Sustainability Book Reviews #7: Emergency Skin


Sustainability Book Reviews #7: Emergency Skin

“Six billion people working toward a goal together is much more effective than a few dozen scrabbling for themselves.”

In 2019, American author Blake Crouch posed three questions to six writers – How does it feel to change the world? How does anyone know at the moment of discovery where their work will ultimately lead? And should we let that uncertainty stop forward momentum, or do we roll the dice and let the chips fall where they may? Obsessed with rapid change and technological advancement, he curated six short stories by these writers into the collection known as FORWARD.

Of these six stories, my favourite is Emergency Skin by N.K. Jemison, of Broken Earth Trilogy fame. Her novelette sits firmly – which is a rarity – in the genre of solarpunk; crafting a civilisation of technology and nature working in tandem, of social and political equality.

In Emergency Skin, the civilisation of billionaires who escaped into space when the planet was near its end send back a scout to check on Earth’s state, and instead of finding a desolate hellscape, discover a flourishing world of community and technological advancement. Instead of succumbing to the end, the people of the world were able to come together in their hour of need and find a way to thrive alongside the environment and each other.

With six science fiction stories, the FORWARD collection spans from a take on random number generators in casinos by The Martian writer Andy Weir, to a stunning piece on grief at the end of the world, when you’re tasked with saving the last genetic samples of plants from across the planet by Veronica Roth, creator of Divergent.

The climate crisis and themes of sustainability are consistently prevalent in science fiction, but they tend to be displayed in the mournful longings of dystopian survivors who regret what they have lost; however it is Emergency Skin that offers a new take, a hopeful take, on what could be if humanity only comes together to forge it (and billionaires are eradicated once and for all).

By Bethany Climpson, Sustainability Engagement Assistant

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