“The Myth Of Rain” by Seanan McGuire in “Loosed Upon The World”

“Loosed Upon The World” is a collection of climate change stories that the editor, John Joseph Adams wants to:

“serve as a warning flare, to illustrate the kinds of things we can expect if climate change goes unchecked, but also some of the possible solutions, to inspire the hope that we can maybe still do something about it before it’s too late.”

He’s collected a powerful set of authors to do this, opening with Paolo Bacigalupi’s grim “Shooting The Apocalypse”  set in the Arizona desert.

Seanan McGuire’s story “Myth Of Rain”, is set in the verdant forests of the Pacific North West, which has become the final refuge of the rich, intent on insulating themselves from the impact of climate change. Providing refuge to the rich means that mature forest will be clear cut, destroying the trees and everything that lives in them.

Take a look at the picture below to understand what this means.

Clear-cut in progress

“The Myth OF Rain” tells the story of a young woman with a passion for owls and the wild spirit they embody, who is working in a team of conservation workers trying to rescue the forest fauna before the world they live in is torn down.

The story is dramatic and personal but also explores key themes: the persistent dynamic of “the rich versus the rest” in which the rest of us always lose; the impotent anger and ever-present grief felt by those who can see what is being lost and how little is being done to save it; a reflection on whether climate change and its consequences are, perhaps, what we deserve.

The main character in the story knows that she can’t save everything and, in moments of despair, wonders if she can really save anything. She’s chosen to save the owl, a beautiful predator: fierce, independent, fundamentally wild. The questions she struggles with are “What do we owe it?” and “How do we respect it?”

The myth in “The Myth Of Rain” title refers to the persistent belief, despite the evidence, that there would be enough rain in California to end the drought. Clinging to this myth, she thinks, is emblematic of the mindset that makes us unwilling to do anything about climate change. You can’t fight something you choose not to believe exists.

“The Myth Of Rain” is spookily prescient. “Loose Upon The World” was published in 2015, so when I read a reference to this year, 2019, I knew it was a guess but it reads like news headlines. Here’s what I mean:

“The thing about lies is that no matter how often you tell them and how much you believe them, they’re not going to become true. “Fake it until you make it” may work for public speaking and falling in love, but it doesn’t stop climate change.

By 2017, it was pretty clear who the liars were, and they weren’t the scientists holding up their charts and screaming for the support of the public. By 2019, it was even clearer that we’d listened to the lies too long. The tipping point was somewhere behind us, overlooked and hence forgotten.”

I hope she’s less prescient about how the fight between the rich and the rest will go but, unless some dramatic change occurs very soon, I expect she’s correct. Here’s how she imagines the fight:

The environmentalists had lost the fight against industry and fossil fuel and men who spoke in voices that dripped money. They had failed to stop climate change in its infancy, and failed again in its childhood, and now that it was an angry adult, slamming its fists into every country in the world, there was no stopping it. They looked upon this newest fight, and knew they couldn’t win. 

Still, they fought—we fought. We used every delaying tactic in the world, and a few more that wemade up on the spot. They played dirty, and so we played dirty. And in the end, they had more money and fewer morals, and they won. They won everything.

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