Tor.com content by

Alex Acks

What the World of The Hunger Games Teaches Us About Global Warming

Rising sea levels and disappearing ice caps have been a staple of science fiction futures ever since the first alarm bells were sounded that an ice-free earth was a possibility, no matter what culprit is left holding the smoking gun. (Though at this point, the science is long since in: climate change is happening, and the main cause is human activity.) We’ve seen these watery worlds depicted many times, particularly in film, with varying degrees of success—Waterworld springs immediately to mind. There’s such massive visual appeal to the image of once-great cities like New York inundated by the rising tides; skyscrapers become a new sort of submarine canyon for the divers of the future to explore.

And more recently, we’ve seen the US truncated from both directions by the Atlantic and Pacific in The Hunger Games. We don’t know a whole lot about what changed the shape of North America to give us Panem, other than the fact that the sea level rose to an unknown degree, and there was some sort of cataclysmic war.

[I am here, I confess, to rain on that parade…]

Arrakis, Tatooine, and the Science of Desert Planets

“A desolate, dry planet with vast deserts… The planet is Arrakis. Also known as Dune.” – Princess Irulan, Dune 

I’ve been reading science fiction and fantasy almost as long as I’ve been able to read, and I’m normally very good at suspending my disbelief. Unfortunately, seven years of university schooling and two degrees have now placed some suspension limits on certain areas—namely geology, landforms, and maps. I tend to notice little things like mountain ranges having ninety degree corners or rivers that flow uphill or maps that don’t have a scale bar.

So I want to talk about some things, which on-a-geological-scale are very small details that make me tilt my head like a dog hearing a high-pitched noise. Not because I hate, but because there is no more honorable nerd past-time than dismantling something we love into its finest details, ruminating endlessly on the bark of a single tree while there’s an entire forest planet surrounding us.

[Let’s talk about single-environment planets.]