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Guest post – Smuggling Science and Climate Change with Octavia Cade

Climate change is an unexpectedly easy thing to look away from. We’re in the midst of it, and the IPCC gives us limited time to make drastic changes that would stave off enormous global changes to our environment, and we are doing not much of anything, really. Sure, there are marches and protests and all sorts, but when something’s this big, it’s hard to encompass.

It’s not made any easier when the data we have is compromised. States quashing and meddling, burying science so that we’re limited in what we know. The Australian government, pressuring the UN to keep impacts on the Great Barrier Reef out of a major climate report, so as not to scare off the tourists. The American government, getting researchers to remove climate change language from their grant proposals, or preventing scientists from speaking at conferences. Who only knows what else is going on around the world, or what our own government is doing… and that’s not even taking into account the information oil companies have been sitting on for decades.

No surprise, then, that there are groups of scientists around the world preserving climate data across borders so that the anti-science hacks of various persuasions can’t get their mitts on it. When I started reading those news articles, I thought: there’s a fantastic story in this! And there was. It started out as a short story, which appeared a couple of years back in Clarkesworld. That story, “The Stone Wētā,” which you can read for free at the link, became the eventual first chapter of my novel of the same name, out April 22nd – fittingly, Earth Day.

The Stone Wētā is a near-future sci-fi thriller, which documents the efforts of a number of scientists to smuggle climate data across borders, and preserve it from the influence of hostile actors. But when this cold war of data preservation turns bloody – and then explosive – this underground network of scientists, all working in isolation, must decide how much they are willing to risk for the truth. For themselves, their colleagues, and their future.    

I’m a science communicator by training, and raising the issue of how we treat climate data – how we treat scientific data in general – is something that’s really important to me. It should be important to all of us. After all, if we can’t trust the information we have, how are we supposed to make decisions that will give us the best possible future? If The Stone Wētā sparks debate on some of these issues, I’ll be really happy. 

Anyway, it’s published by the Wellington-based Paper Road Press. Please take a look!

Octavia Cade is a New Zealand writer with a PhD in science communication. She’s sold nearly 50 stories to markets such as ClarkesworldAsimov’s, and Shimmer. She attended Clarion West 2016, and is currently the writer-in-residence at Square Edge/Massey University.

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