The last ten years have seen a shift in environmental discourse from a focus on 'mitigation of the effects of climate change' to the idea of 'transformational adaptation' (Feola 2014).
Responding to a failure to curb emissions and meet targets, transformational adaptation argues that incremental change is now insufficient (Lonsdale et al., 2015).
A deeper and more holistic change has become both necessary as a societal strategy, and/or inevitable as a reaction to scarcity of resources and overreliance on unsustainable practices. What this transformation will look like, we are only beginning to understand.
Breaking with present structures of behaviour on such a grand scale should be both a feat of radical imagination and ambitious implementation.
This project aims to work with this radical imagination. Utopian, dystopian or – more likely – both tangled together. Ustopian as Margaret Atwood has it (Atwood 2011).
It will look at ways in which literary writing concerned with the environment can help its readers to confront both the need for – and the inevitability of – radical change in our relationship with landscape, wildlife and climate.
Science and speculative nature writing
We bring together scientific research on future climate with biodiversity scenarios and literary critical research concerned with nature writing conventions – including the conventions of some of this scientific research.
Our project promises to experiment with form in ways that intervene in dominant modes of thinking and begin to articulate possible futures. We hope to shift current debates about nature writing away from retrospective and symptomatic critiques, and ask instead how critical and creative work together might help to produce fresh and unsettling writing with a prospective orientation.
The project has several active threads. Among them are:
- A single-author work of speculative fiction (in partnership with BirdLife International)
- A critical history of the function of speculation in nature writing
- An anthology of speculative nature writing by both new and established nature writers
- A conference exploring questions about nature writing and decolonisation (in collaboration with The Willowherb Review)
- Speculative nature writing workshops