Climate and the Personal Essay — A Reading List
The Earth Institute recently announced Mary Annaïse Heglar as its first writer-in-residence, a newly launched joint initiative of the Earth Institute and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). Heglar, a noted climate justice essayist, will spend the next six months at Columbia exploring the intersection of climate science, art and literature.
Starting this Friday, Heglar will be leading a reading group for Columbia students that explores climate change topics through personal essays. Each week, students will read a few chosen pieces around a specific theme, with a particular emphasis on emotional depth and marginalized communities.
The climate crisis may be scientific and political, but it is also deeply emotional and personal, and Heglar seeks to create a safe space for students to explore that emotionality. Students will meet weekly to discuss the chosen essays, and will be encouraged to journal and invited to share their own writing. According to Heglar, “I’m hoping that participants, including myself, will be able to see ourselves in these stories and use that reflection to hone our own voices.”
While this seminar is only open to Columbia students, others can follow along. The nine-week reading list is below.
Week 1: Climate Grief
Week 2: The Problem with Hope
- We Need Courage, Not Hope, to Face Climate Change, Kate Marvel
- Is it Wrong to be Hopeful about Climate Change? Diego Arguedas Ortiz
Week 3: If Not Hope, What?
- The Case for Climate Rage, Amy Westervelt
- But the Greatest of These is Love, Mary Annaïse Heglar
- Time to Panic, David Wallace Wells
Week 4: We’re Not Recreating the Wheel
- Letter from a Birmingham Jail, Martin Luther King
- The Fire Next Time, James Baldwin
- Climate Change Ain’t the First Existential Threat, Mary Annaïse Heglar
Week 5: Who’s Missing?
- What Listening Means in the Time of the Climate Crisis, Tara Houska
- Perhaps the World Ends Here, Julian Brave NoiseCat
- Climate Darwinism Makes Disabled People Expendable, Imani Barbarin
Week 6: There Are No Heroes
- When the Hero is the Problem, Rebecca Solnit
Week 7: Out with the Guilt
- Who is the We in We Are Causing Climate Change, Genevieve Geunther
- In Defense of Eco-hypocrisy, Sami Grover
- On Being a Climate Person, Eric Holthaus
Week 8: The Great Impotence
- The End Times Are Here and I’m at Target, Hayes Brown
- What if We Stopped Pretending the Climate Apocalypse Can Be Stropped, Jonathan Franzen
Week 9: What Now?
- Home is Always Worth It, Mary Annaïse Heglar
- In 2030, We Solved the Climate Emergency. Here’s How, Eric Holthaus
- Loving a Vanishing World, Emily Johnston
Students interested in attending the reading group can reach out to Cynthia Thomson at email@example.com.