Originally published in 2009, Amphibian, is about a young boy, Phin, who's "worried sick about what humans are doing to the planet." More than a decade later, as climate change continues to be a cause for great concern, Phin’s sense of urgency and desire to help the planet resonates deeply. After being nominated for the Canada Reads 2020 Longlist, we reached out to Carla Gunn to ask what she thought about the book’s legacy and how it remains increasingly relevant today.
CH: Looking back at the book more than a decade on, how do you think it relates to contemporary climate anxiety?
CG: A decade ago, Phin's experiences and reactions may have seemed a little extreme, at least to those not immersed in climate science or The Green Channel. Today, though, eco-anxiety is not only on the radar, it's a normative experience - the weird ones are those who are not worried. So if Phin awoke from a decade-long slumber, he would be "super-to-infinity" relieved that people are really, really worried and seemingly cured of the virus he suspected had infected their brains so that they didn't have any logical sense. Along with relief, though, he would be horrified by the accelerating pace of species extinction, climate change, ecological disasters (such as the fires in Australia, the very habitat of the class frog, Cuddles, he worked so hard to save), and the sociopathic propaganda spewing out of the anti-climate change science machine (he would have LOTS to add to his List of Lies). After the initial shock of this, however, he would see that in 2020, he is by no means alone and has many amazing and inspiring allies. He would love Greta Thunberg and readily participate in the school strikes for climate change, an added bonus being he could escape his teacher, Mrs. Wardman, whom he suspected was making him stupider by the day. Phin, like so many across the globe in the grips of eco-anxiety, would take that next crucial step which is to embrace his fear and channel it into the collective global response.
There's no better time to read Amphibian. Get your copy here and stay tuned for the Canada Reads Shortlist on January 22nd!