Guest-Editorial: Climate Change in Literature (Issue 54)
By Morve Roshan K. & Niyi Akingbe
Literature often intersects with climate change in multi-dimensional ways. The contemporary world literature aligns itself with the cultural negotiation of global environmental imaginaries. To this extent, Lawrence Buell (2008) has argued that literature in its depiction, illustration and framing has built evolutionary paradigm of modernities “from local culture to global imagination” (76).
By establishing connections across disciplines, literature has provocatively stoked “the environmental imagination of the Global” (Heise, 2008). The global environmental crises have unavoidably necessitated a world literature that “speaks to the whole world” (Cited in Bartosch 2019, 18). This is reiterated in its overarching interest in how it mediates the climatic experience of the present in connection with the past, and, how its productions – short story, fiction, drama, poetry, auto/biography – individually take on a new significance and urgency in our contemporary climatic moment (Bristow and Ford 9).
Climate fiction is often referred to as cli-fi and broadly understood as fiction which engages with climate change (Siperstein, et al. 2016, 265). Today, scholars and writers pay serious attention to climate change issues and their impact on the human lives and nature. In addition, they explore long-time climate variables, re-imagine time, rethink seasons, climate issues and stories in their writing. Not surprisingly, after globalization, the rapid change in the climate now draws the world’s attention.
Why is Climate Change Important to Literature?
There are many reasons why we study climate change in literature. By studying climate change narratives, we can see how the lives of the people world over also change. As the world witnesses persistent flooding, earthquake, landslide and a rise in the ocean surge, climate change now constitutes an emergent issue in the global discourse.
Antonia Mehnert (2016) writes:
Climate change fiction – literature dealing explicitly with anthropogenic climate change – gives insight into the ethical and social ramifications of this unparalleled environmental crisis, reflects on current political conditions that impede action on climate change, explores how risk materialises and affects society, and finally plays an active part in shaping our conception of climate change. (Mehnert 4)
Ecological narratives are now being featured to illustrate the effects of climate change in most literary works of the world. Eco-criticism also looks at the impact of climate change as it affects the environment in terms of food production, desert encroachment and the drying up of the lakes and rivers in the world, and especially in the third world countries which have been described as the most vulnerable with possible consequences of being submerged and becoming extinct in another few years.
Why Should We Care?
As concerned citizens of the world, the writers show artistic commitment by telling their stories to create awareness, to examine the changes and to question impact of its occurrences as it affects different parts of the world.
Helen Claeugh and others (2011) question and explain:
Why should we care about climate change? Historical records of temperature show that although temperatures vary naturally between ice ages and warm periods there is no record of temperatures within human history ever having increased as rapidly as they have over the past 100 years. (Claeugh et al. xi)
During the summer, earth’s temperature shatters record as it impacts our lives and health. As social-realism is always human and nature-centred, many writers demonstrate their worry and try to bring to our attention the significations of the debilitating effects of global climate change. Hence, “the ensuing struggles for resources and the impact of these struggles on human communities locally and globally had proliferated in recent decades. (Siperstein et al. 265)
The aim of this issue of Café Dissensus is to refocus our attention on writers’ efforts to generate awareness about climate change and its future impact. Contributors to the issue have written on theories of eco-criticism, environmental crisis in poetry, and how the climate change is represented in fiction. These issues are important because our environmental future indeed looks bleak, as Mehnert writes,
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) developed a range of emission scenarios in order to provide plausible narratives on how the future might unfold based on demographic, social, economic, and technological developments. Literary critic, Eva Horn clarifies that scenarios are not predictions but anticipations of possible future developments. They depict one version of a story, which could be completely different if only some of its parameters are slightly changed. (5)
Buell, Lawrence (2008). The Future of Environmental Criticism: Environmental Crisis and Literary Imagination. Malden: Blackwell.
Bartosch, Roman. (2019). Literatures, Cultures, and the Environment. Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan.
Claeugh, Helen, Mark Stafford Smith, Michael Battagila, and Paul Graham, eds. (2011). Climate change: Science and solutions for Australia. Australia: CSIRO Publishing.
Heise, Ursula, K. (2016). Imagining Extinction: The Cultural Meanings of Endangered Species. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press.
Mehnert, Antonia. (2016). Climate change fictions: Representations of global warming in American Literature. Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan.
Siperstein, Stephen, Shane Hall, and Stephanie LeMenager, eds. (2017). Teaching climate change in the humanities. London and New York: Routledge.
Trexler, Adam, and Johns-Putra, Adeline. (2011). “Climate change in literature and literary criticism.” 2, March/April. 185-200. John Wi ley & Sons, Ltd.
Tom Bristow, and Thomas H. Ford., ed. (2016). A cultural history of climate change. London and New York: Routledge.
Dr. Morve Roshan K. is a Postdoctoral Scholar at Southwest University, China. She was previously an Honorary Research Associate at Bangor University, United Kingdom. She obtained her M.Phil. and Ph.D. degrees from the Central University of Gujarat, India. Her last teaching position was at Children’s University, Gandhinagar, Gujarat, India. She has translated seventy-four children’s literature books from NTM, India. She has published widely and presented her research at numerous national and international conferences. She has acted as an editor, associate editor, and an international advisory member for international journals. Her areas of interest are African Literature, cognitive studies, gender, diaspora studies, English literature, folk studies, and Postcolonial Studies. She heartily welcomes projects, translation work, and international research collaborations. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Niyi Akingbe is Professor of Comparative Literature and Poetics. He is presently a Distinguished Research Fellow at the Department of English Studies, University of South Africa, Pretoria. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Lagos, Akoka, Nigeria, where he studied Protest Literature. His scholarly interests include Comparative Literature and Poetics, Commonwealth Literatures, Postcolonial Literatures, African Literature, Cultural studies, Music-in-literature, Protest Literature, intersection of Literature and film studies. His work has been published internationally in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe and the United States.
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