Book Review: I'm With The Bears

I’m With the Bears: Short Stories From a Damaged Planet
Edited by Mark Martin
(Verso Books, 200 pp., October 2011)

The environmentalist John Muir once said, “When it comes to a war between the races, I’m with the bears.”

I’m With the Bears: Short Stories from a Damaged Planet isn’t environmental or activist non-fiction, but creative fiction addressing climate change. The book features stories by 10 international authors, including award-winners like Margaret Atwood, Paolo Bacigalupi, T. C. Boyle and Kim Stanley Robinson.
In the introduction, Bill McKibben, an environmentalist, educator and author, recognizes that, for too long, scientists have borne the responsibility for communicating the urgency of climate change. They’ve been reporting facts, issuing warnings and raising red flags, yet are continually ignored, he argues.
I’m With the Bears takes a different approach. Instead of listing the facts yet again, the book attempts to convey how the effects of climate change will feel.

For the most part, the stories are succsesful. Bacigalupi’s story of water shortages in the Southwest U.S. is painfully realistic. Boyle’s opening tale of eco-activists is both inspiring and heart-wrenching. Even those who channel the sci-fi genre do well in depicting Earth as a scary, resource-depleted shell of its current self—a situation more accurate than readers may want to admit.

While several stories feel forced, as a whole, the book is a powerful collection and challenging read. With some luck, perhaps it will help communicate the climate change message to a wider audience.

—Liz Pacheco