We need to write about climate change

vagabond-images-desert

Can we imagine the end of the world? Photography by Mike Dodson, via Vagabond Images.

In 2013, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), published the most meticulous report and scientific peer-reviewed report on climate change and global warming in decades. Despite being viewed as a generally conservative association, the IPCC report describes, in dry, detailed language, the complete collapse of the benign climate in which humans evolved and have prospers, and the loss of the conditions upon which many other life forms and organisms depend.

What the report details, in other words, is the story of catastrophic climate breakdown – a story of such complete disaster and ill-consequence that climate change and global warming are entirely inadequate descriptive terms here.

As activist and writer George Monbiot notes, “this is a catastrophe we are capable of forseeing but incapable of imagining. It’s a catastrophe we are singularly ill-equipped to prevent.”

A problem of imagination

A key problem facing us, then, is that the stakes – while they couldn’t be higher – do not seem tangible enough to focus our attentions on the reality facing our species and the planet. While theorists such as Slavoj Zizek have argued it is “easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism”, what we may in fact just be realising is that we aren’t even able to imagine the end of the world, either.

So, may all writers the world over step in at this moment. For, if it is a crisis of imagination we face, surely there are few warriors out there equipped with the skills and ability necessary to render this reality in ways that people can understand, comprehend, and realise in their own minds.

No time to lose

The urgency with which we must, as writers, act, is extreme. Donald Trump has, since his inauguration as the President of the Untied States, made persistent moves to attack what minimal environmental protection regulations and safety nets were in place, and the climate change denial he and his Republican administration advocate threatens our entire planet. We cannot deny or ignore the stakes at play here – we must move quickly to dispel any doubt over the future facing us if we do nothing.

However, such is the difficulty in imagining the potential future of our broken planet, there are precious few writers out there who are drawing attention to this most vital of causes.

As Amitav Ghosh, author of The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable, writes in a Guardian article:

“It is a simple fact that climate change has a much smaller presence in contemporary literary fiction than it does even in public discussion. As proof of this, we need only glance through the pages of literary journals and book reviews. When the subject of climate change occurs, it is almost always in relation to nonfiction; novels and short stories are very rarely to be glimpsed within this horizon. Indeed, it could even be said that fiction that deals with climate change is almost by definition not of the kind that is taken seriously: the mere mention of the subject is often enough to relegate a novel or a short story to the genre of science fiction. It is as though in the literary imagination climate change were somehow akin to extraterrestrials or interplanetary travel. is a simple fact that climate change has a much smaller presence in contemporary literary fiction than it does even in public discussion. As proof of this, we need only glance through the pages of literary journals and book reviews. When the subject of climate change occurs, it is almost always in relation to nonfiction; novels and short stories are very rarely to be glimpsed within this horizon. Indeed, it could even be said that fiction that deals with climate change is almost by definition not of the kind that is taken seriously: the mere mention of the subject is often enough to relegate a novel or a short story to the genre of science fiction. It is as though in the literary imagination climate change were somehow akin to extraterrestrials or interplanetary travel.”

So what writers are out there who are currently writing about – or who have written about – climate change, and the consequences of ignoring it?

In a masterful letter to the future, Kurt Vonnegut puts the stakes pretty clearly as he tells us in no uncertain terms to “stop poisoning the air, water and topsoil.” Yet, as any writer knows, there is a difference between telling and showing: and while telling us to change our ways is one thing; what is needed now is for writers to show us what our future holds.

We need fiction, in other words.

Searching for ‘climate fiction’ on Amazon returns just over 1000 results – although the search algorithms mean that many self-published and a large quantity of non-fiction books also appear in this list. Yet there are “big-name” literary authors among them. Think, for instance of Margaret Atwood, J.G. Ballard, Barbar Kingsolver, Cormac McCarthy, Ian McEwan and T Coraghessan Boyle.

There are other great books written by brilliant authors, too – such as The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi, or Odds Against Tomorrow by Nathaniel Rich.

We have compiled a list of some of the most important – and best examples of – books about climate change here at Nothing in the Rulebook. And it’s vital we are able to read these and see what has been done – and is being done – in the world of ‘climate fiction’ (cli-fi, if you will). Because it is by reading the works of others that our own writing, and our own understanding of what writing works well, improves. And this knowledge will prove most critical as a new generation of aspiring writers finally starts to address the startling gap in our cultural narrative, and help make the “unimaginable” consequences of climate breakdown real.

 

 

 

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4 thoughts on “We need to write about climate change

  1. Pingback: Climate Change – VIRTUAL BORSCHT

  2. Pingback: standing still | Frank Prem

  3. Here try this one

    AS I MOW ON THE LAWN OF MY CASTLE OF CARDS, I MOVE THE ROCKS AND THE STICKS AND ANYTHING THAT’S HARD. I DON’T KNOW OF SAFE AND EVERLASTING MOWER BLADES. I’LL BUY THEM ON EBAY WHEN THE PERFECT BLADE IS MADE. RIGHT NOW THE LAST THING ON MY MIND IS CATASTROPHIC GLOBAL WARMING. BIRDS ARE FALLING FROM THE SKY FOR DIFFERENT REASONS. THEY GET OLD AND SICK JUST LIKE YOU AND ME. JUST BECAUSE IT HAPPENS DOES NOT MEAN ITS ARMAGEDDON. EVEN IF ITS TRUE I’LL FIND A HOLE TO PUT MY HEAD IN. MASS EXTINCTION SAY THE MEN OF MASS DISTINCTION IS OUR DESTINY, WE ARE ALL BORN TO DIE. MEET YOUR FATE LIKE A MAN NOT LIKE A FLOUROCARBON BAN. I AM NOT SHORT OF HEARING, THIS IS ME NOT CARING. I’LL DIE HERE IN THE YARD IN FRONT OF MY HOUSE OF CARDS. I WILL SHOW YOU HOW ITS DONE, I AM TIRED OF DOOMSDAY TALK. GO AND FOLLOW THE SOUND OF THE NEW AGE. RECYCLED HIPPIES GOT US ALL IN A SILENT RAGE. GO AND EDUCATE THE WORLD WITH RELIGIOUS ZEAL. WITH DEFEAT BACK AT HOME, THEY EXPORT THEIR IDEAS. WHEN THE SCORE IS TIED AND THE HARDER YOU TRIED, THE MORE YOUR OLD ENEMIES LIKE YOUR POINT OF VIEW. NEW WAYS OF THINKING ARE BEST SENT AWAY. DEFEATED DREAMS HAVE A WAY OF LIVING ANOTHER DAY. DREAMERS NEED BACKING WHEN EVIDENCE IS LACKING. THE END OF THE WORLD DOESN’T COUNT. I AM NOT SHORT OF HEARING, THIS IS ME NOT CARING. EVIDENCE AND THEORY, HISTORY AND GOD. NUCLEAR MELTDOWNS AND SPENT FUEL RODS. EVERYBODIES TALKING BUT HALF OF THEM AREN’T LISTENING. TO WHATS THE TRUTH OF THE MATTER NOT WHAT AND IF AND QUESTIONING. MARXIST PROPAGANDA NEVER WENT OUT OF STYLE. A WAR OF WORDS THAT JUST GOT SUPERCEDED FOR A WHILE. LOVE OF MONEY GOES EAST, PROPAGANDA GOES WEST. RADICAL RELIGION MAKES STRANGE BED FELLOWS OUT OF ALL OF US. I AM NOT HARD OF HEARING. THIS IS ME NOT CARING. LEMONS AND LIMES AND THE SHIFTING SANDS OF TIME. SOMETIMES TURN WATER INTO WINE.. MARTO

    From myworld847

    Like

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