The Hunger Games and Other Young-Adult Books Tackling Climate Change

What's to come?
March 21 2012 11:09 AM

Climate Change in The Hunger Games

How dystopian young-adult fiction is tackling the social consequences of global warming.

A still from The Hunger Games.
Jennifer Lawrence plays Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games movie

© 2011 Lionsgate. All rights reserved.

See all of Slate’s coverage of The Hunger Games here.

Torie Bosch Torie Bosch

Torie Bosch is the editor of Future Tense, a project of Slate, the New America Foundation, and Arizona State that looks at the implications of new technologies. 

 

This week, the first film based on the blockbuster young-adult book trilogy The Hunger Games will open, crowning its stars heartthrobs and, likely, making Lionsgate, its studio, a mint.

Much discussion has focused on The Hunger Games as commentary on the popularity of reality television; actress Jennifer Lawrence, who stars as the temperamental heroine Katniss Everdeen, said as much in a recent interview. But barely mentioned in the film—if at all—is another, subtler lesson currently in vogue among young-adult fiction: the societal implications of climate change.

For those who have remained immune to The Hunger Games’ hype (and that’s just silly—read the books already!), Suzanne Collins’ story revolves around a cruel yearly pageant held in the country of Panem: One boy and one girl from each of 12 “districts” scattered through what used to be the United States are sent to battle to the death in a reality TV competition. Twenty-three will die; one will survive to live a life of luxury. We’re told that the games were instituted by the leaders of the Capitol, which governs Panem, to keep the district residents docile: The forced sacrifice of their children reminds them that they are allowed to live only so that they may provide the Capitol with goods and entertainment, panem et circenses.

Advertisement

In the first book of the trilogy, we witness the Reaping, the ceremony in which the boy and girl from each district are chosen in a brutal lottery. The mayor

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.

Panem, then, is what happens to North America’s democracies in a post-climate-change world.

TODAY IN SLATE

Doublex

Crying Rape

False rape accusations exist, and they are a serious problem.

Scotland Learns That Breaking Up a Country Is Hard to Do

There’s a Way to Keep Ex-Cons Out of Prison That Pays for Itself. Why Don’t More States Use It?

The Music Industry Is Ignoring Some of the Best Black Women Singing R&B

Can Democrats Keep Counting on Republicans to Offend Women as a Campaign Strategy?

Culturebox

Theo’s Joint and Vanessa’s Whiskey

No sitcom did the “Very Special Episode” as well as The Cosby Show.

Television

The Other Huxtable Effect

Thirty years ago, The Cosby Show gave us one of TV’s great feminists.

Cliff Huxtable Explains the World: Five Lessons From TV’s Greatest Dad

Why Television Needs a New Cosby Show Right Now

  News & Politics
The World
Sept. 19 2014 11:36 AM Breaking Up Countries Is Still Hard to Do
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 19 2014 12:09 PM How Accelerators Have Changed Startup Funding
  Life
The Vault
Sept. 19 2014 12:08 PM The CIA Used to Have a Commute-By-Canoe Club. One Member's Memories
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 11:33 AM Planned Parenthood Is About to Make It a Lot Easier to Get Birth Control
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 19 2014 12:10 PM Watch the Trailer for Big Eyes, a Tim Burton Movie About People With Normal-Sized Eyes
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 11:40 AM Apple Invented the Perfect Way to Handle Your Giant New Phone
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 19 2014 11:33 AM The Curious Incident of the Supernova in the Nighttime
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.