Contemplating the End with Annie Proulx and Bruce Pascoe
We need to return to Mother Earth. We need to respect her for who she is and respect what she has done and what she wants to do. Thus the Earth wants to repair. We've seen it when people have gone out of their way to do the right thing by Mother Earth, the earth will repair herself. But if we continue disliking her to such a degree that we think she should do what we want then we will kill her. We will kill our mother. – Bruce Pascoe
The story of climate change is an old one, even if we've only recently started talking about it.
American marine biologist and conservationist, Rachel Carson, pointed to the slow march of the Anthropocene more than five decades ago, writing about the quiet poisoning of the earth from the use of synthetic pesticides.
Those early warnings seem almost quaint now as we encounter near-daily examples of the impending crisis of our own creation.
American novelist, Annie Proulx, and Australian Indigenous writer, Bruce Pascoe, spoke with Paul Kennedy at this year's Blue Metropolis Literary Festival in Montreal about the need for writers to confront the climate crisis head-on, and to come up with new structures of storytelling that could sidestep the old man-versus-nature trope.
For both writers, their first personal encounters with climate change had a serious impact on the kind of stories they wanted to tell.
Annie Proulx noted that it was the trees that signalled something was wrong: "I used to walk and hike a lot in the Rockies and the trees in the Rockies are almost all lodgepole pine. I noticed that in the forests, they were dying. They were turning red and brown and then grey."
Proulx says when she mentioned this to forestry people, they insisted it was merely a local phenomenon. But as she travelled further and further out to other states, she saw the dying all around: "They had no reserves of strength left. They were weakened by the warmth."
Bruce Pascoe's first encounter with climate change was in Australia with white-headed pigeons: "We've never had white-headed pigeons, and suddenly they arrived because the fruit that they depended on had grown (locally) as a result of climate change. People look on that as a benign intervention but, really, it's a signal for horror."
Pascoe believes that instead of feeling that all is lost, it's possible to see the climate crisis as an opportunity to change how we think about our spiritual needs, that instead of chasing what sustains us without thinking about its effect on the planet, we can and should think about how our own spiritual growth is tied to the sustainability of the planet.
**This episode was produced by Naheed Mustafa.