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Frankenstein and Climate Change

The Ecotopia 2121 project sets out to predict the super-ecofriendly futures of 100 real world cities across the globe, as inspired by Thomas More's book of "Utopia".

The 'evil twin' of the Ecotopia 2121 project is the Frankencities project, which sets out to predict the worst-case eco-disastrous cities of the future as inspired by Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein.

Both the Ecotopia 2121 project and the Frankencities project utilize a novel method of urban planning called The Literary Method of Urban Design.

In the process, some of the many connections (real and imagined) between literature and environmentalism have been analyzed and debated within the framework of the Ecotopia 2121 and Frankencities projects. One example of such a connection is the mythic 'Frankenstein volcano' of Tambora (located in modern day Indonesia) whose 1815 eruption supposedly led to the writing of the original Frankenstein novel.

The connection between the 1815 eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia and the 1816 conception of the Frankenstein story has attained mythic status in 'pop science' circles. It has been suggested over and over again that this massive volcanic event in the tropics led to Mary Shelley’s invention of the Frankenstein story in Europe because the eruption so altered the climate of the northern hemisphere (lowering the temperatures, creating rainy electrical storms, producing frosts and floods, and generally darkening the landscape) that Shelley dreamt up the idea for her monstrous horror tale as a result.

She was then imprisoned indoors by the volcanically-induced bad summer weather of 1816 and thus encouraged to craft the story into a full length gothic novel.

Here's a video lecture we produced outlining the narrative features of the myth:

However, the scholars involved in the Ecotopia 2121 project and Frankencities project have just published an academic paper in 'Humanities Bulletin' that outlines the problems, failings, and miscalculations of the Tambora - Frankenstein myth.

First page of 'The Tambora - Frankenstein Myth' paper

You can access the paper for free at ResearchGate or head to a short explanatory article about this research at The Conversation.

The debate about all this has reached the mass media with the Daily Express and Vice taking the lead in questioning the mythic 'Tambora - Frankenstein' connections via our research listed above. See these articles in the links below:

What we feel is that Frankenstein may well be relevant to the study of climate change but not in a direct way. Indirectly, though, the Frankenstein story offers us warnings about letting technological hubris run amok -- which is indeed relevant to the creation of the industrial technologies over the past two hundred years that have been implicated in global warming. This is something we explore in detail in these articles about future "Frankencities" (2017) and the "Cities of Frankenstein" (2020).

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