The Climate Change Narrative

Daniel Kramb reviews Beacons: Stories for Our Not So Distant Future, a forthcoming collection of speculative fiction. Kramb feels that “fiction writing is one of the greatest aides we will have in our collective coming-to-terms with climate change”:

[C]ompanies and governments of all persuasions are using the adjective “green” to describe even their smallest (and often bogus) efforts to become more sustainable, loading the word with so many different meanings, it has lost almost all of them. [Author] Holly Howitt provides a dazzling twist to this: in her story, “Green people” are those living in a zone where mankind has learned to control the weather (“You press this button, it rains. You press this one, the sun shines”). The controlled environment allows them to keep growing food—to the detriment of those living in the “sandtowns” next to them, where people are perishing. “Don’t tell me you believe in being Green now?” a furious wife shouts at her pragmatic husband, who, for their newborn baby’s sake, has just accepted employment as a “weatherman.” “You can’t be that stupid. Or that shallow.”

The story poses another uneasy question: What does it really mean to care for the next generation? To give your daughter a good life (by playing the system), or to fight the injustice the system is based on (to her detriment, probably)? Tensions like this are what make climate change such a challenge for the environmental movement. The unique nature of the situation—that we have to drastically change our ways now to prevent something becoming truly terrible in the future—is one of the hardest messages to get across.

(Hat tip: 3QD)