Good Grief: Frankenstein Is Actually A Story About Climate Change Or Something

Members of the Cult of Climastrology love linking their pet cause to just about everything, be it real environmental issues, holidays, or shows like Game of Thrones. Now we get this from Slate, which is the slightly less sibling to Salon. Here’s nutter Warmist Kent Linthicum

How a Volcano Helped Inspire Frankenstein
The famous novel is actually a tale of climate change.

Two hundred years ago this June, during a dreadfully cold and wet summer, Mary Shelley began writing Frankenstein. Since then Frankenstein has become iconic, spawning a legion of adaptations and reinterpretations. The Oxford English Dictionary even includes entries for the verb “to frankenstein,” which means to stitch something together in a grotesque fashion, and the prefix “franken-” to make anything monstrous. The novel is shorthand for the dangers of unfettered scientific progress. But the unforgettable creation scene, depicted in movies with frenzied screams of “It’s alive!” and arcing electricity, doesn’t happen until one-third of the way through the novel. If you’ve never read the book, you might expect the story to begin with Dr. Frankenstein recounting his mistakes or heading off to school to study anatomy. Instead, we start with Robert Walton, an Arctic explorer. The Arctic exploration might seem random, but it makes more sense in the light of the environmental crisis unfolding in the Northern Hemisphere when Shelley was drafting the novel.

Have you seen the movie Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, starring Kenneth Branagh and Robert De Niro? Yeah, that’s closest to the book.

Mary Shelley was an astute observer of the world; her journals reveal a young woman with a powerful drive to learn, reading a range of political, literary, philosophical, and scientific works. For Frankenstein, she seems to have been inspired by a series of electrical experiments and new microscopic discoveries to imagine whether it would be possible to infuse the spark of life into dead flesh. But her observations were not limited to the world of books—they extended to the environment around her to include the dark forests of eastern France, the sublime peaks of the Alps, and the miserable weather of 1816. In her preface to the 1831 edition of Frankenstein, Shelley comments that the summer of 1816 in Geneva, where she was staying, was memorably unpleasant: “it proved a wet, ungenial summer, and incessant rain often confined us for days to the house.” This dreary weather wasn’t a chance occurrence—it was just one small manifestation of larger environmental changes.

Between April 5 and 11 of 1815, the volcano Tambora erupted in Indonesia, more than 7,500 miles away from Geneva. Tambora’s eruption is one of the largest in recorded human history, 100 times more powerful than Mount St. Helens’ 1980 explosion. The eruption pumped a massive quantity of sulfur into the atmosphere, radically cooling the Northern Hemisphere by 0.7 degrees Fahrenheit to 1.26 degrees Fahrenheit.* In essence, people living between 1815 and 1816 experienced an extreme, miniature global climate change event.

Yes, one of cold and wet, to add on to the already cold period known as the Little Ice Age. And Kent tells us all about the problems of a cool period. But, then we get to

Today, archival technologies allow us to understand the human dimension of climate changes throughout history: How have people in different times and places reacted to a dynamic, deadly world? Reading arcane and previously lost documents, like stories chronicling the summer of 1816, gives us the opportunity to understand the complex nature of our world, to remember what we might have forgotten, and to consider how our communities and societies can be more resilient in the face of a changing climate. The future will always be unpredictable, but every day is an opportunity to learn more from the past and put that knowledge to work. A volcano, a novel, and a smattering of newspaper reports can reveal a possible gap in our thinking about climate change today—the bedrock importance of food security and the turmoil shortages will cause, because the difference between sustenance and starvation can be a matter of degrees.

The implication here is, of course, that the current warm period will cause immeasurable harm and misery, and, since it is all Mankind’s fault, we need to totally change everything we do. And they use a book about cold and wet to illustrate the coming heat and dry.

Crossed at Pirate’s Cove. Follow me on Twitter @WilliamTeach.

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