1. I found this response very difficult, so I've decided to organize it like this for the sake of my sanity. A. The body - During one of the "Lists," we are given several examples of paradoxical yet artistic stunts and displays. A body being forced to withstand the emptiness of space with no air for impossible amounts of time, doing the same without any heat protection, public displays of nudity to make a statement; each one representing something deeply profound to (presumably) Swan in her mind. The displays of self destruction seem, to me, to be a form of escapism. She is looking to destroy what she is, so that something new can come about in the ashes like a phoenix. B. Time played an interesting part of this section. I found myself struggling to maintain my focus as to how much time had passed, bearing in mind how much time was devoted to explaining the various terrariums. At no point do I recall how time would impact these ecosystems when it concerns things like seasonal changes. I also found special note in how the attitudes of Warhen and Swan changed throughout their journey to Io. Swan seemed, to me, to be slowly devolving in her attitudes when exposed to different cultures. She lashed out and openly broke several laws in one terrarium. This could have been simple culture shock, or a metaphoric "growing pain" from exposure to her own personal utopia on Mercury being taken from her as she's forced on this journey.
C/D. The individual's creativity as well as the project of life are strongly connected in this piece. The projects of the terrariums are, in a metaphoric sense, an individual tailoring their own perfect community. The designers are the ones who meticulously choose which animals, species, hybrids, biomes, and other lifeforms exist in this self-contained world. Community plays a large part of the society on Mercury. Whether that be in the form of their actual society's collective unity, or in the form of the "Sunwalkers." Mercury takes a very Functionalist Societal perspective of their planet, providing a very interesting look into Mercurian life where every life matters so long as they work together. Those who don't help others or themselves, find themselves praising the sun for too long and vaporizing themselves.
2. Taking a moment to think about the raw material of 2312 was more difficult than I had expected. Putting aside my own personal feelings about capitalism, I would still agree that this plays some part in the raw material. I don't know that I would say it is it's focus entirely, but denying its presence in some capacity would be foolish indeed. After all, corporate greed leading to the decimation of Earth and the expansion to new worlds is not a new idea in the realm of science fiction. I find this particular response interesting as 2012, the year of the book's release, is not too terribly far from the housing market crash of 2008/2009. I could easily see where a creative writer like Robinson would translate this in his work as the expansion of humanity to other worlds since nobody can afford to live on Earth anymore. With an economic crash just coming to resolve itself, having a fictional alliance of nations exchange with alternative currencies that benefit the public interest as opposed to private interests seem like a no-brainer as well. At least, it seemed that way at first. I'm left wondering to myself if there's a possibility that this newfound currency and society will eventually collapse in on itself: repeating the same mistakes which brought it here.