The gripping Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins, set in a post-apocalyptic North America ravaged by global warming, comes to theaters across the nation at midnight. In the series’ world, climate change is mostly forgotten history, the cause of the great societal collapse that led to the totalitarian society of Panem:
He tells the history of Panem, the country that rose up out of the ashes of a place that was once called North America. He lists the disasters, the droughts, the storms, the fires, the encroaching seas that swallowed up so much of the land, the brutal war for what little sustenance remained. The result was Panem, a shining Capitol ringed by thirteen districts, which brought peace and prosperity to its citizens.
The tale of adolescence, bread and circuses amid economic injustice, and the trauma of war is beloved by a generation of young adults who are living themselves in a science-fictional world. No-one under the age of 35 has been alive when the planet’s temperature was normal. The coming decades, as climate change accelerates due to the exponential growth of fossil-fuel burning, will make the recent extreme floods, fires, droughts, and storms of the early 21st century a fond memory. But the authoritarian, apocalyptic world of the Hunger Games is avoidable — if its generation of readers makes wiser choices than those who now control the wealth of the world and are deciding to let it burn.
Torie Bosch writes that the Hunger Games is part of a wave of climate-change young-adult fiction, including Birthmarked and Delirium. “Ship Breaker, Dark Life, Exodus, The Other Side of the Island, the Shadow Children books, The Blending Time, The Declaration — all are dystopic young-adult novels set in worlds transformed, to varying degrees, by climate change, resource scarcity, population growth, and other environmental disasters. In many cases, the climate change is mentioned only briefly, but it is always there in the background, explaining how the United States, the United Kingdom, and other free countries in which these stories are set could devolve into authoritarianism.”