McSweeney’s and Natural Resources Defense Council Imagine the Planet’s Future

NRDC scientists advised 10 fiction writers on original climate-focused stories that span the globe and comprise the literary journal’s 58th issue.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA — McSweeney’s Issue 58: 2040 A.D., out December 3, is a speculative near-future climate fiction issue created in collaboration with NRDC. Each story in the issue is set in the year 2040, imagining what the world might look like, based on the dire warnings issued by Global Warming of 1.5 °Ca special report by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Among the contributors are Pulitzer Prize–finalists Tommy Orange and Luis Alberto Urrea and Man Booker Award–shortlisted author Elif Shafak. The hardcover issue includes a cover and full-color interior art by Wesley Allsbrook.

McSweeney’s Issue 58: 2040 A.D
Credit: Cover art by Wesley Allsbrook

“Our network of writers imagined 2040 in arresting detail and with authentic emotion," said Amanda Uhle, executive director of McSweeney’s. "Their work is even stronger because of the thoughtful input from NRDC scientists who added facts and context that will deepen readers’ experiences with these engaging, important stories.” 

“Climate advocates and storytellers aim to move people to think and act differently, and we hope that through the lens of fiction, readers develop a better understanding of the totality of climate change and feel empowered to take action,” said Susan Casey-Lefkowitz, NRDC's chief program officer. “This unique collaboration with McSweeney’s was fortified by science, but the imagination of the artists is what helps readers visualize what our future world could be like because of climate change.”

After reading Global Warming of 1.5°C, the editorial staff of McSweeney’s began to wonder how fiction might be able to help in comprehending its vast, staggering projections. They sought partnership from NRDC for their expertise on the topic. To provide the scientific guidance, NRDC staff paired each author with a scientist or advocate. “The projections in the IPCC report feel so incomprehensible when read in quick succession,” said Quarterly editor Claire Boyle. “We wanted to focus on a few predictions from the report, slow them down and tease out their everyday, personal implications. It’s those details that round out these stories, making their worlds feel lived-in and therefore more imaginable. We must be able to see the problem—not just hear it but really populate it—before we can make the seismic shifts necessary to solve it.”

Other contributors to McSweeney’s Issue 58 include Claire G. Coleman, Birna Anna Björnsdóttir, Abbey Mei Otis, Asja Bakić, Rachel Heng, Kanishk Tharoor, and Mikael Awake. Of the issue, cofounder of Bill McKibben said, “Solar power, wind power, the power of the imagination—it’s going to take lots of energy for us to grapple with the challenge we’re facing, and some of it is on vivid display in these pages.”

Issue 58 will launch at a free release event and panel discussion in Chicago on December 2 at The Tank @ Chicago Athletic Association Hotel. Luis Alberto Urrea will read from his piece from the issue and then be joined by NRDC’s Rob Moore for a discussion on the impact of climate fiction. The evening will be moderated by WBEZ—Chicago Public Radio’s Shannon Heffernan. Register to attend here.

To purchase a copy of McSweeney's Issue 58: 2040 A.D., click here and use discount code "NRDC" to get 15 percent off.



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The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit at