Could A Nevil Shute-like Novel About Climate Change Heal The World?

by Dan Bloom

[Dan Bloom is an American climate activist based in Taiwan.]

On The Beach - illustration by John Rowland

A Nevil Shute-like novel about climate change could change the world and possibly even change the political climate that makes acting on climate issues so difficult. And not just a novel with the power of 1957′s “On the Beach,” but a novel that would be turned into a movie as well.

Think about it: What if there was, just imagine this for a moment or two, a ”Nevil Shute Literary Award for Climate-Themed Novels” that was offering a US$1 million purse for a powerful climate-themed novel written by any novelist, female or male, in any country and in any language.

First of all, people would ask: Where are you going to get the money for this prize, to the tune of US$1,000,000? One can imagine the organizers answering: ”We are actively canvassing wealthy individuals who made their money in tech and other media industries to provide seed money for this award, including the founders of PayPal, Ebay, Telsa and others. The money will come. If you build it, they will come.”

The said prize organizers might add:”At this point in human history, a novel that explores the human and emotional implications and ramifications of global warming and climate change in a wake up call and alarm bell kind of way will go a long way towards awakening humanity to the issues facing the world in the 21st century.”

They might even add: “What Nevil Shute’s 1957 novel ”ON THE BEACH” did for public awareness worldwide of nuclear war and nuclear winter issues is what the The Nevil Shute Literary Award for Climate-Themed Novels is all about. We are looking for that person or persons who want to write this kind of wake up call novel set in any country they wish to set it, or in a series of nations, and set in the present or near future.”

By naming this prize after the famous novel by Nevil Shute, the organizing committee probably wants to honor Australia and Mr Shute while at the same time issuing a global call for such a novel. Who
will write it? Stay tuned.

Someone is most likely writing an early draft of her novel right now, his novel, their novel. Outlining it, writing a first chapter or so, putting it through its paces as it morphs from a mere idea and vision into a full-fledged novel, expansive and highly readable. And with a warning to the world embedded in its pages.

”Sometimes, fiction is the best way to win friends and influence people — H. G. Wells’ ”The Time Machine” and George Orwell’s classic, ”1984” come to mind,” climate novelist John Atcheson told me. ”Each provoked a visceral reaction that galvanized the culture around it, changing forever the way issues such as class and totalitarianism were perceived. Shute’s ‘On the Beach’ made the
consequences of nuclear war real, and therefore, unthinkable.”

”In a scientifically illiterate culture such as ours, these kinds of myth-based meta-narratives may be the best way to communicate complex scientific issues like climate change,” he added. “Myths, as Bill Moyers and Joseph Campbell revealed, are not necessarily false, nor are they automatically at odds with science. At their best, they provide another way of viscerally experiencing a truth.”’

”A spate of novels and movies that feature climate change as either an overt part of the story-line, or an implicit backdrop against which mythical heroes strive may be creating the critical mass for a cultural awakening that allows climate change to be perceived at that pre-rational level — the kind of limbic awareness that motivates change,” he said. “Or so we can hope.”

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