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Date of Graduation
Westbound is a twenty-five chapter novella that aims to demonstrate ways in which creative writers can use climate fiction to overcome psychological barriers to act on climate change. The narrative follows Cassie, a character loosely based on a relative of its author, living in a future version of the United States that has been ravaged by climate change and its indirect consequences.
In the novella, Cassie and her mother Nia set out on a cross-country road trip as a climate disaster looms. The narrative explores their relationship and that with Cassie’s estranged father, the implications of projected ecological changes under the IPCC’s climate models, and the sociopolitical aspects of environmental science.
Each state along their route represents a different collection of predictions under the IPCC’s business as usual scenario. The main character and her mother represent the generation coming of age in the twenty twenties, their future children, and the things these children will grow up without if climate change continues unabated. The author makes an effort to humanize the science of climate change in order to present the data in a way that people will relate and react to.
The author applies strategies discussed in their environmental science and humanities courses at Western to the representations of both climate change and human communities in this piece. Namely, Per Espen Stoknes’ five barriers to act on climate change as published in his novel What We Think About When We Try Not to Think About Global Warming: Toward a New Psychology of Climate Action. The writing is intended to dismantle dissonance, denial, and other barriers to act which have resulted in the failure of the author’s home country and others to commit to comprehensive climate change mitigation. Moreover, the author hopes to create an example of how creative writers passionate about the future of this planet can do the same.
Climate change is not an individual issue and cannot be solved by individual actions alone. However, change on a governmental or even global level requires that large groups of people mobilize to hold their leaders accountable, and creatives have the power to mobilize their audiences toward such action.
Nicolow, Genevieve, "Westbound" (2020). Honors Theses. 3348.
Honors Thesis-Open Access