In this anthology, leading literary writers reflect on how climate change has altered their lives, revealing the personal and haunting consequences of this global threat. In the opening essay, National Book Award finalist Lydia Millet mourns the end of the Saguaro cacti in her Arizona backyard due to drought. Later, Omar El Akkad contemplates how the rise of temperatures in the Middle East is destroying his home and the wellspring of his art. Gabrielle Bellot reflects on how a bizarre lionfish invasion devastated the coral reef near her home in the Caribbean—a precursor to even stranger events to come. Traveling through Nebraska, Terese Svoboda witnesses cougars running across highways and showing up in kindergartens.
The nineteen contributors to The World as We Knew It focus on...intimate and immediate signs of climate change ... The anthology’s resonant and introspective essays grieve what we’ve already lost, honor what we still have, and prepare us for whatever may come next ... As much as The World as We Knew It documents climate change on the personal level, it also explores what it may be like to accept the consequences of our actions—and our costly inaction.
Even in essays that skew strongly toward despair, powerlessness never fully eliminates personal responsibility ... Near the end of her essay, Subramanian writes, 'We have returned to the times of mythology, and we need new stories to survive.' The World as We Knew It is an attempt to write these stories, to hold a mirror up to our lives at a crucial moment in our collective history, and reflect the slew of compounding, often conflicting fears that characterize it. In many ways, storytelling while on the precipice of global devastation is no different from storytelling at any moment in our history. Delve into ancient myths and you’ll quickly realize that the human condition has always been marked by an uneasy awareness that even the most rigid systems are subject to the whims of fate ... Very occasionally, in the anthology, those anxieties are replaced by something else—a sense of peace and beauty that springs forth not despite the horrors of our world but because of them ... When our power and powerlessness can coexist without us feeling the paralyzing weight of their illogic. When living on a dying planet seems possible.