public pay the price, foregoing a firm commitment to reviewing and
reforming the entire system, only reaffirms the absolute power of a
financial system, a power which has no future and will only give
rise to new crises after a slow, costly and only apparent

In some respects, alas, the "obvious" science expressed may be
wrong, or at least questionable.  For example, Bergoglio says,
"Many cities are huge, inefficient structures, excessively wasteful
of energy and water."  This is true of some cities, I suppose, but
in fact cities are *efficient* structures which use much less
energy and water per person than other living arrangements.  For
example, an apartment building provides more insulation per
apartment (through internal walls) to retain heat in the winter.
The very fact that people tend to occupy much smaller residences in
cities than in suburbs saves energy as well as water (few city
dwellers have large lawns or private swimming pools).  Transit in
cities also tends to emphasize public transit more and private
vehicles less.  Not only does this provide economies of scale, but
public transit is more likely to be powered through electricity or
other alternatives rather than gasoline.

Bergoglio may be thinking less of cities such as Boston and San
Francisco, though, and more of places such as Mexico City and
Mumbai when he writes, "In the unstable neighbourhoods of mega-
cities, the daily experience of overcrowding and social anonymity
can create a sense of uprootedness which spawns antisocial
behaviour and violence."

One of the things that some readers may find disconcerting is that
Bergoglio does not attempt to present reams of data supporting his
contentions on global climate change, but simply states, "Doomsday
predictions can no longer be met with irony or disdain.  We may
well be leaving to coming generations debris, desolation and

Unlike many people trying to deal with global climate change,
Bergoglio is not anti-science or anti-technology.  He says straight
out, "It is right to rejoice in these advances [of science] and to
be excited by the immense possibilities which they continue to open
up before us, for 'science and technology are wonderful products of
a God-given human creativity'."

Of course, his application of science often tends toward the
philosophical, or even New Age, as when he seems to derive his
belief in the interconnectedness of everything from physics,
specifically observing, "Time and space are not independent of one
another, and not even atoms or subatomic particles can be
considered in isolation."

However, he also recognizes the negative aspects of science, when
he observes, "Human beings and material objects no longer extend a
friendly hand to one another; the relationship has become

In part, he attributes this to too much knowledge and technology,
so that "the fragmentation of knowledge proves helpful for concrete
applications, and yet it often leads to a loss of appreciation for
the whole, for the relationships between things, and for the
broader horizon, which then becomes irrelevant."

However, science (in his opinion) has its limits.  For example, he
says, "... experimentation on animals is morally acceptable only
'if it remains within reasonable limits [and] contributes to caring
for or saving human lives'."

And sometimes he verges into almost a sort of relativism, as when
he says, "It is difficult to make a general judgment about genetic
modification (GM), whether vegetable or animal, medical or
agricultural, since these vary greatly among themselves and call
for specific considerations.  The risks involved are not always due
to the techniques used, but rather to their improper or excessive

As for solutions to the problems he has listed, Bergoglio is less
specific.  He seems determined to avoid saying that we have
exceeded Earth's "carrying capacity," instead claiming, "To blame
population growth instead of extreme and selective consumerism on
the part of some, is one way of refusing to face the issues."  But
he does concede that "attention needs to be paid to imbalances in
population density, on both national and global levels."  (For an
illustration of the population density imbalance, see

Rather than absolute population, he sees "consumerism" as the true
problem, and says, "That is why the time has come to accept
decreased growth in some parts of the world, in order to provide
resources for other places to experience healthy growth.  [It has
been said that] 'technologically advanced societies must be
prepared to encourage more sober lifestyles, while reducing their
energy consumption and improving its efficiency'."  However, this
is not just decreased growth, but actually shrinkage; he does not
want to change the sign of just the second derivative, but also of
the first derivative.

Of course, Neal Stephenson (in SNOWCRASH) has his own description
of this which is a bit starker: "Once we've brain-drained out
technology into other countries--once things have evened out ...
once our edge in natural resources has been made irrelevant by
giant Hong Kong ships and dirigibles that can ship North Dakota all
the way to New Zealand for a nickel--once the Invisible Hand has
taken all those historical inequities and smeared them out into a
broad global layer of what a Pakistani brick maker would consider
to be prosperity..."  (Of course, none of the main characters seem
to be living in the Pakistani bricklayer style, which somewhat
undercuts Stephenson's message.)

And if climate change does not get us, he warns, social revolution
and chaos will: "Obsession with a consumerist lifestyle, above all
when few people are capable of maintaining it, can only lead to
violence and mutual destruction."

He also agrees that we need long-term, considered, global
solutions, saying, "Ecological culture cannot be reduced to a
series of urgent and partial responses to the immediate problems of
pollution, environmental decay and the depletion of natural
resources.  ...  A global consensus is essential for confronting
the deeper problems, which cannot be resolved by unilateral actions
on the part of individual countries."

He states flatly, "We know that technology based on the use of
highly polluting fossil fuels--especially coal, but also oil and,
to a lesser degree, gas--needs to be progressively replaced without

For other problems, he is more vague (and less re-assuring): "With
regard to climate change, the advances have been regrettably few.
Reducing greenhouse gases requires honesty, courage and
responsibility, above all on the part of those countries which are
more powerful and pollute the most."

He does disparage some current "solutions": "The strategy of buying
and selling 'carbon credits' can lead to a new form of speculation
which would not help reduce the emission of polluting gases

And he recognizes that this will be difficult, saying, "This is the
way human beings contrive to feed their self-destructive vices:
trying not to see them, trying not to acknowledge them, delaying
the important decisions and pretending that nothing will happen.
[They say,] 'Let us allow the invisible forces of the market to
regulate the economy, and consider their impact on society and
nature as collateral damage'."  He adds, "To take up these
responsibilities and the costs they entail, politicians will
inevitably clash with the mindset of short-term gain and results
which dominates present-day economics and politics.  [But] the
environment is one of those goods that cannot be adequately
safeguarded or promoted by market forces."  [-ecl]


                                           Mark Leeper

           Statistics: the mathematical theory of ignorance.
                                           --Morris Kline