Monday, October 29, 2007

The Age of Climate Change

Reading Thomas Friedman's Op-Ed column in the Sunday New York Times this weekend reminds me that I have had the thought, in the course of this research project, that this is the age of climate change. Friedman's column suggests the ways in which an emerging knowledge of and debate about climate change is infiltrating the consciousness of everyday Americans. A couple of overly warm days here, a couple of forest fires and strong hurricanes there, and suddenly one becomes more attuned to the weather and the impact of human behavior on the environment.

Perhaps not so coincidentally, there are two books among the ones that I have read for this project set in Alaska; together, these books provide support for the notion that whatever the reasons, climate change is becoming a significant feature of the contemporary world. The Trap, by John Smelcer, references the changing patterns of hunting in rural Alaska, and the narrower and narrower seasons for trapping. Eagle Blue, by Michael D'Orso, suggests the same, and conveys well the native Alaskan perspective that the increased commercialization of Alaska, and the rest of the world, is undoubtedly behind the changes in temperature and season. As D'Orso points out, for native Alaskans, climate change is not a subject of debate; it is a fact of life.

It will be interesting to see, now that I am about halfway through my reading for this project, whether or not climate change emerges again as a subject of discussion. Other themes are clearly more prominent in contemporary young adult literature--fear and cultural diffusion, in particular--but climate change seems to be there as well, lurking in the background, making me wonder, on this incredibly balmy October day in Chicago, what the future will bring.

For more on climate change, view the video below, or go to Booklist Online to see a list of recent books for youth that discuss this subject.

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