Nature’s World Cries Out for More Eco-Fiction Writers to Save Our Planet
“To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known…On a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.” Carl Sagan
Ecology entered a broader cultural attitude in the 1960’s and 1970’s when people became more interested in natural environmental issues and species within human connections.
A variety of eco-fiction literature developed many branches and styles to be found in many genres such as mainstream, westerns, mystery, romance, realism, science fiction and fantasy.
This collaborative genre could be any fictional landscape that was based on ecological principles which became the setting, the plot and the theme of the story. The nebulae of Nature from the smallest cells to the largest lifeforms became alive as talking, feeling characters with human attributes and emotions. Their message was to set the right standards of respecting natural order, conservation and sustainability.
So what kind of ecological principles can be embedded into eco-fiction story?
You can talk about Nature in terms of redundancy without ego, diversity with connections, and adaptations for survival. You can express amazement at nature’s master plan of organization from the nematodes to the nimbus clouds. Without this two-hydrogen-one-oxygen molecule, any Earth life process wouldn’t exist. You can talk about responsibility to common goals, a democratic pattern of individualism and cooperation played out in ecological terms. What about the human factors of intervention, exploration or exploitation?
In fact, you can become more specific and talk about the reality of 4 levels in an ecosystem with plants and animals you see; but you must also involve nonliving elements (air and water) and microorganisms. Microorganisms include the bacteria, algae, fungi, and protozoa that are usually seen only with a microscope, but they must not be ignored because of their vital roles in decomposition, oxygen production and symbiotic relationships with plants so they can grow to serve as food for animals and humans.
For example, nitrogen gas (N2) makes up 80% of the Earth’s atmosphere and is one of the primary nutrients critical for the survival of all living organisms. It is required for DNA, proteins and chlorophyll. But nitrogen gas is largely inaccessible to most organisms, and must be converted into ammonia (NH3) and nitrates (NH4) before it can be used by plants as food.
Enter the nitrifying bacteria which transform nitrogen into an oxidative state for plant roots to absorb…the essential nitrification cycle.
Now, on one hand, you can read a complex scientific treatise about this transformation or you can meet a nitrifying bacteria who explains his actions and his roles in the ecosystem. Fiction, yes, but science based as well with far reaching implications.
Or, you can read a scientific volume or two about the carbon cycle and how carbon compounds can make a series of conversions in the environment, from incorporating carbon dioxide gas into living plant cells by photosynthesis, and returning as a gas through respiration, or decaying dead organisms, and the burning of fossil fuels.
Or, your story line can introduce a hydrocarbon molecule composed from the elements carbon and hydrogen who can explain his role from coal and crude oil to making natural gas, plastics, pesticides, even cosmetics and medicines. His experience shows how the burning of hydrocarbons produces greenhouse gases which in turn depletes the ozone layer and cause climate change. Fictional character simplified, yes, but with a huge convoluted impact on the environment and ecosystems.
In summary, we need more eco-fiction stories that can talk about the relationship between natural settings and human communities.
Their characters need to inhabit an ecosystem based on ecological principles that call attention to act responsibly to be good ethical stewards of the Earth.
They need to share the reality of microorganisms, photosynthesis, food webs, carbon dominance, pollution, and changing weather patterns as first-person experiences.
We must hear their joys, fears and hopes. We must pay heed to their warnings of dangers and not ignore their messages.
Also, most importantly, we need stories that show what happens when anti-ecological principles are followed; such as, believing the only bond to nature is based on cash exchanges or using nature’s bounty as individual gifts, not for common purpose. There are ecological threats everywhere from tropical forest to coral reefs to extinction of animals, once gone, forever.
People need more first-hand stories about global warming, culture diaspora, survival of the weakest links, advocacy to protect our unique natural world and create a mythology we are all connected…what happens to one of us, happens to all of us.
It’s strange to say that the term eco-fiction has never been a media sensation and therefore has not become “com-modified or capitalizable, lending to its wildness.”
Maybe it’s time to change that to help save our planet.
What kind of nature story would you like to hear or write? What are your fears about our planet?
PS: Interested in writing a paper about eco-fiction, or even teaching it? Check out authors and resources here.