Climate research can be hard to understand, especially as our understanding of humanity’s impact on the world grows. Despite years of work to coordinate climate and energy research with public policy efforts, there remains a communication gap between researchers and policymakers. Some academics have turned to creative sources to translate what existing research tells us about climate problems and policy responses: fairy tale characters.
These academics stress that they are not trying to downplay the importance of energy research or insult readers’ or policymakers’ intelligence. Instead, they build on the idea that storytelling is central to how humans have traditionally understood the world and confronted it; extending this idea to climate change to help policymakers and the broader public understand potential adaptations to it.
For example, their work describes renewable energy as mermaids because it has attracted policymakers’ focus. However, just like the mermaids whose siren call lured sailors to rocky shores, the attraction of renewables often distracts policymakers in forcing a singular focus on infrastructure and supply that neglects escalating consumption patterns and demand.
Similarly, plastics could be described as witches because they are so complicated. While it is now well-known that plastics are often harmful, what is less known is that they were developed to replace products that were more harmful or less durable, such as enamel and ivory. As the world has come to see good witches, bad witches, and everything in between, the authors suggest we should think of plastics, and policy responses, in a similarly nuanced way. The issue is not so much about plastic itself, but how we use and dispose of it.