Climate Change is Violence by Rebecca Solnit

Core Text

Solnit, Rebecca. “Climate Change is Violence.” In The Encyclopedia of Trouble and Spaciousness. Trinity University Press, 2014. (Alternate version available.)


This short essay could be a good beginning text—clear, concise, full of factoids—that emphasizes the slippery environmental rhetoric of both corporations and institutions as well as the ways in which the climate crisis is not a coming event but current and widespread violence. This piece could be good as background and as a text for rhetorical analysis, examining the persuasive methods of Solnit’s essay and how we might draw out implications from them.

Teaching Resources

  • Nixon, Rob. Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor. Harvard, 2013. Nixon’s book focuses on the ways the climate change narrative fails to fit in with the vast majority of the given temporal dimensions of literature—that is, the fast, dramatic narratives of Hollywood. The introduction is an excellent overview of the ways that the climate crisis causes violence for vulnerable populations, and the following chapters explore how this might be addressed in contemporary literature despite the narrative challenges.
  • Malm, Andreas. “The Anthropocene Myth.” Jacobin, 2015. A highly condensed version of the argument found in his book Fossil Capital, Malm argues against the narrative framing / implications of the Anthropocene label, since it erases responsibility and threatens to re-enact exactly what it claims to critique.
  • Chakrabarty, Dipesh. “The Climate of History: Four Theses.” Critical Inquiry vol. 35 no. 2 (Winter 2009), pp. 197-222.
  • Tsing, Anna Lowenhaupt. The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins. Princeton, 2017. A hybrid form that includes both first-person narrative and theory, Tsing critiques the typical narrative framing of progress-then-ruin and suggests a generative third stage of the narrative: that of life among the ruins. A rigorous antidote to overly apocalyptic climate change literature.
  • Sontag, Susan. Regarding the Pain of Others. Picador, 2004. It could be interesting to set this alongside the narrative of climate change. How do we talk about disasters? How does the news mediate our experience of community, of violence toward frontline communities? How do we write about these experiences without exploiting or doing further violence?

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