Imagination and Climate Futures Lecture: Paolo Bacigalupi

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The problem with environmental calamities like climate change and drought is that they’re too slow: creeping disasters causing incremental changes to our lives one year at a time. We’re so immersed in the slow boil of water shortages, wildfires, and rising temperatures that we risk losing sight of them completely. Perhaps we need to escape our everyday reality before we can even learn to see them. Speculative fiction stories have the rare power to take numbing debates over pollution parts-per-million and acre-feet of water and put them into gripping, visceral context.

In New York Times-bestselling author Paolo Bacigalupi’s latest novel The Water Knife, the U.S. Southwest is parched. Western states like Arizona, Nevada, and California have resorted to violence, subterfuge, and authoritarian cults of personality in an effort to monopolize dwindling supplies of water. Can compelling visions of the future like The Water Knife, grounded in scientific and political realities, help us work through thorny issues of regulation, conservation, and sharing limited resources in a fair and sustainable way?

In his lecture, “The Imagination Drought: Speculative Fiction as a Tool of Warning and Empowerment,” Bacigalupi will discuss The Water Knife, the future of the Colorado River, and how storytelling can help us both to see the risks of climate change clearly and to imagine solutions to one of humanity’s greatest challenges.

This free lecture will be followed by a Q+A, reception, and book signing. Questions for Bacigalupi may be submitted in advance to

Please plan to arrive early; seating will be first come, first serve. If you require wheelchair assistance, please let us know at

Presented by ASU’s Imagination and Climate Futures Initiative, a partnership among the Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives, Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing, and Center for Science and the Imagination.