‘Climate change is real, there is no denying that.’

In Green New Worlds, we are invited to tap into Science Fiction and Fantasy to find out more about how sustainability plays a huge part in everyday life. The time is now to gather your information wherever you may find it!


Green New Worlds: A Quick Guide to Sustainability Through Science Fiction and Fantasy
By Ricardo Victoria-Uribe & Martha Elba González-Alcaraz
Published by Luna Press


The Only Constant in Life Is Change: Climate Change 

If you think about it, the Long Night as described in A Song of Ice and Fire (Martin et al., 2014) should be an ecological nightmare within the story. But from the point of view of ecosystems and life on the planet, a decades-long winter coupled with constant darkness shouldn’t have left much in terms of living beings. Under the conditions of the Long Night, the margin for life to continue as we know it would be minimal, if not non-existent. In total darkness, there would be no photosynthesis, which means no plants and no crops, so a farmer already struggling to grow food in cold weather would be in serious trouble. And without vegetation, the food chain would break, as animal species that feed on plants would starve, followed by their predators, the bacteria that decompose the leftovers, and so on. Also, no insects. Really, if you think about it, it was a miracle that some hero survived long enough to stop the Long Night. 

Those conditions are what Earth would experience if it was suddenly sent to Pluto’s orbit. 

Now, this is an extreme example, using the exaggeration in magnitude that fantasy allows to drive a point. But the idea of seasons being thrown out of balance is not something far-fetched. It is something real, something that could and is happening right now, and something that, while it has been a part of Earth’s cycles, we as a civilisation have made worse. Yes, we are talking about climate change (also known as global warming, although we prefer the former term). 

Climate change is real, there is no denying that. Despite what some ‘news’ outlets might have led you to think, 99% of the scientific community agrees that there is a problem with the global climate (Lynas et al., 2021). 

Yes, we can hear the climate deniers from the back rows. There is always one in each semester of the Sustainability lectures. They either deny that there is a problem or deny that it is the fault of humans, and that the planet has always had climate change. But if you have paid attention to how much warmer or rainier your city has been in the last few years, how birds arrive at different times than before, or how some trees and flowers bloom in the off-season, you can see the effects of climate change in action. 

While it is true that Earth has undergone cyclical climatic changes—the last one recorded being the Little Ice Age which was a series of harsh winters with mild summers between them, affecting mostly Europe and North America between the 14th and 19th centuries (Barbuzano, 2019), and the more memorable being the actual Ice Age from 115,000 years ago that lasted until 11,500 years ago—human activity has made it worse and more extreme in the last one hundred and twenty years. 

Think of it like this: climate is a finely-tuned engine, like the warp core of the Enterprise. Like this core, the climate is regulated by a series of variables that create the weather system as we know it. Some variables are solar activity, the amount of salt or sweet water in the oceans at a given time, and the thickness of the atmosphere (a result of both the gases and the particles that compose it and/or are thrown into it by volcanoes or our transportation systems). And this finely-tuned engine work in cycles. Sometimes the planet gets warm, sometimes it gets cold. When it gets to an extreme of either option, it is because of an unexpected event, like a volcanic eruption, or a particularly active period of solar activity. And it is usually a regional thing, rather than global. 

This is not a new scenario; this kind of side effect of climate change has happened before. There is something called the ‘Medieval Warm Period’, a period of unusual temperature increases between 750 and 1350 A.D. (Fagan, 2010). While in Northern Europe, the warmer temperatures allowed for increased food production (and in the long run allowed for the Renaissance), a widely accepted theory indicated that the Mayan civilisation of the Classic Mayan period collapsed due to intense droughts that disrupted their food supply lines at the same time. These droughts affected North America as well, impacting Native American settlements, forcing cultural changes, creating health problems, disrupting trade, and forcing migration. And in China and parts of Southeast Asia, monsoons of increased potency unleashed floods. These are just a few examples of what a natural cycle of climate variation can cause on human civilisations. But what if something was to alter climate patterns in such a way that could cause greater devastation, such as the Long Night does in Westeros? Not something magical, like the Others, but something closer to home. 

Then, there is us. That’s where we enter the picture. 


Green New Worlds: A Quick Guide to Sustainability Through Science Fiction and Fantasy by Ricardo Victoria-Uribe & Martha Elba González-Alcaraz is published by Luna Press, priced £6.99.

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