Earth Week Reading List: Marooned! on Mars with Matt Hauske and Hilar‪y Strang

April 8th, 2021

In celebration of Earth Week, the Seminary Co-op Bookstores are pleased to present a series of reading lists addressing environmental issues and the challenges of sustainability. These lists are organized as part of UChicago ECo, a platform aimed at fostering connection among and support for the University of Chicago’s Environmental Community. You can find the full schedule of Earth Week events organized by UChicago ECo here, and learn how our shared community is thinking rigorously about environmental impact and ways to leverage data, practices, policies and creativity to help combat climate change. 

The following list was compiled by Matt Hauske and Hilary Strang, hosts of Marooned! on Mars - a podcast devoted to the works of science fiction author Kim Stanley Robinson. In their words:

This list is a mix of books that have helped us think about the intertwining of human and non-human life, environment and climate, planetary being, and the structures of oppression and dispossession that have created the climate crisis. It's also a list of books that we think help us think beyond our current conditions, into other worlds and other ways of collective life, toward a horizon of collective struggle and repair. Plus, also, just some really good reading for this pandemic spring!

Future Home of the Living God, by Louise Erdrich - "Native American authors offer a unique and urgent perspective on the subgenre of post-apocalyptic science fiction. Erdrich's novel is a page-turning thriller that follows a young pregnant Ojibwe woman on the run from the government and other sinister forces during a mysterious plague." - Matt 

Archaeologies of the Future, by Fredric Jameson - "Jameson is America's foremost Marxist literary critic and theorist. Here he explores the concept of utopia and the various literary forms it has taken since Thomas More, and including works by Philip K. Dick, Ursula LeGuin, and Kim Stanley Robinson. Crucial for thinking about how we imagine the future." - Matt

A Sand County Almanac, by Aldo Leopold - "Part nature diary, part sketchbook, part call to arms, Leopold's classic gives us the concept of the "land ethic": what's good for the land is good for everybody. To build a viable future this idea will have to be front and center." - Matt

Corona, Climate, Chronic Emergency: War Communism in the Twenty-First Century, by Andreas Malm - "Malm argues persuasively that the state of emergency presented to us by the coronavirus pandemic provides not only a model for how governments can confront the climate crisis that will determine the rest of our lives, but also evidence for the necessity of massive intervention to end the "boundless imperialism" of humankind on the natural world." - Matt 

The Overstory, by Richard Powers - "You will never look at trees the same way again." - Matt

The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins, by Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing - "It may sound cliche, but this book really does defy description or easy categorization. Diaristic, meditative, scientific, humanist. By turns frustrating and engrossing but in provocative ways that keep me coming back." - Matt

Aurora, by Kim Stanley Robinson - A major novel from one of science fiction's most powerful voices, Aurora tells the incredible story of our first voyage beyond the solar system. Brilliantly imagined and beautifully told, it is the work of a writer at the height of his powers. 

Our History is the Future, by Nick Estes - In 2016, a small protest encampment at the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota, initially established to block construction of the Dakota Access oil pipeline, grew to be the largest Indigenous protest movement in the twenty-first century. Water Protectors knew this battle for native sovereignty had already been fought many times before, and that, even after the encampment was gone, their anticolonial struggle would continue. In Our History Is the Future, Nick Estes traces traditions of Indigenous resistance that led to the #NoDAPL movement. Our History Is the Future is at once a work of history, a manifesto, and an intergenerational story of resistance.

Staying with the Trouble, by Donna J. Haraway - In the midst of spiraling ecological devastation, multispecies feminist theorist Donna J. Haraway offers provocative new ways to reconfigure our relations to the earth and all its inhabitants. She eschews referring to our current epoch as the Anthropocene, preferring to conceptualize it as what she calls the Chthulucene, as it more aptly and fully describes our epoch as one in which the human and nonhuman are inextricably linked in tentacular practices. The Chthulucene, Haraway explains, requires sym-poiesis, or making-with, rather than auto-poiesis, or self-making. Learning to stay with the trouble of living and dying together on a damaged earth will prove more conducive to the kind of thinking that would provide the means to building more livable futures. Theoretically and methodologically driven by the signifier SF--string figures, science fact, science fiction, speculative feminism, speculative fabulation, so far--Staying with the Trouble further cements Haraway's reputation as one of the most daring and original thinkers of our time.

The Fifth Season, by N.K. Jemisin -  At the end of the world, a woman must hide her secret power and find her kidnapped daughter in this intricate and extraordinary Hugo Award winning science fiction novel of power, oppression, and revolution. 

Mutual Aid, by Peter Kropotkin - In this cornerstone of modern liberal social theory, Peter Kropotkin states that the most effective human and animal communities are essentially cooperative, rather than competitive. Kropotkin based this classic on his observations of natural phenomena and history, forming a work of stunning and well-reasoned scholarship. Essential to the understanding of human evolution as well as social organization, it offers a powerful counterpoint to the tenets of Social Darwinism. It also cites persuasive evidence of human nature's innate compatibility with anarchist society.

A Door into Ocean, by Joan Slonczewski - A ground-breaking work both of feminist and of hardworld-building science fiction, about the Sharers of Shora, a nation of only women on a distant moon in the far future who are pacifists, advanced in biological sciences, and reproduce by parthenogenesis. A Door into the Ocean tells of the conflicts that erupt when a neighboring civilization decides to develop their ocean world, and send in an army. 

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