Professor John Higgins, Fellow of the University of Cape Town

‘Catastrophe!’ refers to the situation described by Greta Thunberg: ‘Around the year 2030, 10 years 252 days and 10 hours away from now, we will be in a position where we set off an irreversible chain reaction beyond human control, that will most likely lead to the end of our civilisation as we know it.’ Through a discussion of four key texts – Frank Herbert’s 1964 novel Dune, Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electronic Sheep?, Cormac McCarthy’s devastating The Road and, finally, the extraordinary work of the ‘first Chinese science-fiction writer’, Cixin Liu – as well as a range of writings on climate change, ecology and the history of political thought (Rachel Carson, Adam Smith and Thomas Hobbes), this course examines ways in which science fiction has been thinking through the challenges around climate change and sustainable development.



1. Catastrophe! Science fiction and the SDGs: Hobbes or Smith?

2. Frank Herbert’s Dune and the imagining of ecology

3.  Android or human? Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electronic Sheep?

4.  ‘Nasty, brutish and short’: life in Cormac McCarthy’s The Road

5. Cixin Liu: The Three-Body Problem and the politics of human nature


Recommended reading

Liu, C.   [2006] 2016. The Three-Body Problem. London: Head of Zeus

Dick, Philip K.  [1968] 2010.  Do Androids Dream of Electronic Sheep? London: Gateway.

Herbert, F.  2015. Dune.  London: Hodder.

McCarthy, C. 2006.  The Road.  London: Picador.



Date: 6–10 January
Time: 5.00 pm
COURSE FEES: Full R590 Staff & Students R295
Venue: LT3 Kramer Law Building UCT