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A writer’s settings are like stages for actors. The places and landscapes influence how characters interact and evolve over the course of the story. What happens to narratives now that the earth’s climate is changing in ways we barely understand? It’s up to writers and other artists to explore what life might be like in a warmed world. Here’s three reasons why you should inject the impacts of climate change into your work.
Reason 1: Your reader is experiencing climate change. Climate change is real. Science has proven that it’s happening. Two independent studies have shown that Hurricane Harvey’s rain, which devastated Houston, Texas, in 2017 with flooding, was made worse by the warming atmosphere. Even if you’re uncertain over whether humans have caused climate change, your readers are already experiencing the effects, whether it’s sea level rise at their favorite beach, melting glaciers in the nearby mountains, or disappearing plants and animals in their beloved national park. How do these changes affect the evolution of your characters and their relationships?
Reason 2: Your reader is talking about climate change. Readers are struggling to understand the importance of climate change in their lives. Some polls find that people want governments to take action against the dangers of climate change, while saying that the economy and security are still more important. This is understandable, because most impacts of global warming are subtle day-to-day. A writer can highlight these changes by showing how they act on your characters’ arcs.
Reason 3: Your reader is reading about climate change. Climate change is not just in the news. Some of the world’s best fiction writers are finding ways to portray a warming world. Kim Stanley Robinson, the dean of American sci-fi writers, published a bestselling novel, New York 2140, which showed how sea level rise might affect New York City. In Flight Behavior, literary author Barbara Kingsolver explored how a changing climate affects butterflies in rural Tennessee. Humorist Brian Adams has taken on a new kind of OCD, “obsessive climate disorder,” in Love in a Time of Climate Change. Can you reach new readers with a story that includes climate change?
Today, and over the next few centuries, climate change will shape every person’s life, and it stands to reason it should alter the characters in your short story or novel. Even if it’s only in the background, climate change is the new normal, and readers should see their reality reflected in your prose.
How have you incorporated climate change in your stories and poetry?