Blues for a Blue Planet: Narratives of Climate Change and the Anthropocene in Non-Fiction Books

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Abstract

The planetary changes associated with the Anthropocene, including climate change and extinction of species, pose severe threats to civilization, humanity, and the natural world as we know it. They also pose special challenges to the human imagination. To meet these challenges, climate change communicators use narratives. Nonfiction books intended for a general audience employ two radically different narratives: the “We can solve it” (WCSI) narrative, and the “We won’t solve it” (WWSI) narrative. The WCSI narrative currently dominates mainstream media and books, but there is a strong possibility that the WWSI narrative is closer to the truth. Differences between the two narratives center on the meaning and usefulness of hope. In Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction (2014)—a WWSI narrative—wonder, lament, and understanding replace hope. Strategies of nonattachment also fulfill psychological functions. A WWSI perspective provides a much-needed complement to the triumphant narrative inherent in most mainstream popular science.

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  • Languages and Literature
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)39-57
JournalEvolutionary Studies in Imaginative Culture
Volume1
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Publication categoryResearch
Peer-reviewedYes