Stay Cool: Why Dark Comedy Matters in the Fight Against Climate Change
Published by: NYU Press
Imprint: New York University Press
Sales Date: 2023-04-04
Available: April 2023
Imprint: New York University Press
Page Count: 176 Pages
Illustrations: 15 b/w illustrations
Dimensions: 5.50 x 8.25
176 Pages, 5.50 x 8.25 in, 15 b/w illustrations
Not Yet Published
How gallows humor can bolster us to confront global warming
We?ve all seen the headlines: oceans rising, historic heat waves, mass extinctions, climate refugees. It feels overwhelming, like nothing can make a difference in combating this ongoing global catastrophe. How can we mobilize to save the world when we feel this depressed?
Stay Cool enjoins us to laugh our way forward. Human beings have used comedy to cope with difficult realities since the beginning of recorded time?the more dismal the news, the darker the humor. Using this rich tradition of dark comedy to investigate climate change, Aaron Sachs makes the case that gallows humor, a mainstay of African Americans and Jews facing extraordinary oppression, can cultivate endurance, persistence, and solidarity in the face of calamity.
Sachs surveys the macabre tradition of laughing during great suffering, from the Black Plague to the San Francisco earthquake of 1906?and offers some of the earliest examples of superlative dark comedy. He also explores how a new generation of activists and comedians are deploying dark humor to great effect, by poking fun at older people?s apathy about climate catastrophes, lambasting oil corporations? ?eco? rebranding, and even producing an off-Broadway dystopian comedy called ?Sea Level Rise.? Sachs offers suggestions for how environmentalists can use dark comedy first to boost their own morale, and then to reframe their activism in more energizing and relatable ways.
Environmentalism is probably the least funny social movement that?s ever existed. Stay Cool seeks to change that. Will comedy save the world? Not by itself, no. But it can put people in a decent enough mood to get them started on a rescue mission.
"Sachs is like the Stephen Colbert of scholars?wicked funny and smart, dead serious, and utterly friendly and accessible, all while explaining why it?s so urgent to have a good laugh as we deal with the climate crisis. You?ll laugh, you?ll cry, you?ll laugh, you?ll cry." Jenny Price, author of Stop Saving the Planet! An Environmentalist Manifesto
"Punchy, clarifying, and invigorating. Even while maintaining a happily irreverent tone, Stay Cool explores a deep question: how the environmental movement might learn from previous social movements that kept up their catalytic energy rather than succumb to despondency and defeatism. It is a book perfectly attuned to the challenges of our moment." Scott Saul, author of Becoming Richard Pryor
"Aaron Sachs? insights burn hot. While ever careful not to minimize our current straits, he guides us toward a sustainable way to think about, well, sustainability. Gallows humor, self-deprecation, the trickster?s ploys?all have served to inoculate those considered without history from the forces of history. Stay Cool recognizes the importance of remembering that within our frail humanity is the possibility of being better, and that one good way to start addressing our climate needs is to learn to laugh at our fallibility, if only so that we are prepared for the not-so-funny work ahead." Jonathan Holloway, President, Rutgers University, and author of The Cause of Freedom: A Concise History of African Americans
"Aaron Sachs?s central message in Stay Cool is if you want to survive catastrophe?whether one brought on by people or nature?don?t be alarmist, and definitely don?t be earnest and moralistic. Be funny." Cindy Ott, author of Pumpkin: The Curious History of an American Icon
"Feeling in the depths of despair about the future of our planet? As someone who can relate to getting the ?climate blues,? I encourage others in the planetary doldrums to read this book! Sachs will challenge your ideas about what climate change activism might look like?and will do so in ways that may lighten your mood at the same time." Rachel Bezner Kerr, Cornell University, member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change