20 Mar

Game of Thrones as an allegory for climate change

I’ve been mulling this over in relation to a short story idea. I was recently approached to write a climate change short story for an anthology coming out early next year. While doing short story idea generation session I scribbled down the question “how does one create an allegory, a fairy tale, for climate change, that grapples with the lack of human political structure’s ability to deal with a slow-moving, future threat that is of little interest to the day-by-day drama of the polity?”

While I did come up with a story idea (it’s on the short list of first stories to be written for my Patreon readers), one of the things that jumped right out was how well Game of Thrones works as an allegory for climate change.

To wit:

There’s a distant, vast threat which could overwhelm the polity. The white walkers, basically ice-zombies, are currently contained by the fact that it’s summer in the long season of the world of Game of Thrones. The walkers and the magic threat they represent are basically a new threat for the kingdoms south of the wall.

But now that the entire environment is changing. It’s not just that winter is coming again (a natural cycle, so don’t yell at me about the metaphor going long here, I know I’m stretching it 🙂 it’s that the white walkers are coming because it’s a super long and new event in these character’s lives.

Realistically everyone needs to band together and make sure the wall is in good shape. Which was done in the past (much like we all banded together to stop ozone depletion using a form of market cap and trade, but which now conservatives claim can’t be used as a tool because it’s liberal, despite its excellent result on ozone and acid rain).


Also, there are people trying to warn everyone that something freaky horrible is happening out there. 99 out of every 100 scientists is sounding the alarm, but folk are all like:


This poor scientist is trying to warn everyone, but you know what they say about the bearer of bad news.

Anyway, there’s an army of bad shit coming slowly and inexorably for us, all like:


Global warming’s coming for you.

And while that is building up, everyone in the polity is killing each other and fighting to realign their borders like:


While refugees are not welcome, but heading to safer areas:


You know nothing, Jon Snow.

How will it all end?

Probably not well for everyone concerned unless we all figure out how to join together and fight the larger common threat. But what makes Game of Thrones so applicable and why the metaphor really works is because humans refusing to band together against a larger threat is a very human trait. This story is all too recognizable, whether it’s white walkers or something else.

Hopefully we can set our issues aside some time to fight.

But sometimes I’m not so sure…


Winter (isn’t) coming.