First, there was Harry Potter. Next the Twilight Saga. It seems that the latest craze to hit the world of young adult fiction is “The Hunger Games”. With legions of border line-obsessed fans, Suzanne Collins’s trilogy depicting a dystopian future in which an affluent Capitol rules over districts in what was once North America has even made it to the big screen. Lionsgate Entertainment is so confident of the success of the film adaptation, which premiers March 22nd at midnight, they have already lined up the premier date for a sequel.
While I at first resisted reading such a bleak book intended for young audiences, I eventually caved and borrowed a copy when confronted with an 8 hour flight. I eventually caved and borrowed a copy. Sucked into the world of Panem, I was horrified, yet fascinated, by Katniss Everdeen’s world. A resident of District 12, located in the coal-rich Appalachian Mountains, she was forced to represent her district in the Hunger Games, an annual televised fight to the death between adolescents from each district. Although the elite exploiting the masses seemed an obvious parallel to the 99 percent versus 1 percent conflict prevalent in today’s news headlines, I noticed a more subtle theme in Collins’s writing as well: the consequences of environmental exploitation.
Katniss spent the majority of her youth in a pristine forest, hunting to feed her family in what can only be described as a true forest-to-table fashion. But those vital skills would not have been necessary if it weren’t for disastrous weather and encroaching seas that broke down government and society, paving the way for Panem’s emergence.
While climate change seems unrelated to governmental stability, the rationing and scarcity that characterizes daily life in Panem is a direct consequence of the harsher environment brought on by climate change. Katniss cares about the people around her, but feels that her ancestors (that means us!) must not have cared much about who came after them, because of the “broken planet” they left behind. While the potential future effects of our actions seem disheartening, confronting the externalities of our actions, as exemplified in “The Hunger Games”, is an important exercise to realize the importance of conservation and sustainability.
Thankfully, Collins does not leave readers without hope. Katniss becomes the accidental symbol of Panem’s revolution, providing a model for young readers who also want to speak up against injustice. While “The Hunger Games” shows the devastating effects of climate change, Katniss serves as a relatable heroine who empowers young readers to enact change before it’s too late.