A melting glacier in Nepal.

Excerpt: “Politics Is Personal”

Andrew Dana Hudson
4 min readFeb 7, 2022


Below is a debate about the nature of climate politics, from my upcoming book Our Shared Storm: A Novel of Five Climate Futures. For more, please subscribe to my free newsletter: solarshades.club.

Our Shared Storm illustrates a set of climate scenarios — the Shared Socioeconomic Pathways (SSPs)—and the culture of the global climate negotiations (aka The COP) in each. This excerpt is from the SSP2 scenario, a future in which present trends continue with tangible but inadequate progress. Noah, a washed-up U.S. diplomat, has developed a crush on Saga, a prickly Swedish climate activist, leading to a series of minor PR flops. In this scene, Noah confronts Saga while waiting in line for juice.

“Just,” Noah groped for words, “we’re both here. We’re both trying our best to save the world, however badly. We probably have lots in common! I don’t get why you would mess with me even though I have zero control over US loss and damage policy. What did I do to you?”

For the first time in their short acquaintance Saga looked genuinely surprised.

“Do to me? Nothing, of course.”

“Do you dislike me for some reason? It’s the punchable face, isn’t it?”

Saga laughed and then gave him that weird smile of hers.

“I cannot dislike you. I hardly know you. None of this is personal. It’s just politics, that is all.”

“Politics is personal,” Noah said. “It’s about grudges and distrust and favor trading. We ally with those we want to spend time with and give the benefit of the doubt to people who laugh at our jokes.”

“I did just laugh at your joke,” Saga pointed out.

It was true, she had. Well, they can’t say yes if you don’t ask, Noah thought.

“Then maybe we could be friends?” he tried.

Saga shrugged again. It seemed weirdly affected, like she’d learned the gesture from a translator app.

“Why not? Let’s be friends,” she said. Noah was about to reply, but Saga turned around and ordered her juice. The boredly smiling, gender-ambiguous Thai bartender wai’ed and began to manipulate the elaborate, chrome juicer. Noah rocked on his heels, antsy, while Saga patiently waited on the whirring machine. When she received her puke-green drink in an origami cup, she looked at him again.

“As my new good friend,” the sarcasm was back, “could you arrange for Marta Tolmbly to speak at GURR!’s ‘Truth and Reckoning in Climate Accounting’ side event next week? As a personal favor, of course.”

“Umm…” Noah said. He realized the people behind him were waiting for him to order a juice. He gave the bartender an awkward none-for-me-thanks wave and stepped out of the queue. “Normally I’d be happy to, but Marta is personally not very fond of me right now, after the ECO piece. But look, why don’t we get dinner this week, or — — what do you call it — — ’fika,’ and we can talk about how we can help each other?”

Saga sipped her juice, staring at him. She seemed to really take him in for the first time.

“Mr. Campbell, do you like coming here? To the COP?” Saga asked. It was not the reply he had expected.

Around them the pavilions buzzed. Noah became uncomfortably aware of his surroundings. People of all shapes and colors shambled past, peered down at phones or papers, rubbernecked at different countries’ flashing projection murals, stood clumped in conversation, jogged with purpose to their next session, or spun in circles in search of a friend. A writhing ant colony, each worker following another, blind but for the urging of pheromones, trying to build something enormous, bit by bit, even though none of them could see the whole.

“Yes,” he said. “For better or worse, this is where the action is. You feel a part of something here, brilliant people trying to do the hardest thing humans have ever tried to do. It’s always disappointing, but also always so impressive.”

Saga nodded. “I thought you must. You arrange your life and career to get you here, yes? Then when you get here, you network and schmooze. You learn what names to drop to get on the delegation again next year. No matter the outcome, you can find your way back. So, in a way, the outcome doesn’t matter, does it?”

“Hold on — ” he began.

“I do not want to be here,” she continued. “It is too hot outside, too cold inside. I always get sick after the COP. I found a bed bug in my hostel, and I do not like to fly. I am here because my organization asks me to be here. I come back because the work keeps being left unfinished. When I leave this Sunday, I hope I never have to return, because that would mean we have won. So, I am not here to make friends. I do not believe politics is personal. Politics begins where there are millions, not these selfish thousands here. And the millions are drowning, and burning, and starving. So, I do what I can to show those with power that you do not do real politics here. Not when you jostle for position and turn catastrophe into an arena of social competition. I am neither disappointed nor impressed.”

Our Shared Storm comes out April 5th. Preorder now! And subscribe to my Substack: solarshades.club.