Developing Resilience through Climate Narratives

Eight of the top 10 warmest years ever recorded occurred in the last decade, continuing the long-term trend of a rapidly heating Earth.

Everywhere the effects of climate change are becoming visible. Our planet is changing under our feet – literally and metaphorically. Climate change requires a response from us on a global, planetary scale, one which we have never before mustered as a species: one of empathy, ingenuity, collaboration and imagination.

Narrative is both the outcome of and a response to uncertainty. New stories can help us imagine possible futures shaped by climate change and our reactions to it. Across multiple domains, narrative is increasingly being recognised as an heuristic, a strategy, a weapon. Microsoft has appointed a chief storyteller; NASA has writers and artists in residence; large multilateral science programmes have sought to incorporate narrative as a key way of communicating science and producing adaptive, citizen-informed policy. In his novel 1984, George Orwell imagined the future we have managed to avoid; in a world propelled into ever-accelerating change by the profit motive and technology, literature functions as an early-warning system. Metaphors, scenarios and arguments build resilient, adaptive stories. Climate change is itself a story – a giant, over-arching narrative, which we as human beings are and will write for ourselves.

UEA is in an unusually strong position to work for increased collaboration between science and writing. Its world leading programmes in Environmental Sciences and Creative Writing have already worked together on topics relating to volcanology, lacustrine protected areas, environmental justice analysis and climate-related coastal challenges. Our research group are currently exploring speculative nature writing or future geographies (or building the future through narrative) race, history and indigeneity; representation (creative strategies and creative based-approaches) and justice (for people, animals and landscapes).

Indications of future study include: building of communal resilience through identification of and flexibility around narrative; reframing processes relating to how climate change issues and actions are metamorphosed and mediated; textual study of key documents in the evolution of climate change studies and actions; expert deployment of orientation functions in language to reinforce citizens, scientists, disciplines and discourses in the face of an uncertain future.

Our Climate Narratives Research

A diverse range of research is taking place in the Climate Narratives space. You can read about some of the exciting projects we are working on, and find out more about the researchers who are involved below.