Lydia Millet is no stranger to fiction nor the climate crisis. The author of "A Children's Bible," one of the New York Times' 10 best books of 2020, has published more than a dozen novels. Meanwhile, she's matched her prolific fictional output with a parallel career focused on the environment. She has a degree in environmental policy from Duke University and since 1999 has been a writer and editor for the Center for Biological Diversity. It may come as little surprise then that the critically acclaimed novelist has woven her twin interests into one of the best books of the year and one of the most compelling and grounded depictions of an unfolding climate crisis ever put to page.
"A Children's Bible" avoids the reductive climate "doomerism" mentality that champions hopelessness in the face of environmental collapse that not long ago ensnared another prominent novelist into backlash from the climate community. Instead, Millet confines characters and setting into an intimate world surrounded by a growing climate crisis that accelerates into an immediate threat. Characters cope with their changing world in the complicated, nuanced ways that ring true for those immersed in the actual modern extinction rebellion. Though the timeline and events are paced for a novel, the real life emotions and actions are easily recognizable and the intergenerational divides convey noticeable fractures in our current response. It's the kind of stuff you'd expect from someone living in the very real world fight for climate action for decades.
Lydia joined The Climate Pod to talk to me about why she wanted to explore these differing responses to a climate crisis in "A Children's Bible." We discuss coping mechanisms during a crisis, the role of religion and the false binary created with faith and science, and how actual parenting should be redefined as we watch the steady destruction of the natural world. In this conversation, Lydia and I talked about our own feelings of responsibility, generational inadequacy, rage, and hope for what's possible in the future. I really enjoyed this conversation. I hope you'll check it out.