Sunday, August 16, 2015

Science in Fiction (#7): Fated by Sarah Fine

Welcome to this month's Science in Fiction feature! Science in Fiction is a meme I created to showcase the wonderful aspects of science in Young Adult fiction novels. For more information and previous feature, check out the "Science in Fiction" tag!

This month, I'm featuring Fated by Sarah Fine!

Fated is third and final book of the Servants of Fate series. This is an urban fantasy series set in the future, in which the earth is in a fairly post-apocalyptic state. One of the unique (and tragic) elements of this world is the canals. The canals are filled with boats and organ-hunting pirates (you read that correctly), but it is also something else: the water is heavily contaminated, dirty, brown-colored, disease-filled, bacteria-ridden, and toxic. 

I've already talked about water stress and water scarcity, in Science in Fiction (#2) featuring Forged by Erin Bowman. Today, I'm going to feature polluted waterways specifically.

I was reading an article about a week ago (and for the life of me, I can't find that article), and it featured something that almost immediately reminded me of Fated. The Cuyahoga River, running through Cleveland, Ohio, is a river well-known in environmental history. It was once so polluted that in June 1969, it caught fire. It has caught on fire at least thirteen times in the past.

November 3, 1952

In the 1970s, many of the major environmental laws were passed in the U.S.A., and the EPA was created. The Clean Water Act is one of the most fundamental environmental laws, and protects national parks, to drinking water. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent on remediation efforts on the Cuyahoga River alone. 

But how did it catch on fire? It was oil slick and debris, so concentrated on the surface, which caught fire. Raw sewage used to be dumped directly into rivers and other waterways, which was the source of such pollution. Even today, the dumping of some waste (industrial, nuclear, etc.) still occurs in streams and rivers. It obviously isn't great in terms of potability, or ecologically, but then there's the threat of a river on fire. Scary. no?

Reporter from the 1960s showing the pollution of the river by sticking his hand in it. Don't ever do this! Put some gloves on or something.

Today, the Cuyahoga River is not nearly as polluted and nasty-looking as it was in the 1960s. I still doubt I would ever swim or fish in the river (if there is even marine life), but the difference is incredible. I don't know the present state of industrial dumping at this river, but from appearances alone, the river looks healthier. And there have not been recent fires on the river.

Cuyahoga River, east bank, 2012 (?)

Wouldn't it be scary if a waterway near you caught fire one day? If you live in an area where hydraulic fracturing occurs, this is actually a HUGE possibility (those in Colorado, Wyoming, even areas of Pennsylvania and New York). I so hope that I can talk about hydraulic fracturing one day because it is something I want to tackle in my career somewhere down the road! Anyway, I'll leave you all on that morbidly cheerful note. Happy Sunday!


  1. Oh yuck! I grew up in Sacramento between two rivers and neither were anything like the Cuyahoga. In fact, one was mountain run off and very clear. I've read about rivers in historic times really stinking and looking pretty gross so I'm glad that environmental impact is really studied and treated these days.

    Informative and interesting, Alyssa.

    1. That's so cool! Does it still run clear? Just out of curiosity. I'm so happy when nature is left slightly unnoticed, or is re-mediated back to a state of "healthy".

      Thanks, Sophia!

  2. Ahh, that is all kinds of interesting :D Thank you for sharing about it Alyssa. <3 I love your science in fiction posts :)

    1. Thank you, Carina! I appreciate the support so much <3

  3. Oh shit? A river on fire?? Now that's a bloody scary thought indeed! And yes, that reminds me so much of the dystopian world of Servants of Fate, with all the showers and vaccines they need to get in case they fell in the channels and the water!!

    Fantastic post as always Alyssa!

    1. Isn't that crazy? I kind of wanted to find something about the biological and pathological matter and diseases in water, but I saw the article in commemoration of the Cuyahoga fire, so I figured this was a close enough relation to Fated!

      Thank you, Pili!

  4. Whoa! I've never heard of such a thing. That is crazy. I can't even imagine what my reaction would be if that happened!
    (Love that you paired this with Fated! Can't wait to read that book!)

    1. Strange (and scary), isn't it?! And I hope you love Fated! :D


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