Authors for #ClimateVisionaries project

Helen Phillips on our Climate in Crisis

Flash fiction for the #ClimateVisionaries Artists' Project for Greenpeace

by Helen Phillips

even adding extra concrete to the foundation can’t prevent the inevitable; still, newlyweds lie in bed and drink coffee and paint walls, pretending they’re starting a stable life together

Helen Phillips, Author and contributor to our #ClimateVisionaries Artists' Project

Photographer: David Barry

Drought #7

used to be snow here, everything white and firm and ice; then mud came peeking through, and, mesmerized by the novelty, we surrounded it, exclaiming, So this must be spring! for we’d only read about spring; aware of how humans are supposed to feel about spring, we waited eagerly for something green to appear, but instead the mud spread; we retreated to our homes, shamefully longing for snow; later, we noticed our floorboards becoming unstable beneath our feet, and rushing outside we saw that all the houses were sinking into the mud—but sinking very gradually, and our lives continue rather normally, with only minor inconveniences: we yank our mailboxes up from the mud every morning, trade our delicate snow-boots for mail-order galoshes, hurry after our babies whenever they sneak outside (we find them floundering and gurgling, delighted, sinking, mud wedged between their rolls of fat); meanwhile, the wrought-iron lampposts lining our streets (pet project of the Beautification Committee) become unmoored and crash down, their frosted glass globes shattering, leaving shards in the mud; the playground sinks quicker than anything, but the monkey bars remain, now only an inch high, and our resourceful children create games that involve hopping across the metal bars; the graveyard disappears; in the library the books are slimy with mud; and then comes one particularly discouraging moment: a Flexible Flyer sled, capable of making sleek sounds upon fresh snow, appears in a sinking public trashcan, its runners thick with mud, as dead as a sled can be; we try to go forth, we do!; leading their daughters down the aisle, wishing desperately to distract them from the mud on their lacy trains, fathers whisper Seeing a bride is like seeing a unicorn; grooms carry brides over reinforced thresholds, but even adding extra concrete to the foundation can’t prevent the inevitable; still, newlyweds lie in bed and drink coffee and paint walls, pretending they’re starting a stable life together. Eventually, though, it becomes impossible to ignore the fact that everything shall vanish, and we recall that there

— 

As we begin this critical new year in the fight against climate change, Greenpeace is giving over space on our channels to authors and artists working within the climate crisis. Acclaimed author Lauren Groff prompted artists and thinkers to write essays and art about climate change for us, and so every day this month we’ll have a new piece from that project that addresses, in some form, what it means to create in the midst of this crisis. The forces fueling climate change have the most powerful networks in history pumping out their devastating propaganda at unimaginable scale. It’s going to take everything we have from all of us – imagination equal to the task – to create the climate we’ll need to stop the crisis.

We need these voices and these visions, but they won’t be enough. We need you, too. We encourage you to check back on the Climate Visionaries Artists’ Project every day to see what’s new, and to join the conversation by sharing your work on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram and tagging it #ClimateVisionaries.


Helen Phillips

By Helen Phillips

Helen Phillips is the author of five books, including, most recently, the novel The Need, a 2019 National Book Award nominee. Her collection Some Possible Solutions received the 2017 John Gardner Fiction Book Award. Her novel The Beautiful Bureaucrat, a New York Times Notable Book of 2015, was a finalist for the New York Public Library’s Young Lions Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. She is the recipient of a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award and the Italo Calvino Prize. Her work has appeared in The Atlantic and the New York Times, and on Selected Shorts. She is an associate professor at Brooklyn College and lives in Brooklyn with her husband, artist Adam Douglas Thompson, and their children.

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