Sunday, June 7, 2015

YA Guy Reviews... Climate Change Books!

Here's a little known fact: YA Guy has a passion for the environment.

Well, maybe that's not such a big secret. Some of my blog posts are environment-related; my novels are set in a desert world radically altered by environmental degradation; and I'm sure if you checked my Twitter feed or Facebook page you'd find environmental stuff there too.

But did you know I've been an environmental activist for almost ten years? And that the focus of my activism has been the fight against global warming?

It's true. Ever since I saw the film An Inconvenient Truth in 2006, I've been involved in raising popular and political consciousness about the threat posed by a changing climate. I've organized and participated in marches and rallies, met with politicians, developed a regional citizens climate change network, hosted teach-ins on climate change, taught the subject in my college classes, sat on a local college board dedicated to reducing campus emissions, and done whatever else I could to highlight the issue of climate change and advocate for personal and political action to combat it. I sometimes feel I haven't done enough, but I've sure tried.

Nor do I see this side of me as inconsistent with being YA Guy. I believe (and the science backs me up) that climate change is the greatest challenge future generations will face. While my existing novels are not in any way political polemics (and none of my works-in-progress directly addresses climate change at all), I believe YA literature has a responsibility to dramatize this issue.

Lots of great YA books do just that: Paolo Bacigalupi's Ship Breaker and The Drowned Cities, Mindy McGinnis's Not a Drop to Drink and In a Handful of Dust, Sherri L. Smith's Orleans, Emmi Itaranta's Memory of Water, Saci Lloyd's The Carbon Diaries, and many more recent YA books use climate change as either a backdrop or central feature of their fictions.

A new scholarly book by Adam Trexler, Anthropocene Fictions: The Novel in a Time of Climate Change (2015), barely touches on YA (which is one of its weaknesses), but it's an interesting analysis of the emergence of climate-change fiction (which some, following the coinage of Dan Bloom, call "cli-fi," but which Trexler calls "anthropocene fiction"). Trexler asks two main questions: how can fiction help us to conceptualize and address the problems we're facing and will continue to face in a climate-changed world? And how will fiction itself be changed by the changing climate and all its ramifications? Though I take issue with Trexler's claim that there is "entirely too much science fiction" (6) among climate-change novels--as if science fiction is a poor substitute for realistic fiction rather than the thought-provoking genre it has always been--this review and analysis of anthropocene fiction is a welcome addition to the literature of (or about) climate change.

The same is true of journalist Naomi Klein's This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate (2014). Klein argues that the truly inconvenient truth about climate change--something Al Gore's film refuses to admit--is that we can't meaningfully address the changing climate without radically restructuring the economic, political, and cultural underpinnings of the society that has caused the problem. In other words, so long as we remain addicted to capitalism's mantra of limitless growth, we'll never be able to resist the fossil-fuel mania that is driving anthropogenic climate change. Klein argues that local economies, democratically organized, are a necessary alternative to our current global economy, an economy ruled by corporations whose sole mandate is greater profit even at the expense of people and planet. I tend to agree with Klein; the cheery idea that we can solve the problem utilizing the same models that produced the problem strikes me as fulfilling the classic definition of insanity. Whether we as a species can actually take the radical steps Klein advocates is, of course, another matter.

As a writer, an environmentalist, and a father, YA Guy certainly hopes we can.


  1. well said YA GUY, -- db in Taiwanvilla

  2. And YA Guy, re the Adam Trexler book, which I loved for its list of novels to read and research, but remember he wrote that book in 2011 as an academic paper, so the published academic book is not really up to date for 2015. Had it been, he would have followed YA novels too, since he knows about them now, but did not know in 2011. What is WEIRD is that NOT ONE newspaper or website has REVIEWED his book yet, just a few blogs here and there, your blog here, Joe's and mine, but not one real book review yet in the NYT or LAT or Guardian or anywhere. Why the silence? Maybe it;s too difficult for MSM reviewers to read and review? Or maybe we have to wait for some academic journals to review like in the fall or next winter? It should be reviewed in NYT front page today. BUT....

    1. My guess is the same as yours--that the book will be reviewed only in academic journals, which have a really long delay (6 months to over a year). That's a shame, and it makes me wish Trexler hadn't chosen to publish with an academic press, which pigeonholes his book as literary scholarship.