The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change(IPCC) Report details an overview of climate change, its potential impacts, risks, and mitigation and adaptation measures. The IPCC release a report annually, but not much credence is given to it and in a world plagued by the harrowing consequences of climate change, the dystopian vision depicted in Suzanne Collins's “The Hunger Games” series serves as a haunting reminder of the fragility of our future. While Collins’ novels shed light on the brutality of a totalitarian regime, they also provide a platform to reflect on the pressing issue of climate change. This opinion piece explores the parallels between the Hunger Games and our fight against climate change, highlighting the urgency of addressing this global crisis.
The IPCC Report as an announcement of the Games:
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change releases a synthesis report annually to “announce” a scientific perspective of climate risks and mitigation. Similarly to the Hunger Games, the Capitol announces the Games and its terms and structure every year, and it basically states how people will be killed. In the IPCC report, there is an emphasis on the risks because most of their reports highlight that time is not on our side. The information from the IPCC also plays an essential role in international negotiations on climate change. The IPCC's mission is to assess the thousands of scientific papers published each year by experts who volunteer their time as IPCC authors. This report aims to present a comprehensive overview of climate change, its impacts, future risks, and ways to reduce those risks through adaptation and mitigation. This year's report explicitly states, “Key barriers to adaptation are limited resources, lack of private sector and citizen engagement, insufficient mobilisation of finance (including for research), low climate literacy, lack of political commitment, limited research and slow and low uptake of adaptation science, and low sense of urgency.” The report emphasises that by 2060, global green gas emissions, “have and will continue to increase.” Despite the explicit statements that humans, plants and wildlife are and will be at a significant loss and that a dystopia is less fictional and more of a reality, people and governments still lack proactiveness.
The Capitol as an Analogous Power Structure:
Just as the Capitol held absolute control over the twelve districts in Panem, the disproportionate power dynamics in The Hunger Games mirror the global political landscape surrounding climate change. The industrialised nations, analogous to the Capitol, hold the reins of power, dictating policies while exploiting the natural resources of developing countries. These include superpowers like the United States and Russia against countries in the Global South, such as Africa, Latin America, and Asia. In the case of Russia, climate policies are constructed and shaped by CEO Igor Sechin of Rosneft, Russia's state-owned oil company. This poses a significant threat to climate change. He opposes the ‘green’ alternatives to oil, such as natural gas, as he believes they will cause even more harm to the world; instead, he asserts that oil consumption will increase, and Russia should monetise this idea.
Furthermore, the Trump Administration engaged in a lot of economy-boosting policies. Despite promoting self-reliance, his “Make America Great Again” campaign had a sizeable economic foundation where the Trump Administration emphasised financial relationships with countries and dismantled previous climate policies and Obama-era environmental rules. There is an implementation gap where we see the climate goals from the Obama administration not carried through by Trump; he rolled back many environmental regulations and deconstructed climate policies related to clean water and air, toxic chemicals, and wildlife. So even though the Biden Administration has started to reinstate some climate policies, he has had to almost rebuild from the time lost. These actions perpetuate a vicious cycle of environmental degradation, leaving marginalised communities to bear the brunt of the consequences.
Districts and Environmental Inequity:
The stark contrast between the opulent Capitol and the impoverished districts reflects the alarming wealth inequality that exacerbates the impacts of climate change. Vulnerable communities such as developing countries, mainly those in the Global South, like the districts in fictional Panem, face the harshest consequences of global warming, despite contributing the least to its causes. Rising sea levels, extreme weather events, and agricultural disruption disproportionately affect low-income regions, perpetuating social and economic disparities. Despite their local nature, environmental injustices are also global in scope. As a result, ecological debt and unequal trade have emerged. Exports of raw materials from least-developed countries are sold at unsustainable rates and without adequate compensation for local or global externalities.
Furthermore, rich countries provide disproportionate free access to environmental space at the expense of others. A typical example is the creation of national parks. The Hunger Games reminds us of the urgent need to address these inequities and prioritise climate justice.
The Reaping and Sacrifice of Marginalized Communities:
The ritualistic reaping in The Hunger Games, where children are chosen to fight for survival, mirrors the sacrifices that marginalised communities endure due to climate change. Indigenous peoples, coastal communities, low-income urban communities, and small-scale farmers often find themselves on the front lines, facing displacement, loss of livelihoods, and even the loss of lives. In developing countries, climate change also leads to a higher threat of diseases where warmer temperatures can induce malaria, for instance. Moreover, extreme weather created by climate change can also cause food and water insecurity and lead to higher displacement of people, forming fragile and conducive environments for conflict. The dystopian spectacle of The Hunger Games serves as a poignant allegory for the sacrifice of these communities in the face of environmental devastation.
The Mockingjay as a Symbol of Resistance:
Collins's novels present the Mockingjay as a symbol of defiance and hope, rallying the districts against the oppressive Capitol. In the fight against climate change, grassroots movements, young activists, and international organisations like the United Nations are vital in challenging the status quo, raising awareness, and pressuring governments to implement sustainable policies. Russia and the US are two realist states that actively pursue their interests and, due to their hegemony, enforce international laws among weaker non-hegemonic states within international institutions like the United Nations. Russia and the US are highly polarised states despite representing a global institution that is supposed to promote collective welfare. Despite that, what connects them is the United Nations Security Council, where they are two out of 5 permanent members. This means that they have a legal authority to create binding resolutions which all member states of the UN will have to follow; however, ways to tackle the climate crisis often need to be prioritised in the UNSC despite it being all-encompassing even in peace and security issues.
Lessons from the Hunger Games:
“The Hunger Games” novels remind us that the consequences of climate change are not fictional but a tangible reality. The dystopian world of Panem serves as a chilling warning of what awaits us if we fail to address the climate crisis. Like Katniss Everdeen, we must find the courage to challenge the oppressive systems that perpetuate environmental degradation and fight for a sustainable future. “The Hunger Games” novels provide a powerful lens through which to view the pressing issue of climate change. They offer a sobering reminder of the urgent need for global action to combat this crisis. The parallels between the oppressive Capitol and the international power structures perpetuating climate injustice are undeniable. By embracing the spirit of the Mockingjay, advocating for climate justice, and prioritising the well-being of marginalised communities, we can collectively strive towards a future where the real-world Panem remains a distant nightmare, and sustainable harmony becomes our reality.
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