Fiction by Paolo Bacigalupi

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Posted on Apr 7, 2009 in Interviews, News | 16 comments

EcoGeek Interview crops up on io9

I give an interview over at where I display all of my tact and verbal discipline (LOL) to talk about green technologies and my jaundiced views of the future. A sample bit:

As environmental ideas have entered the zeigeist, mostly thanks to global warming–and still mostly focused on that issue–plenty of technology companies are lining up to tell us how they’re helping green/save/clean the environment. Advertising agencies and PR firms are delighted to sell us any number of “green” gizmos and they’re throwing in some nice self-esteem blowjobs for all of us, using their persuasive talents to assure us that we’re enlightened and forward thinking because we just stuffed a green X into our Prius.

But green blowjobs aren’t really my gig…

There’s more in that line, so if you’re interested, check it out. But the other interesting thing to check out is that the interview got reposted over at io9, where it seems to have generated a roaring discussion.

I’m interested in the rage that the interview inspires in a lot of the readers. Big emotions around the ideas of population control, technology, and consumption. My personal favorite quote from a reader so far:

“Hey Paolo, Fuck you!”

Normally I have to write something like “Yellow Card Man” to get that response.


  1. The rage is because they are afraid you are right, and what that implies.

  2. I’m guessing half of the issue is that they don’t like my ideas, the other half are reacting to my flippant tone.

    Overall though, it seems like in America, the only real heresy we can commit is to talk about limiting the number of children we have, or else limiting the stuff we consume.

    My guess is that both aspects are fundamental to how we as Americans construct our identities, so when someone suggests having fewer kids, or consuming less stuff, the symbol which is actually being raised is some kind of identity annihilation.

    Hence the “fuck you” responses.

  3. I’m glad that you write on the topics that you do in your stories and speak out in interviews. Someone should do so.

  4. Those folks at io9 are so good at reading between the lines. I completely missed the part where you advocated genocide!

  5. I think that population control is one of those areas that always generates heated responses, although possibly taking climate change seriously in the US is another (not being USian, dunno).

    In any case, it almost made me register with io9/Gawker in order to say “You idiots” to the Fuck-You-ers, but there were (kinda) enough saner voices already.

  6. What a Godawful comment section. IO9 needs a Teresa Nielsen Hayden to keep out the comment section sepsis. Yuk.

  7. Oh, Paolo, you sweet talker you.

    Another connection between children and consumption is that you can’t decrease population and sustain economic growth. All our economic policies are ponzi schemes based on an ever-increasing number of consumers: they have to come from somewhere.

  8. Hi Paolo,

    Sorry if the discussion at io9 got over the top. I linked to your quote from the EcoGeek interview because I thought it was a smart, interesting discussion, and found it thought-provoking. But for some reason commenters reacted more strongly than I expected to the idea that population control is a necessary part of a green technology. We try to monitor every comment on the site, but we don’t always manage to. If you ever see an abusive comment about yourself or anything else, please contact us and we’ll take care of it.

    All best,
    Charlie Jane Anders,

  9. Hi Charlie Jane,

    No worries. It *was* interesting to see the rage, but I thought there were a lot of thoughtful comments as well.

    Frankly, any discussion of sustainability that occurs outside of the traditional environmental echo chambers is worthwhile, even if it gets a little bruising.

  10. Paolo,

    While your comments on consumerism are valid, I don’t see how you can attribute the population problem in the US to rich white folks. Clearly, all indicators show the extraordinary population growth is from recent immigrant communities (both legal and illegal). The stress in the public school system is certainly a direct result of that growth sector.

    The thing is, most middle to upper-middle class families I am associated with (personally or as an educator) already limit their family size to one or two children. That restrictive behavior is rare in my contact with lower class and/or ethnic minority families.

    To speak of severe changes in our reproduction ideals without acknowledging the impact of our open border policies is a mistake.

  11. Nice interview. Glad to see it received some attention.

    Have you given any serious thought to how a population reduction policy might work? Grassroots seems unlikely given the genetic weighting toward breeding, and the economic (and religious, and cultural, and ethnic) incentives to have large families. That leaves institutionalized population control, which means governments, treaties, civil unrest and probably wars. I have pondered it a little, but have never found a model that seems both fair and capable of optimizing cultural, scientific and technological advancement.

  12. Great interview Paolo! I’m passing the link on to a few friends. Hope everything’s going well with your novel.

  13. @Mark. I doubt that we have either the political or social will to make it happen. I think we’ll fail to deal with the issue, and our circumstances will get worse and worse. If grassroots won’t do it, a democracy won’t do it, which means we won’t do it. Game over.

  14. What the hell is zeigeist? When you cut/paste, you should do something about that-

    Nice job Matthew Huddleston- take it up a notch- throw in the race card to boot-

  15. there may be cultural and religious intertia, but the economic incentive is to have FEWER children, at least for the better off/high consuming families. In richer regions, children are a net cost over their life time, not the net benefit they were when you put them to work on your farm as soon as they could walk. The number of women who choose to have no children at all is higher than it has ever been in my country (UK) and much of western Europe, and I believe Japan has negative population growth due in part to the costs associated with having children.

    Even in developing countries, reducing family size rarely requires more than increasing family planning access and education and empowerment of women. Most women don’t WANT five or six or ten children, wherever they live, but without access to condoms, the social/religious empowerment to use them, that’s what they end up with. simply limiting the stranglehold the catholic church and other anti-contraception organisations has in areas of high population growth and improving access to contraception would make a huge difference in those regions.

    of course, those regions are the lowest per capita emitters, so it’s not an answer to global issues like climate change, but pressure on local farmland and water is a huge issue which these actions would help to mitigate.

  16. Unfortunately, smarter, more well off couples either have less children (1-2) or none.

    While stupid people have lots of kids.

    I look at my neighbors, who are dim and attribute everything to “God’s Will” and in effect take ZERO responsibility for their actions, who have 6 kids (the oldest of which, 17, is now pregnant) and zero parenting skills.

    They rail against Obama’s “Socialism” while leeching off of the system through the free school lunch program, special ed services, free meals from which ever church they belong to at any given moment, and the live-in grandmother collects disability.

    Did I mention they have at least 2 or 3 flat screen TV’s in their home?

    Their 4th youngest (my daughter’s age) has “issues” and is slowly turning into a sociopath. The only attention he has ever gets from his family is when he misbehaves. I’ve seem him locked out of his home to play outside since he was 4 years old. He continues to get more and more violent. When he was 5 I heard him call his older sister a “F’ing Bitch” at the top of his voice.

    I feel like I am watching a “school shooter” in the making. (We’ve started keeping a journal for when the news vans arrive)

    Ok, I guess I should stop ranting about my neighbor’s now.

    What was the question?