For what climate change offers our cultural betters, what it provides that politics in its contemporary form no longer can, is an overarching framework for understanding our present, past and future. Much as a religious or social and political narrative might have underlain a figurative or realist work of literature, so environmentalism neatly provides contemporary authors with a similar source of meaning. And here’s the thing. The reason it appeals, the reason famous authors have willingly drawn from it to compose their dystopian short stories, is that climate change is itself a narrative. It was always already fictional.
That may seem counterintuitive, given environmental campaigners’ obsession with ‘the facts’. But to the extent that climate change provides a way of giving our world a direction and ascribing moral value to certain behaviour in the light of a postulated apocalyptic ending, it is first and foremost a grand narrative.
Yet, for some reason many people disparage the study of rhetoric as irrelevant.