Published April 30, 2019
Mary Kuhn and Uva students

Where will you be in 2030? UVa English professor Mary Kuhn hopes to be reuniting with some of her students from the Spring 2019 “Climate Fiction” course they shared.

Wouldn’t you have been intrigued by this course description? Climate change happens at such a large scale that it can be hard to interpret on an individual, day-to-day level in central Virginia. Climate fiction, or “cli-fi,” is a relatively new genre that invites readers to contemplate a rapidly changing climate—from realist portrayals of weird weather interrupting the everyday to post-apocalyptic scenarios set on fury roads and in distant galaxies.

One assignment was to make by hand an observational journal, which students accomplished with the help of VA Center for the Book member artist Yolanda Merrill. Yolanda taught students how to fold sheets into folios, gather them in small signatures, and prepare them in temporary journal for their observations all semester. Jottings and drawings followed on their areas to observe…air quality, precipitation, and observations of environmental flora and fauna…maps, graphs, and other musings filled the pages. In April, they sewed the signatures into a non-adhesive binding…chosen so no adhesives would hinder their a safe journey to 2030.

“The students did an amazing job with this project. I was blown away by their creativity, and delighted with the outcome,” said Mary, after her course concluded with a visit to UVa Special Collections. “And the process of actually making the journals for a future audience transformed our conversations about preservation and instability in a time of ecological crisis. I’m really grateful to the Center for the Book for making the project possible!”

What will our climate be like in 2030? We’ll have these journals to remind us of 2019 and to use for comparison. Special Collections archivist Bethany Anderson acquired this special accession, boxed it, and strapped it with strict notices not to open until the assignment is complete in about a decade.

This process celebrated one of the most essential aspects of books…their enduring quality (when properly stored) that allows us to experience the passage of time. So mark your calendars and see you then.

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