Margaret Atwood on climate change, art and storytelling

21 Aug 2015

Margaret Atwood at Brattle Theatre, 2014

Last November, world-renowned speculative fiction author Margaret Atwood visited Arizona State University to help launch the Imagination and Climate Futures Initiative, which explores how art, literature and other creative interventions shape our imagination about and responses to climate change.

An interview with Atwood, conducted by Ed Finn, director of the Center for Science and the Imagination and assistant professor in the School of Arts, Media and Engineering and the Department of English, was recently published on Slate’s Future Tense channel.

“The planet is changing,” writes Finn in the introduction to the interview. “We need creativity, ambition, and some powerful new stories to understand how we can change with it.”

Atwood is the author of more than forty volumes of poetry, children’s literature, fiction and non-fiction. Her MaddAddam trilogy, published over a decade from 2003-2013, depicts a future world ravished by climate change and catastrophic misuses of biotechnology. The trilogy is a key text in the emerging genre of climate fiction, or “cli-fi,” which is a key area of interest for the university’s Imagination and Climate Futures Initiative.

During the interview, Finn and Atwood discuss a wide range of topics, including how Atwood conducts research for her scientifically and technically-grounded visions of the future; how she uses her enormous Twitter audience to crowdsource ideas and fact-checking; the definition of words like “imagination” and “hope”; and her decision to contribute a book to the “Future Library” project that will not be available to read until 2114.

Responding to a question from Finn about whether she intends for her stories to change people’s thinking about climate change, Atwood says, “I think calling it ‘climate change’ is rather limiting. I would rather call it ‘the everything change,’” expressing her belief that changes to the climate are systematic and touch every aspect of human and animal life on Earth.

Visit Future Tense to read the full interview.

This article was writted by Joey Eschrich, published by Arizona State University News on 12 February 2015.