Philobiblon: The literature of climate change? Where is it?

Saturday, September 24, 2005

The literature of climate change? Where is it?

You might say it is too early, but Robert Macfarlane today asks in the Guardian - comparing it to the literature of nuclear holocaust - where is the literature of climate change?

And perhaps this is more than a question about creativity:

Bill McKibben, author of the premonitory classic The End of Nature (1989), has written of how individuals would not act against climate change - altering their habits of consumption, lobbying policy-makers - until they felt "fear in their guts". Literature has a role to play in inducing this gut feeling, for one of its special abilities is that of allowing us to entertain hypothetical situations - alternative lives, or futures, or landscapes - as though they were real. It has a unique capacity to help us connect present action with future consequence.

I shall never forget reading Neville Shute's On The Beach as a 12 or 13-year-old, illictly under the bedcovers by torchlight. When I finished, around 3am, Australian suburbia outside was dead quiet, and I was that I was the last person left alive in the world.

The same sort of scare about climate change, spread as widely as possible, could only be a good idea.


Blogger Dave said...

Heavy Weather by Bruce Sterling. The movies Twister and Day After Tomorrow. (The genre of Science Fiction, not suprisingly, is rich with climate change fiction).

Yesterday, while browsing worldcat, I stumbled across the subject heading "weather control." Many of these titles were written before the worries about human-influenced climate change. Often they embrace a sort of naive mega-engineering approach to weather, arguing for ways to create intentional climate for humanity's benefit. Think rainmaking.

Presumably, we will some day return to this way of thinking when we are forced to terraform Earth!

9/25/2005 05:16:00 pm  
Blogger Jonathan Dresner said...

As Dave says, SF/F is so rich with climate change literature, I never noticed the lack. Just off the top of my head, I can think of three or four stories in Fantasy & Science Fiction over the last year.

9/25/2005 08:54:00 pm  
Blogger Natalie Bennett said...

Perhaps it is there, but it hasn't really broken into mainstream consciousness, yet anyway (the way I gather Shute did).

As I recall it the Day After Tomorrow was widely dismissed as wholly unbelievable.

9/26/2005 12:32:00 am  
Blogger Penny L. Richards said...

Hm, what came to mind for me, beyond the SF genre, was PD James' _The Children of Men_, which isn't a mystery, but a thriller set in the near future, when something--environmental toxins are suggested--has rendered the males of the earth sterile, and no babies have been born in decades. Humanity is faced with its own imminent extinction. She imagines England's response in considerable detail. It's not exactly the same as climate change, but it is a future imagined through the lense of catastrophic environmental change, anyway.

9/27/2005 05:34:00 pm  

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