You are here

  1. Home
  2. Contemporary Cultures of Writing Seminar Series Autumn 2021 - Climate change and creativity

Contemporary Cultures of Writing Seminar Series Autumn 2021 - Climate change and creativity

The scale and speed of the climate crisis inspires differing responses, from denial to despair. How do we respond to an existential threat? It is challenging to find the language and the concepts to encompass its enormity. The facts are there, but the response is piecemeal, and there is no current prospect of the radical change called for by climate scientists. As we approach the UN climate conference COP26 (Glasgow, 1-12 November 2021) these issues need urgent discussion.

The two seminars will consider the place of creative engagement in eco-aware writing, asking why facts alone aren’t enough to incite change around environmental issues and exploring the kinds of narrative techniques or formal strategies that writers might use. Miles (2010) speculates that contemporary art dealing with climate change has a capacity to contribute to a shift in consciousness and is likely to be conducive to a more sustainable way of living. Although science may be viewed as a process of discovery, the arts serve as another mode to acquire and interpret knowledge of the world. Different perspectives can help people realize that we are all engaged in a search for understanding the world around us. Scheffer et al. (2015) suggest that a greater alliance with artists and integration with arts education in terms of ways of ‘learning to learn’ could even help stimulate scientific innovation by valuing associative and (seemingly) divergent thinking.

The seminars will take place via Zoom. Registration will be open on Eventbrite from September.

Seminar one Tuesday 21st September - Book here.

5.30 pm – 6.30 pm

Imagination and the Natural World - writers, writing and perception

How do contemporary writers who think about the environment begin to recognise their own approaches and tropes as symbolically linked to that environment? How might forms of writing begin to create new ways of composing the natural world? Could the imaginative act, played out in fiction, poetry or hybrid works, stoke or hone habits of attention which lead to possible new perceptions? Perhaps it is when least didactic or informative that work which rests on metaphor, symbol or experimental strategies is most likely to capture or convey something real and sustainable? This panel will explore how writing itself is intrinsically an act of political dissent in our present moment.

Speakers: Sarah Butler, Lecturer in Creative Writing, MMU; Zoe Brigley Thompson, Visiting Assistant Professor at Ohio State University; Kristian Evans, poet, nonfiction writer, and environmental activist; Chair: Sally O'Reilly, Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing, The Open University.


Seminar two Tuesday October 5th 5.30 pm – 7.00 pm - Book here.

Round table discussion

Rajat Chaudhuri, author, activist, NGO adviser; Liese Coulter, Visiting Researcher, Sustainability Research Institute, University of Leeds; Tanya Hawkes, author and environmentalist; James Miller, Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing and English Literature at Kingston University; Stephen Peake, Professor of Climate Change and Energy, The Open University; Harriet Tarlo, Professor of Ecopoetry and Poetics, Sheffield Hallam University.

Academics and practising writers engaged with climate change and creativity in different ways will talk about their research and/or creative practice, and take part in a discussion on ways to communicate climate crisis messages to wider audiences using storytelling and narrative.


Resource list from the round table discussion:


Rajat Chaudhuri

Admussen, Nick. “Six Proposals for the Reform of Literature in the Age of Climate Change.” The Critical Flame, Issue 42, May-June 2016.  Accessed 6th September 2019.

Andersen, Gregers. “Fiction Prepares us for a World Changed by Global Warming.” 10 October 2019.

Andersen, Gregers. “Cli-fi and the Uncanny.”

Baden, Denis. Solution-Focused Stories Are More Effective Than Catastrophic Stories in Motivating Proenvironmental Intentions, Ecopsychology Vol. 11, No. 4 |

Bendell, Jem. “Deep Adaptation: A Map for Navigating Climate Tragedy.” IFLAS Occasional Paper 27 July, 2018. Accessed 1 November 2019.

Frank W.Geels JohanSchot, Typology of sociotechnical transition pathways, ScienceDirect

Ghosh, Amitav. The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable. Penguin, 2018.

Gustafson, A., Ballew, M., Goldberg, M., Rosenthal, S., & Leiserowitz, A. (2020). Personal stories can shift climate change beliefs and risk perceptions: The mediating role of emotion. Yale University andGeorge Mason University. New Haven, CT: Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.

Latour, Bruno. We Have Never Been Modern.Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1993.

P Molthan-Hill, H Luna, T Wall, H Puntha, D Baden, Storytelling for Sustainability in Higher Education: An Educator's Handbook

Schneider-Mayerson, Matthew. “The Influence of Climate Fiction – An Empirical Survey of Readers”, Environmental Humanities, vol.10,no.2, November 2018, doi: 10.1215/22011919-7156848

Schneider-Mayerson,  Matthew, Abel Gustafson, Anthony Leiserowitz, Matthew H. Goldberg & Seth A. Rosenthal "Environmental Literature as Persuasion: An ExperimentalTest of the Effects of Reading Climate Fiction", Environmental Communication, Published online: 15 Sep 2020

Survive the Century (video game)

Liese Coulter

Coulter, L. (2018). Future climate narratives: combining personal and professional knowledge to adapt to climate change. In S. Serrao-Neumann, A. Coudrain, & L. Coulter (Eds.), Communicating Climate Change Information for Decision-Making. Springer.

Tanya Hawkes

Harris, R, (2019) The Second Sleep, Arrow Books 
Jones, L, (2014) Water, Y Lolfa Cyf 
Lob, J,  Rochette J,  (1982) Transperceneige (Snowpiercer) Casterman
Offil, J, (2020) Weather, Penguin Random House
Robinson, K S, The Ministry for the Future 
Robinson, K, S, Aurora 
Schneider-Mayerson, M., 2019. Whose odds? The absence of climate justice in American climate fiction novels. ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment26(4), pp.944-967.Skyline Project 

Stephen Peake
Peake, Stephen and Smith, Joe, (2009) Climate Change: From Science to Sustainability , Oxford, Oxford University Press

Peake, Stephen, (2021) 10 Short Lessons in Renewable Energy, Pocket Einstein, London, Michael O’Mara Books

Cli fi reading list from Rajat Chaudhuri

1.     Gun Island by Amitav Ghosh

2.     Flight Behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver

3.     Solar by Ian McEwan

4.     The Rapture by Liz Jensen

5.     The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi

6.     The Road by Cormac McCarthy

7.     Memory of Water by Emmi Itäranta

8.     The Swan Book by Alexis Wright

9.     American War by Omar el Akkad

10.  Science in the Capital Trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson 

11.  Far North by Marcel Theroux

12.  A Cloud Called Bhura by Bijal Vachharajani

13.  The MaddAddam Trilogy by Margaret Atwood

14.  Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler

15.  Daylight Come by Diana McCaulay

16.  State of Fear by Michael Crichton

17.  On Such a Full Sea by Chang Rae-Lee

18.  The Overstory by Richard Powers

19.  The Carbon Diaries by Saci Lloyd

20.  The Butterfly Effect by Rajat Chaudhuri


Everything Change: an anthology of climate fiction, Arizona State University

Multispecies Cities -- Solarpunk Urban Futures, Edited and introduced by Christoph Ruprecht, Deborah Cleland, Norie Tamura, Rajat Chaudhuri, Sarena Ulibarri, World Weaver Press

Cities of Light – A Collection of Solar Futures, Joey Eschrich and Clark A. Miller (Editors), Arizona State University




Contact Us

Contact us by email:

The Postal Address is:

Department of English and Creative Writing
The Open University
Walton Hall
Milton Keynes

Tel +44-1908-652092