I just replied to an email from a classmate from this past summer. Where he lives, the ecology is having a hell of a shock, it’s just drying up — the main river system in his country is drying up — and people still go out and hose down their driveways and farmers are irrigating, and no more rains this year, and forest fires like mad.
And my scattered advice was, as it turned out, to write about it. I don’t know if I believe, not just how much, but also whether I believe it at all, this idea that books can strongly change how people think. It seems to me that most people insulate themselves into whatever selection of books fits with their belief system already. But I do think we write more powerfully about what scares us, and when I think about Orwell’s Nineteen-Eighty-Four, it certainly feels as if that book had helped to inoculate me against certain kinds of ideas early on, and put a right fear and hatred of totalitarianism/authoritarianism in me.
I don’t know, probably nothing but the bare necessity of facing reality will get us to face our Greenhouse Nightmare, but, when we do face it, maybe all the concatenation of ideas that will have gelled since, oh, the 80s and 90s, will matter then. Maybe it’ll give us a framework to grapple with, some conceptual tools and references to rely upon.
And anyway, what scares us, matters to us. It’s hardly surprising that writing about what scares one — what scares one in a sober, sensible way, not in the panicky aftershock of a news report — might be better writing. Caring about a subject makes us more attentive to all kinds of things, if, at least, we’re good writers to begin with, like this friend of mine definitely is.