The climate crisis message in Jamaican environmentalist’s new novel is rooted ‘in love for home’

[Many thanks to Michael O’Neal (Slavery, Smallholding and Tourism) for bringing this item to our attention.] In Global Voices, Emma Lewis interviews Diana McCaulay’s new novel, saying that Daylight Come is the Jamaican author’s “dystopian take on the future.” Here are excerpts of Lewis’s article and interview. [See previous post Daylight Come: a novel by Diana McCaulay.]

“How do you live, when daylight kills?” That’s the question posed in award-winning Jamaican writer and environmental activist Diana McCaulay’s fifth novel, “Daylight Come,” published by Peepal Tree Press on September 24.

The story begins on the imaginary Caribbean island of Bacaju in 2084, where a teen girl and her mother have reached a desperation point, fleeing their city and the devastating conditions brought on by climate change. Hiding from the cruel sun, they head for the hills, unsure of what to expect as they embark on a dramatic bid for survival.

The tale may sound dystopian, but for McCaulay, it hits close to home. Despite their small carbon footprints, Caribbean islands are at the global front lines of climate change. Since mid-May, the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season has produced tropical cyclones at an unprecedented rate, and the region has consistently suffered from hurricanes in the past. It has also endured increasingly persistent and lengthy droughts, water shortages and high temperatures, as well as periods of extreme rainfall.

As critical discussions drew to a close at New York Climate Week, I interviewed McCaulay via email about the complex issues surrounding the climate crisis in the Caribbean context. [. . .]

EL: Communicating about climate change can be quite a challenge. How can we reach different local audiences?

DMC: The language of science is not very useful in communicating a crisis, I’ve found. Science is measured, unfolds slowly and speaks about probabilities and uncertainties, while people want precise predictions. I think the climate crisis message should nest in love for home place, in rootedness, in appreciation of a particular way of life. It should speak about rights and justice and fairness — because it is a profoundly unfair situation that developed countries have constructed high standards of living on fossil fuel energy and now countries who have not enjoyed these standards of living are being asked to NEVER have them.

In terms of reaching local audiences, l learned from my experiences with an anti-litter campaign that music, performance, humour and animation are most effective, but it’s a challenge to communicate danger in that way. The difficulty with climate crisis messaging to the public is the call to action. I don’t agree with making this about individual action, important as that is — you know, the encouragement to save energy and save water— it’s too late for that. The climate crisis is a problem of governments and corporations and economic systems. It’s a problem of power. [. . .]

[Photo of the author by Jonathan Chambers.]

For full interview, see

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