The problems San Francisco’s facing today could really change the course of the city’s future. Local author Annalee Newitz says that future is something we should start trying to protect right now. Newitz wrote the new book Scatter, Adapt, and Remember: How Humans Will Survive a Mass Extinction. She describes it as an “optimistic book about extinction.” In it, she looks at how humans could deal with a catastrophe along the lines of what killed the dinosaurs. She says one thing we need is strong, resilient cities – and that San Francisco is a model for the world. Newitz spoke with KALW’s Casey Miner about adaptation, innovation, and what we can learn from the time local developers almost turned the Bay into a landfill.
CASEY MINER: So, we're talking about San Francisco as a hub for innovation and all of these ideas, and it's also a place that a lot of people are having to leave for basically that exact reason. And in the book, one of the things you mention that historically cities tend to collapse when people don't have a certain amount of economic mobility, and they have to go elsewhere. And so it was interesting for me to think of San Francisco as a blueprint for the future because on the one hand it has all of these characteristics that set it up really well for that future, but on the other hand, there is a certain amount of stagnation happening right now.
ANNALEE NEWITZ: I'll say a few things to that. First of all it is true that cities with an enormous income disparity are unstable. That looms over San Francisco as a question: How will we deal with the class divide? As we're looking towards the future we need to be thinking about what kinds of basic services we think should belong to everyone. And right now we're all pretty happy with the idea, that no matter how poor you are, you shouldn't be deprived of heat or water. And, hopefully, food, but, although people seem a little confused whether the poor actually need food, which is a little puzzling to me. But, I think going forward, we need to think about the fact that everyone should have a right to their own energy source. So, as we start thinking more about solar or bio-fuel, thinking about people being able to do that, be living off the grid essentially.
This interview originally aired on August 26, 2013.