The Climate for Change is an eclectic mix of Cli-fi and non-fiction writing that was released in 2022 just before the release of the Last Horizon. It’s available from Amazon at https://amzn.eu/d/5LZ11E7 and is an excellent example of a type of book that, to my current knowledge, only the Last Horizon and itself currently belong to! If there was a spectrum for the ‘degree to which something can be described as eclectic’ then Climate for Change certainly rivals the Last Horizon for being at the violet end of that spectrum. There is fantasy, sci-fi, non-fiction, stories that read like imaginative investigative journalism, and it even includes a conversation with a modern example of AI. This book stands out for a number of reasons, not least of which is the relationship to China: the book was prepared by the Suzhou writers group. The disposition of Chinese people and culture towards climate change is something that I personally know very little about, and something that I feel doesn’t receive much (any?) media attention in the UK.
I enjoyed this book immensely, and it was great to feel a little less alone in the desire to write about climate change, and in the general understanding of the importance of telling stories inspired by climate change. That is not to say that this book is without its annoyances, and unfortunately I would be remiss if I didn’t point them out. I do want to emphatically stress, however, that these annoyances are minor in the the overall context of the book as a whole, which undoubtably achieves its aims without qualification. The first annoyance is a general lack of editorial and proof-reading attention. For example, the first story, Burned Cane by Mark Oulton is a detailed and insightful exploration of the extent to which poorer nations and people are made to dance to the tune of richer, western nations when it comes to compliance with requirements for the minimisation of carbon emissions. The subject material is not something that I’ve considered in depth, but it helped me to see the world from a different perspective. This is exactly the kind of thing that I wanted to achieve with the Last Horizon! However, the main character’s name changes from Brewer to Brewster half way through the story and there are a number of similar small proof-reading issues that interrupt the reader’s flow. There are a few examples of this sort of proof-reading error throughout the book, and generally, the book could have benefited from more attention to detail in the editorial process. These flaws are not fatal.
Of a trifle more annoyance is the lack of understanding of climate science exhibited in one particular case. In Mark Oulton’s the Tale of Ma Wang Li, the story describes: ‘They began to understand that greenhouse gases made the ozone layer thinner or even have holes in it. Ma didn’t use the words ozone layer but described it as a sunshade, and without it, the world would get warmer, which meant more violent weather.’ While there is a relationship between greenhouse gas emissions, climate change, and ozone depletion, the primary mechanism for climate change is the greenhouse effect caused by the accumulation of these gases in the atmosphere, not the thinning of the ozone layer (see The Greenhouse Effect | NASA Space Place – NASA Science for Kids particularly good ozone, bad ozone). This is another example of where the book would have benefitted from editorial attention with scientific oversight. This isn’t a commonly recurring issue however, and in most cases, the stories have no need of any particular scientific reference, as they are explorations through fantasy or sci-fi of climate change-inspired ideas.
Before I go through the stories that stood out for me, there are a few non-fiction elements that are worthy of mention. Jaclyn Port provides a taxonomy of Four Kinds of Climate Fiction, which others may find useful. This includes Climate Change as Setting, Climate Change and Intersections, Climate Change as Metaphor, and Metaphor for Climate Change. If you want more detail on what each of those categories entails then you’ll need to buy The Climate for Change and read for yourself! I will endeavour to make reference to Jaclyn’s taxonomy as I write other further reading articles. There is also Andrew Gibson’s Talking to a Robot about Climate Change where the author interviews an AI chatbot, asking open questions about climate change. In the introduction to the Last Horizon, I allude to the idea that AI (and technologies like nuclear fusion) are unicorns that we don’t need to chase in order to achieve the reductions in emissions that we need to avoid making the planet unliveable, but that we need to buy time for these technologies to come to true fruition. That said, Gibson’s experiment raises some interesting questions as to the extent that AI may be able to help to mitigate climate change, to find optimum solutions versus the extent to which that optimum solution may coldly calculative about human futures.
There were several stories that really stood out for me. Burned Cane by Mark Oulton, I’ve already mentioned, was very thought provoking. Rachel Ford’s Pilot Wanted, a thriller that sits in the Climate Change as Setting category is an excellent read that I found myself wishing would be a novella to fully explore the relationship development between the two primary characters. William Weston’s A Change in the Weather is a fantastic tale that considers an individual’s ability to control the weather by thought, a power that is, of course, abused by those that already have power and seek more. The ending, while not wholly unexpected, is certainly satisfying. In fact, all of Weston’s stories are excellent ideas, well executed. Steve Howrie’s The Wall, tips John Lanchester’s homonymous title in a different direction and isn’t what you’d expect. Alien Audit feels like a an amalgamation of Matt Ryder’s Little Fish, Big Pond (from the Last Horizon) written in a comedic style not dissimilar from Stephen Beeson’s (author of at First Bite in the Last Horizon). Hannah Gates’s the Haven is a more personal – and at times heart-wrenching – account of survival in the near-future, most closely allied with Huw James’s Seven Photographs in the Last Horizon. Andrew Gibson’s the Gatwick Genocide is perhaps my personal favourite (or at least tied with Burned Cane). It considers a deep question of morality and ethics in the face of impending human catastrophe and highlights very clearly the direction down which activism could conceivably be driven while national government and big business continues to pay little more than lip service to climate change mitigation.
Overall, a fantastic and eclectic compilation that is more than worth a few hours of your time.