Title

Narrating climate change as a rite of passage

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

3-1-2018

Abstract

Narrative tropes used to tell the climate change story shape ethical action. Hulme has given biblical descriptors to four metaphorical tropes commonly used to shape climate change narratives: lamenting Eden, presaging Apocalypse, building Babel, and celebrating Jubilee. I argue that the metaphor of rites of passage, illustrated paradigmatically by the biblical Exodus narrative, can serve as an overarching narrative metaphor for Hulme’s four tropes while better orienting readers to the ethical challenges of the Anthropocene. Rites of passage guide individuals and communities through significant transitions by focusing attention, orienting individual and collective efforts, and increasing the likelihood of reaching a desired future. Intentionally crafting the climate change story as a rite of passage can clarify how to respond adequately to the challenges of climate disruption. Moreover, linking the rites-of-passage narrative to the Exodus account amplifies the force of the resulting story. Even in secular and pluralistic contexts, stories that draw on religious narratives are compelling and, when read critically, can be adapted and retold to shape morally responsible action.

Publication Name

Climatic Change

Volume Number

147

First Page

343

Last Page

353

Issue Number

1-2

DOI

10.1007/s10584-017-2120-z

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