During a talk at the University of Rochester in the Spring of 2022, renowned Indian author Amitav Ghosh spoke about the role of storytelling in changing how we think about and find solutions to the climate crisis. Being inundated with facts and news can be overwhelming and counterproductive, but reading fiction and non-fiction narratives is perhaps the best way to put climate change into perspective. Here are three great reads that approach the crisis in vastly different ways:
The Nutmeg’s Curse: Parables for a Planet in Crisis by Amitav Ghosh
The Nutmeg’s Curse is Amitav Ghosh’s most recent non-fiction work. It is a stunning and sweeping exploration of the connections between colonialism and climate change. It follows the disturbing journey of nutmeg from the Banda Islands to the rest of the world. Ghosh uncovers the violent and extractive colonial forces that have driven and continue to drive environmental and cultural degradation, inequality, and indigenous exploitation. The book is both personal and political, and was written during the COVID-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter protests, making it a uniquely timely perspective on the history of our present moment and our attitudes as we approach the future.
Pure Colour by Sheila Heti
How do you live and love when the world is ending? That is the question Sheila Heti’s protagonist grapples with in Pure Colour, a strange, tender, and abstract look at a woman who has just lost her father. The book presupposes that this world is the first draft of creation, and that the Creator is gearing up to destroy it to create a perfect second draft. The ice caps are melting, seasons have become postmodern, grief is abundant, and humankind is not quite sure how to continue to carry on. This book is not for fans of plot, but it is for everyone who has felt the pressure of the clock running out and our inability to turn back time. It is about coming to terms with loving imperfectly in a world where each other is all we have. And, most importantly, in the face of the climate crisis, it finds unexpected ways for nature to speak through literature.
Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler
A seminal sci-fi text, Parable of the Sower is a 1993 climate fiction set beginning in 2025. The book follows Lauren Olamia, an African-American teenager who lives in one of the only safe gated communities in Los Angeles. Lauren has hyper-empathy and renounces the religion that her father preaches, instead responding to the world she sees and creating her own system of faith. The book explores a wide range of issues, including climate, class, race, governance, faith, gender, and capitalism. It sees US society descend into chaos and anarchy as a result of climate breakdown and corruption, and its harrowing approach to the horrors of climate apocalypse remain relevant and urgent today, more than ever.
Written by Mahnoor Raza (’24)