Monday, November 7, 2016

All the Ways the World Ends: The Scorpion Rules

(Maybe) new feature! I read a lot of dystopic and post-apocalyptic things, and one of my favourite things about them is collecting all the ways the world could end. (I'm a well adjusted adult human, it's what we do. Ask anyone.) I actually talked about my interest in novels set after the end of the world back in 2013, back when I was a cynical just-out-of-high-school student. Now, since the world had yet to conclusively end, I'm revisiting it as a cynical, almost-out-of-university student!

What triggered this? Mostly, the So You Want to be Human twitter chat a few weeks ago, which brought The Scorpion Rules back to the forefront of my mind- but also the a couple conversations I got into with my classmates about the psychology behind humans' fondness for zombie stories.

Anyway. The Scorpion Rules takes place in a future where rampant climate change has ravaged the world, and resource wars had driven humanity to the brink of extintion- before an AI took over. It was awesome. I feel like I didn't fully apreciate parts of it the first time I read it, but it really ended up sticking with me. Where I thought I didn't love the relationships or characters in my first review, I realised that I had become really quite attached to both when I got the chance to read The Swan Riders. (And hey, canon bisexual leading lady!)

The apocalypse in The Scorpion Rules is fantastic. And when I say fantastic, I mean kind of worrying, of course. But also really, really interesting for an enviro. sci. nerd like me- because it's already happening. It was the thing that grabbed me right off the bat, before I'd even had time to really get attached to the characters, because it's something that I have a little bit of a background in. In my life outside this blog, I'm studying environmental science, so I really latched onto the climate part of it and ran with it, (and ran with it, and then ran with it some more).

Water gets a starring role in the novel- with different countries squabbling over access to one another's lakes, and a very irritated AI trying to stop them from decimating each other threatening to decimate them first. (Saving humanity from itself: it's a tough job, but somebody's gotta do it.)

Precipitation patterns under climate change projection from the IPCC's 2013 report. The first is for 1986-2005, the second is the projection for 2081-2100. (Look at it! It's so cool. And scary. Also scary. I feel like it doesn't quite convey the depth of the scary we're facing here, world.)
Water is a resource that is completely essential to life on Earth, and is not distributed evenly across the planet. Humans use water for so many things- drinking, washing, growing crops...  It exists in a lot of different forms all over Earth, but MOST (97.5%) of it is saltwater. What remains is freshwater, though it is not all in a form available for human use. What is in an available form is distributed unevenly around the world in aquifers (think groundwater) and lakes. We're already sapping some of the more sensitive groundwater sources, using water more quickly than they can be replenished. People all over the world are facing drought and contaminated water. It's already causing conflict now, as many parts of the world face extended drought.

It was really interesting to read a world where- rather than some big, catastrophic event bringing about massive destruction, humans just basically continued just on the path we've been on for years. (Okay, the AI was new... but the landscapes and climate? The climate wars? Totally plausible.) The changing climate is going to have huge, wide-spread impacts. We're talking rising sea levels, changes in growing seasons, melting permafrost, changes in precipitation and seasons, and changes in species distributions. It's going to have economic effects, impact access to water, effect how and where crops are grown, and even have health effects as distributions of diseases change.

Anthropogenic (human-caused) climate change has already started to wreak havoc on the planet, and is expected to just keep right on doing that. Even IF we all magically stopped releasing greenhouse gases tomorrow, we'd be facing continued temperature change for the next little while- so many balances have already been tipped, triggering self-fulfilling loops that will only stop once they find a new balance. So that's happening. Not that humans shouldn't be trying to curb our carbon emissions- we definitely should, there's no need to make a bad situation worse- but there also needs to be a focus on adapting to the effects of climate change (preferably without letting an amoral AI with a terrible/excellent/terrible sense of humour take over the world).

 P.S. Please check out this awesome post on Erin Bow's website about the making of the world of The Scorpion Rules. It is, as I said, awesome, Maps!

Further Reading, some of which is to be taken with a grain of salt because the media is often sensationalist and whatnot:

Parker, L. (2016, July 14). What You Need to Know about the World's Water Wars. National Geographic. Retrieved from:

[Stoker, T. F., Qin, D., Plattner, G.-K., Tignor, M., Allen, S. K., Boschung, J., Nauels, A., Xia, Y., Bex, V., & Midgley, P. M.] (2013). Summary for Policymakers. Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis. Contributions of Working Group I of the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Retrieved from:

Warren, F. J. & Lemmen, D. S. (2014) Canada in a Changing Climate: Sector Perspectives on Impacts and Adaptation. Retrieved from:


  1. Oh this was super interesting!! I confess I don't know much about climate change and I didn't think about that aspect so much when reading The Scorpion Rules...but like it IS so totally plausible that the world can end up like that. I mean, complete with psychotic AI because ANYTHING COULD HAPPEN, RIGHT?! *nods sagely*

    1. Thanks! I'm 90% sure I got super excited about the climate change aspect because I am a LAME NERD with WEIRD OBSESSIONS. This was kind of my chance to indulge a few of them (climate change, books, ranting).

      (P.S. Bring on the slightly evil AIs whose senses of humour are a shade to close to my own...)