The ecofiction Discord server I belong to has been having a lively conversation about solarpunk–what is it, what stories qualify, what’s appealing about it, and so forth. Also called hopepunk, solarpunk is essentially the opposite of doomer lit: solarpunk envisions a future in which we manage to mitigate climate change or adapt to it.
It’s a particularly timely conversation to have, because summer tends to be a particularly dark time for climate news: many parts of the US are seeing hotter than normal temperatures, and wildfires start sending up smoke particulate that not only impacts public health in the western states but can have long-term effects on weather.
At the same time, the IPCC released a report on August 9 confirming some things that we already knew. The big change is that IPCC science has continued to improve since the last report, so they can now make outright statements that they previously had to hedge.
- The average global temperature is still rising, almost to the 1.5°C increase that Paris Climate Agreement nations (including the US, during Obama’s administration) pledged to make the upper limit of warming. Globally, we have not succeeded in curbing emissions and slowing the rising temperature yet.
- However, we absolutely still can. If the countries causing the most emissions enact drastic measures now to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, warming will level off after a couple of decades.
- It takes a couple of decades because of the amount of time carbon and other greenhouse gases reside in the atmosphere. And it will be a rocky couple of decades, because all the stuff we’re seeing now–sea level rise, extreme weather events, etc.–will continue while the existing atmospheric carbon completes its life cycle. The key is to stop pouring more carbon into the atmosphere.
It’s incredibly, incredibly important to understand that while we are in an emergency, it is one that can and should be mitigated. Loss of hope not only is a bad reading of the situation, it’s an abdication of responsibility.
The IPCC report
Reuters published a fairly faithful overview of the key talking points of the report, in plain English. Key takeaways from the U.N. climate panel’s report (Reuters, August 9, 2021)
Yale Climate Connections gets a bit more into the socioeconomic pathways (SSPs), which are the five scenarios outlined by the IPCC to predict how human activity (or inaction) can impact the next few years. This is really helpful to keep mind as a news reader–different outlets use different predictions to base their infographics and interactive maps on, and it’s helpful to know what factors are influencing any given SSP. Key takeaways from the new IPCC report (Yale Climate Connections, August 9, 2021)
I always appreciate how Emily Atkins not only breaks down the facts, but gets into the larger context of climate journalism and discourse. This newsletter does a wonderful job of explaining what this week’s “Code Red” headlines are missing, and what she’d like to see instead. I don’t like IPCC report day (HEATED, August 10 2021)
What scientists are saying about the UN climate report (Grist, August 9, 2021)
Climate Change Drove Western Heat Wave’s Extreme Records, Analysis Finds (New York Times, July 7, 2021; Updated July 21, 2021)
This summer could change our understanding of extreme heat (National Geographic, July 20, 2021)
Literature fans probably recall how the eruption of Mount Tambora in 1815 caused unseasonably cold and wet weather in 1816, leading to a very indoor summer and the creation of literary classics including Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. It shouldn’t be surprisingly, then, that the amount of smoke released into the atmosphere by wildfires year after year could have a cooling effect on the environment–although not necessarily in a good way. How extreme fire weather can cool the planet (National Geographic, August 6, 2021)
How to fight climate despair (Vox, August 6, 2021)
Resilience in the natural world
As climate warms, a rearrangement of world’s plant life looms (Grist, July 6, 2021)
Urban Refuge: How Cities Can Help Solve the Biodiversity Crisis (Yale Environment 360, July 1, 2021)
Ways to be a consumer
I’ve linked to Alexis Nelson (@blackforager) before, so I was thrilled to see her featured in the New York Times. Not a day that goes by that I don’t walk past an urban tree, shrub, or flowerbed and think “I could eat that!”
How Black Foragers find freedom in the natural world (New York Times, July 30, 2021)
But aside from offering advice for when and how to literally consume plants, Alexis is very knowledgeable about horticultural history too. She dropped this video about the park preservation versus indigenous stewardship of land–and I could not stop thinking about it when I walked through my favorite park last weekend, which is all purpled over right now with pretty but highly invasive loosestrife.
For obvious reasons, being an Amazon consumer is not great for the environment. But being an Amazon CEO, it seems, is even worse:
I think I posted last fall about My Climate Story, which hosted a workshop I attended as part of a themed Climate Week at the university where I work. They’ve just released a trailer.
In a similar vein, Grist rounded up some first-person audio narratives of people experiencing climate change impacts: Vox Americana (Grist, July 1, 2021)
- The Novel Solutions of Utopian Fiction, by speculative ecofiction author Kim Stanley Robinson (The Nation, July 16, 2021)
- What is solarpunk and can it help save the planet? (BBC, August 3, 2021)
- All the right words on climate have already been said (Nieman Lab, June 29, 2021)
- What is the Point of Children’s Books About the Climate Crisis? (LitHub, July 29, 2021)