Entertainment

Climate change for a laugh

A new Ian McEwan novel is always an event, although I must confess that this one is not very new - it was published in 2010. The world (well, me anyway) has been waiting for a long time for the great climate change novel and if anyone can do it, McEwan can.

Ian McEwan is known for his grasp of science and for novels that interweave rational argument and emotion. Enduring Love features a science writer, Saturday a neurosurgeon and now, with Solar, we meet Michael Beard, a Nobel prize-winning physicist.

So how does McEwan tackle this most complex and rather boring subject? Dystopian futures and eco-thrillers have been the main weapons of choice for climate change novelists, but McEwan does something different - he makes us laugh.

Michael Beard is a fat, randy has-been who has done nothing significant since his prize-winning Beard-Einstein Conflation many years ago. Offered a place on an artist's trip to the Arctic to examine the effects of climate change, Beard jumps on a jet to Norway (carbon off-set of course). Soon he is getting his delicate parts caught in a zip while urinating at minus forty degrees and fleeing a hungry polar bear on his skidoo.

Getting on board the solar bandwagon, Beard reassures his business partner, "Here's the good news. The UN estimates that already a third of a million people a year are dying from climate change. Bangladesh is going down because the oceans are warming and expanding and rising. There's drought in the Amazonian rainforest. Methane is pouring out of the Siberian permafrost... Now the eastern Antarctic is going."

Yes, this is black comedy at its best. The boot room on the frozen-in boat where the artists are staying becomes a metaphor for the planet as it descends day by day into further chaos.

"How were they to save the earth," Beard wonders, "when it was so much larger than the boot room?" There is also a laugh-out-loud moment when Beard helps himself to a stranger's chips. This in turn becomes a metaphor for our need to re-examine known facts in light of new evidence.

While Solar might not be the hallelujah moment in fiction that climate change activists would hope for, it does carry an important message - a flawed scientist does not mean that the science is wrong.

You can also just read it for laughs.


Join the Community.

Get your local news, your way.

Stay Connected

Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.

Lismore has diversity Byron had and wants to keep it

(From left) Christopher Woodward, Shanon Robb, Lora-Jean Damen and Sabrina Major model the clothes for the new fashion event Threads which will take place at the Back Alley Gallery. Photo Marc Stapelberg / The Northern Star

Low income earners need to be able to afford to remain in Lismore

Lismore Eisteddfod is in need of funds to secure its future

Rachel Beck  Photo Contributed

Search is on to find new patrons to save iconic event.

A bishop of balance built his flock

SADDENED: Service for Bishop Satterthwaite at Lismore Cathedral

Bishop Satterthwaite was given a warm farewell this week.

Latest deals and offers

Thankful for his life and impetus to become a champion

Kalon is grateful to the rescue helicopter paying a visit to the public school for making the Westpac service its charity of the month.

Lismore has diversity Byron had and wants to keep it

(From left) Christopher Woodward, Shanon Robb, Lora-Jean Damen and Sabrina Major model the clothes for the new fashion event Threads which will take place at the Back Alley Gallery. Photo Marc Stapelberg / The Northern Star

Low income earners need to be able to afford to remain in Lismore

Lismore Eisteddfod is in need of funds to secure its future

Rachel Beck  Photo Contributed

Search is on to find new patrons to save iconic event.

A bishop of balance built his flock

SADDENED: Service for Bishop Satterthwaite at Lismore Cathedral

Bishop Satterthwaite was given a warm farewell this week.

South Lismore Primary’s Miss World hopeful says ‘she can’

SHE CAN: Miss World finalist Janaya Everingham outside her old primary school.

Lismore's Miss World Finalist makes it happen for Variety charity

BUDGET 2016: Tax cuts for firms pulling in up to $10m

Australian Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison speaks at the despatch box during the delivery of the 2016-17 Federal Budget in the House of Representatives at Parliament House in Canberra,

It will cost the federal government $5.3 billion in lost revenue

Maudeville is back, brighter and shinier than ever

DIVA: Maude Boat as MC of the Cabaret Show at a previous Tropical Fruit’s New Year Eve Party in Lismore.

IN A city full of divas, only one reigns supreme: Maude Boate.

Federal Police Defuse Dance Bomb

Australian Federal Police respond to "threat" in Canberra.

Australian Federal Police respond to "threat" in Canberra.

NSW Police join Dance Challenge

NSW Police show their moves at Manly Wharf.

Manly Wharf is the backdrop to NSW Police running-man dance entry.

Scotland Police accept Dance Challenge

NZ Police doing the running man dance.

Australian Federal Police say watch this space but NT Police feel ignored.

How a sacked real estate agent made $725k in four months

Agent is now under investigation by the industry watchdog

VIDEO: Art Deco fan pays $835,000 for Imperial Hotel

No Caption

Iconic "Impy" sold at a bargan price to bidder who loves Art Deco.

RBA warns of future apartment oversupply

Toowoomba: Crest Apartments and Burke & Wills, Ruthven Street ( view from Neil Street) Photo Bev Lacey / The Chronicle

RBA says oversupply of apartments poses risk to household finances