Professor Vandana Singh

Vandana Singh

Environment, Society & Sustainability

Vandana Singh

When we read about the future of the planet in the face of the dire consequences of climate change, the stories are often so dark, they can leave you with a sense of hopelessness. The stories foretell of a dystopian world with megastorms, crop failures, heatwaves and rising oceans that consume coastal cities.

“The doom and gloom is justified,” Framingham State Professor Vandana Singh says matter-of-factly. “We can’t sugarcoat that things are going to be difficult and are already difficult for marginalized communities. But the climate problem is also a problem of the imagination. We are stuck in a certain way of thinking about the world. Speculative fiction can free us from our old ways of thinking. When our imaginations are free, then we can better engage with these problems.”

Singh is an author of speculative fiction, in addition to being a physicist and an interdisciplinary researcher on the climate crisis. That’s why Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination selected her as one of four global Climate Imagination Fellows, charged with writing a series of fictional short stories—informed by reality and science—that imagine how we might successfully adapt and respond to the climate crisis in the future.

“We are so entrenched in old ways of thinking, old paradigms,” says Dr. Singh. “Speculative fiction doesn’t give us a blueprint for the future. That’s up to communities, civic society, scientists, policymakers and the like. But spec fic informed by science can, through story, immerse us in alternative realities, get us out of the trap of the imagination so that we can creatively strive for a livable future—we can confront the power structures that got us into this mess, and also work on alternative ways of living that are socially, as well as ecologically, sustainable.”

Singh’s interest in the climate crisis goes beyond hard science and technological innovations. She has developed a pedagogy that marries the scientific aspect of the climate crisis with ethical and social justice issues and concerns from other disciplines. Her work on a justice-centered, transdisciplinary conceptualization of the climate crisis is part of a forthcoming volume from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Singh and the three other Climate Imagination Fellows—who are from China, Mexico and Nigeria—are scheduled to publish their short stories this spring.