Years ago, the first time I included a book about climate change in one of my university literature classes, I asked for my students’ emotional reactions to what they had just read. The list was what I expected, a familiar litany of distress — until one older student with several children said “love.” Had I misheard? “Love,” she repeated.
I’ve been mulling that response ever since, and I now think that love should be on the shortlist of emotions we associate with climate change. For if it isn’t literally in the air, love is certainly everywhere.
For Valentine’s Day, these love stories are timely:
- “‘I couldn’t date a climate change denier!’ The couples who bond — and split — over love for the planet.” Melissa Godin, The Guardian.
- “‘A partner you can rely on’: Falling in love while the climate changes.” Daisy Simmons, Yale Climate Connections.
- “Finding love in the apocalypse.” Yessenia Funes, Atmos.
- “Why we need more climate change love stories.” Erica Berry, Outside. A teacher’s perspective that includes cli-fi, the desires of readers, and this subhead: “Reading about romance and relationships in speculative fiction about scary futures reminds us that a better world is always worth fighting for.”
Love and its responsibility for caregiving underlie many faiths — love for the creation, for humanity, for our neighbors, and for those most in need:
- “Loving the least of these: Addressing a changing environment.” (National Association of Evangelicals)
- “Falling in love with the Earth.” (Thich Nhat Hanh, statement on climate change for the United Nations, Plum Village)
Love of family often motivates climate activism. Moms Clean Air Force, Climate Dads, and the many grandparent climate action groups are obvious examples. A love of the outdoors is another strong driver:
- “With their beloved sports at risk, outdoor athletes are taking climate action.” Carly Graf, Grist. Here’s the opening sentence: “Jeff Mogavero remembers the exact moment he fell in love with trail running.”
- Sometimes love manifests itself as sorrow and grief, as when the beloved is silenced: “How climate change is muting nature’s symphony.” Joseph Winters, Grist.
Many kinds of love can come together, as when the love of a place, the love of people, and an understanding of global harms merge into a powerful obligation to protect what one loves:
- “What does it mean to love a place?” Kathleen Dean Moore, Riverwalking.com. As Moore writes, “Loving isn’t just a state of being, it’s a way of acting in the world.”
- In a lighter but edgier way, this poem also looks at how love breaks conceptual boundaries: “Love in a time of climate change.” Craig Santos Perez, Poetry Foundation. As Perez’s epigraph notes, this piece is an update of Pablo Neruda’s less edgy 17th love sonnet.