Mitch Johnson studied English Literature and Creative Writing at UEA and is now a published children’s author. His books expose injustices of the world whilst still being fun and accessible to young readers.
In October, Johnson conducted a talk as part of the Norwich Science Festival, discussing the power of children’s literature, particularly climate fiction. Children’s fiction has a rich history of discussing environmental destruction, which Johnson points out may be due to the prevalence of animal characters, dealing with hard topics in fun, comfortable ways.
In his talk, Johnson recommends a wide range of books, including The Giving Tree, The Last Bear, and Green Rising. These books all focus on climate change or taking the world’s natural resources for granted, and in discussing The Lorax compares the versatility with the need with our overuse of plastic. What stands out to Johnson is how The Lorax places the responsibility in the hands of the reader, and the idea of hope it finishes with. The Last Bear uses real science and statistics to not only inspire fiction, but to help it really make an impact.
Johnson has worked on several projects surrounding cli-fi and climate change, including The Living Book, an immersive experience which inspired young children to express their views on the changing world. The project explores the future of our planet, imagined by those who will have to live with our consequences. It is an incredibly moving and emotional project, because the desperation felt is palpable.
In discussing his own works, he described Pop as exposing the “topsy turvy logic of capitalism” and shedding light on the dangers of allowing one corporation to have so much power. Johnson stated that he never realised how affected he would be by the science he read in researching his upcoming book Spark. Many of us ignore the fact that our offspring will be witnessing the loss of resources, and the loss of species which we have taken for granted, but cli-fi makes us face these issues head on. Johnson stated, “the true power of cli-fi is to put a reader in a place where they can reflect on the impact we’re having on the people coming after us.”
Whilst Johnson wants his books to be a light on the problems caused by mankind, he ultimately wants to contain an element of hope. He wants a reminder that things can change if only we step up, and that, yes, things are heading into destruction, but there’s always hope for a better world.