Moderation: Susanne Führer

Whether in the form of drying out soils or certain meteorological events: the changes caused by climate change would first come insidiously, according to German research specialist Eva Horn. (photo alliance / imageBROKER)

Climate change is hard for us to grasp, says cultural scientist Eva Horn, it’s about creeping changes in average values. But fiction can show us what life would be like in a climate-changed world.

Scientists have been telling us for 30 years that climate change is happening. “We have that knowledge, but we needed a schoolgirl and a youth movement to really bring her onto the political scene.” Fridays for Future is a very important movement, says literary and cultural scientist Eva Horn. Above all, we need a new practice. True to the motto: do good and talk about it. Knowledge alone is not enough.

The threat posed by climate change is hard to imagine, because climate change “is an eventless disaster, because the average values ​​initially change slowly”, explains Eva Horn. Whether it is the drought or humidity of an area, the temperature or the frequency of certain weather events – we do not perceive this alone as a disaster, “because it is not an event. , but increases the probability of certain events “. Whether something changes in the oceans does not concern us, but good social policy, secure pensions, jobs, etc.

Understand what we know

The cultural scientist admits that people are cognitively able to think 20 years ahead. So why don’t we change our behavior, why don’t we change our policy? “The question is: are people emotionally capable of taking action 20 years in advance and changing their behavior?

And this for a future that we do not all know. Today, we do not know exactly what the consequences of a “sensible climate policy” will be. It would be necessary to act “in the darkness of a relatively distant future and for those who decide now”.

Tool for the imagination

Fiction cannot and should not educate us to be better people, but it can help us “shed light on a possibility in this darkness.” Fiction explores the question: what if? A remarkable number of disaster films and contemporary novels shed light on “this dark room of danger”.

For example, what if we had a nuclear winter? Cormac McCarthy’s novel “The Road” examines this question, and Eva Horn was very impressed. Because it shows us “down to the smallest, even emotional dimensions of everyday life, what it would mean if the climate changed in such a way that hardly any plants grow”. Fiction: a tool for the imagination. Recognize disasters before they become an event.

Eva Horn teaches modern German literature as a professor at the University of Vienna. Publications among others: “Future as a catastrophe” (2014), with Hannes Bergthaller: “The Anthropocene for Introduction” (2019)