The size and severity of the global climate crisis is such that even the most committed environmentalists can drift into a state of denial. The award-winning writers collected here have made it their task to shake off this nagging disbelief, bringing the incomprehensible within our grasp and shaping an emotional response to mankind's unwitting creation of a tough new planet. From T. C. Boyle's account of early eco-activists, to Nathaniel Rich's comic fantasy about a marine biologist haunted by his youth, and David Mitchell's vision of a near future where oil sells for $800 a barrel—these ten provocative, occasionally chilling, sometimes satirical stories bring a human reality to disasters of inhuman proportions.
Royalties from the sale of I'm with the Bears will go to 350.org, an international grassroots movement working to reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.
One of the things writing has to grapple with in the twenty-first century is that certain constants about the natural world are going away. It can't be relegated to the background or setting for human comings and goings. Hence there is even a new genre, cli-fi, or climate fiction, to deal one pressing aspect. I'm With the Bears, edited by Mark Martin, is an anthology of cli-fi writing mostly from well-known authors.
Here I have chosen the story by Kim Staney Robinson as an example -- the story appears below in full. In Molecular Red I write about Robinson's most famous work, the science fiction Mars Trilogy, in which a quite plausbile revolution happens -- but not on Earth. Those books are climate fiction too in a way, and usefully defamiliarize the problem: a climate suitable for life has to be created rather than maintained.
Robinson's story in I'm With the Bears is from another of his trilogies, called Science in the Capital, which is about an imagined response here on Earth to climate change. In this stand-alone story, characters from the book take a trip into the Sierras and experience, among other things, a kind of mourning for a lost landscape -- a feeling more and more people are going to have to deal with. A condensed version of these three books will be published as Green Earth in November.
Kim Stanley Robinson
Every summer Charlie Quibler flew back to California to spend a week in the Sierra Nevada, backpacking with a group of old friends. Most of them knew each other from high school, and some of them had gone to UC San Diego together, many years before. That they and Charlie’s D.C. friend Frank Vanderwal had been undergraduates at UCSD at the same time had come up at dinner one night at the Quiblers’ the previous winter, causing a moment of surprise, then a shrug. Possibly they had been in classes together—they couldn’t remember. The subject had been dropped, as just one of those coincidences that often cropped up in the capital; so many people came from somewhere else that sometimes the elsewheres were the same.
This coincidence, however, was certainly a factor in Charlie inviting Frank to join the group for this summer’s trip. Perhaps it played a part in Frank’s acceptance as well; it was hard for Charlie to tell. Frank’s usual reticence had recently scaled new heights.
Summer was mellow in Gotham, and now the New York fall is fit to melt a poet’s heart. It’s all mists and mellow fruitfulness. The clement weather could almost make city dwellers forget the dire state of our global environment. But, as we know, weather and climate are very different matters. Since the days when sonnets did the work Tinder does now, it’s been true that sometimes too bright the eye of heaven shines; just as often is his gold complexion dimmed. The weather’s like that. It goes up and down. But the changing climate is a matter of steady deterioration, and the eye of heaven is going to burn your backside to the bone if you don’t get up off your fat one and make a difference.
September 21, 2014, is a GLOBAL DAY OF CLIMATE ACTION, and the epicenter is NEW YORK.
Tell your friends; tell your enemies; tell your enemy’s enemy, regardless of his questionable status as your friend; tell your family; tell the Adam’s family; don’t tell your partner – pretend your partner told you, and then feign reluctance because you know how determined that will make him/her that you both attend and get there when the clubs are emptying and the lark’s still making coffee; don’t go tell it on the mountain—try the city:
On Saturday, September 21, United Nations delegates will converge on Manhattan to prepare for next year’s climate conference in Paris. We need to make them understand that the world is watching and will not stand for inaction.
To keep you all focused on the march and what it means, Verso is giving away free ebooks of I’m With the Bears: Stories from a Damaged Planet, featuring fiction by David Mitchell and T. C. Boyle, among others, and an introduction by Bill McKibben.