Imagining Climate (and) Change
Dr. Seuss at . , a ruin, once . , Once-, the Lorax “was lifted away” a once a time “the grass was still green/and the pond was still wet/and the clouds were still clean/and the song of the -Swans rang out in space…” “ place,” Once- “the Trees,” the “bright-colored tufts of the Trees.” and , Once- after off tops “,” , a figure “ , no .” : are are ; “Brown Bar--” no ; smog; in and gray . and a and . , a . and, , living .
After and Sarah and son Nathaniel, I a . , a and . , more a and real , tale as a true , — open a —a , “” .
Just Once-, historian Pero de a — time in . In 1576, he : “This land is the best of all for the life of man: the air is exceptionally healthful, and the soil is extremely fertile; all that is before you is delightful and pleasing to the human eye to a great degree” (1995). A similar has Alexander Humboldt, , in 1804, he referred to the Anáhuac Valley and Mexico City with the well-known phrase: “Traveler: you have reached the region where the air is clearest.” In 1917, Alfonso Reyes used this phrase as an epigraph for his book de Anáhuac (1519), and in 1958, Carlos Fuentes titled his first novel La (Where the Air Is Clear): “Fall with me on our moon-scar city, city scratched by sewers, crystal city of vapor and alkali frost, city witness to all we forget, city of carnivorous walls, city of motionless pain, city of immense brevities, city of fixed sun, city of slow fire, city to its neck in water, city of merry lethargy, city of twisted stinks, city rigid between air and worms, city ancient in light, old city cradled among birds of omen, city new upon sculptured dust, city in the true image of gigantic heaven, city of dark varnish and cut stone, city beneath glistening mud, city of entrails and tendons, city of the violated outrage, city of resigned market plazas, city of anxious failures, city tempested by domes, city woven by amnesias, bitch city, hungry city, sumptuous villa, leper city. Here we bide. And what are we going to do about it? Where the air is clear” (1995, 4-5). a , has be and and natural , and and .
Homero Aridjis, a , novel ¿En piensas cuando haces el amor? in 1995, he in , in , : “ home, Gladiolas Street. a can observe Anáhuac Valley, a up , , and ” (34). , time, a particular can as a symbol . a in and and — a —, , once , , once , concrete, and once a , a can be .
In , and and . happening , as global and do rural , social , can more ; in — — (as in California ). In general, in and in and industrial .
lose at a ; , , look ; extreme , , heavy and , and , stock and in . in has a a has . , so , at time, a : “… there is much gold in those regions, according to the signs and samples which they found, and if people properly prepared should return thither with all necessary equipment, taking with them experts in this line, they would discover in that land great mines” (182).
natural , , the cornucopia “New ,” and , , , and in : , air and , and , and natural and . , , , as historian, in case, Shawn William Miller, has : “the so-called ‘New World,’ once removed from the perspective of Columbus’ astonishing landfall, is seen more accurately as just another old world” ( , 2007, 8-9). , , a in a erases , a , social and cultural .
. concept “” “ ,” as German Ernst Bloch ( Art and , 1988). Bloch, and art “ ” has , and and and . ? can a dispute final in in? more and more , American and art has human and non-human , , , and . Simón in 1829 , in he “we are experiencing excessive harvesting of wood, dyes, quinine, and other substances, especially in the forests belonging to the state, with disastrous consequences” , more a and a , José Emilio Álbum de zoología (1985), . in country, and in a . “Ballenas” [“”] marine : “Suena en la noche triste / de las profundidades / su elegía y despedida / porque el mar / fue despoblado de ballenas” (1993, 24) (“Through the sad night of the deep / resounds / their elegy and farewell / because the sea / has been dispossessed of its whales” (25) And , , “… todo el mar se vuelve / un mar de sangre / mientras las llevan al / para hacerlas / jabón aceite / alimento de perros” (26) “…And all the sea becomes / a sea of blood / as they are towed to the factory ship / to make lipstick / soap oil / and dog food” (27) (translation by Margaret Sayers Peden). The poem seems to be asking; in the name of what are we emptying ourselves? How can we define ourselves as humanity? Hasn't it become necessary to reevaluate the project of modernity? And, finally, what is progress?
Like Pacheco, the Chilean writer Luis Sepúlveda also narrates the massacre and extinction of the marine mammals on the other end of the continent, in the extreme south. Mundo del fin del mundo (1989), one of his best-known novels, refers to this catastrophe or "ecological disaster" in the "Gulf of Sorrows," where every spring people used to watch "the mating of the pilot whales” (100-1). This magnificent spectacle, nevertheless, has ended because of the "boat factories" that sweep up the ocean, turning it into "a dark cauldron of dead waters” (101-2). The discourse of abundance and cornucopia is posed against that of scarcity and shortages. The earlier spectacle has become invalid because it does not correspond to reality.
However, not all the narratives opt for elegy. During the 19th century and—with some exceptions—until the 1950s, Latin American literature has incorporated the role of climate as protagonist, although not necessarily as climate change caused by humans. From Argentine writer Domingo F. Sarmiento's novel Facundo in 1845 to María (1867) by Colombia’s Jorge Isaacs, Os Sertões (1902), by Brazilian Euclides da Cunha, La vorágine by Eustasio Rivera (1924), Don Segundo Sombra (1926) by Ricardo Güiraldes and Doña Bárbara (1929) by Rómulo Gallegos, among many others, all feature a ubiquitous and constant role of climate and narrate how its varied characteristics influence not only the personalities of the novels’ characters, but also the cultural and economic aspects of reality depicted in these tales. More recent climate change, however, consists of the acceleration of these effects, because it is a problem of scale: both in terms of size and frequency.
If literature captures processes in the making—in statu nascendi—it also moves them forward, playing a role in their formation that goes beyond mere representations. According to Antonia Mehnert, the author of Climate Change Fictions, culture texts not only create a narrative but also mediate and shape our own reality (3). Climate change is a phenomenon without precedent, hard to pin down and to grasp, whether because it is a slow violence, as Princeton’s Rob Nixon defines it, or whether because it is an entity of such vast temporal and spatial dimensions—a hyperobject—that it becomes inconceivable, as Rice University’s Tim Morton theorizes. Literature, cultural texts and art examine the social and ethical implications of this unprecedented crisis, but also propose concrete interventions in the current debate about environmental policies, tackling the material risks faced by society as a whole and seeking to mold our conceptions about these changes. In short, imagine climate (and) change. Because it is in the imagination that one also finds the key to innovate, communicate, visualize and transform: the last seed, as it were, of Dr. Seuss' Truffula Trees. And at the end of the day it will all depend on the “unless” that is waiting for us at The Lorax’s conclusion.
Gisela Heffes is a fiction writer and an Associate Professor of Latin American Literature and Culture at Rice University.