The Adaptation of Disaster:

Representations of Environmental Crises in Climate Change Fiction

  • Solvejg Nitzke


Adaptation is a crucial practice, both materially and epistemologically. But especially in regards to the latter, the impact of adaptation processes has not yet received the attention it demands. Knowledge production is a central concern of the so-called Anthropocene, because it lays out the frames in which adaptation to climate change and other global environmental crises are realized (or not). By comparing adaptations of climate change in Michael Crichton’s State of Fear (2004) and Roland Emmerich’s The Day After Tomorrow (2004) as well as Solar by Ian McEwan (2010) and Freedom by Johnathan Franzen (2010), this paper aims at demonstrating how narrative adaptation and material adaptation to climate change are intertwined. In fact, these contrasting narratives share a conviction that the gap between the sciences and the humanities and the ensuing failure of communication (within and outside of academia) plays a crucial part in the failure to understand and adapt to the changing conditions on planet Earth. By regarding adaptation as a negotiating practice that is part of knowledge production and representation, this paper aims to revisit expectations and bias on both sides and to point out that neither science nor fiction is entirely determined by scientists or literary scholars. It will show how analyzing the adaptation of climate change can give insight into the cultural framework necessary for an adaptation to global disaster.