The Letterbox Tree by Rebecca Lim and Kate Gordon is a speculative fiction story about Tasmania under climate threat, a story that highlights how the behaviours, values and actions of today impact future generations. This tale serves as a window into a future, where Australia has been adversely affected by climate change and provides a gateway to conversations about sustainability and the roles we have as stewards of the Earth.
This is the story of two girls, Bea and Nyx, both living in Tasmania, sharing similarities and stark differences. Bea’s story is set in 2023 and she experiences a lush, green thriving environment and is ostracised by a group of mean girls. Nyx lives in 2093 and Tasmania has been deeply affected by the climate crisis, the barren land has been ravaged by drought, bushfires and chemical spills, people suffer through oppressive and sweltering temperatures and they no longer gather together as the intense heat makes this impossible. Food supplies are dwindling, dehydrated food makes up diets and the land can no longer support animal life.
Nyx’s father is desperate to leave and move to the ‘Northland’ as he fears a great flood is a looming threat. Despite the harsh and bleak conditions, lack of socialisation and amenities, Nyx wants to stay. This is her home and where her memories are, especially those of her Mum who has passed.
Bea’s father has a job opportunity and her family also has plans to move to the mainland. Despite being bullied, Bea desperately wants to stay.
Both girls find solace in the branches of a towering pine tree that has stood the test of time. They find it cathartic to write down their thoughts and deposit them in a knotted hole within the tree. Their loneliness is interrupted by these notes as they continue to write to each other. These letters reveal snippets of their lives and stories. At first they are mystifying, however with more communication they work out that they are from different times.
With weather patterns becoming more catastrophic in 2093, the chance of leaving Tasmania is becoming impossible. Infrastructure is destroyed by flooding and it’s now unsafe to leave. The liveable land is shrinking, the population left is moving further inland away from the coasts, families who have lost their homes are being billeted to anyone that has shelter, food is scarce, there is civil unrest and drinking water is contaminated.
Bea becomes aware that she can help and works with her family and then her school community to put in place measures that can assist the people of the future survive the environmental catastrophe.
This is an opportunity to explore hindsight, where one has wisdom of adverse events and can share this knowledge with others who are still to face it. Also, a chance to predict what your future self, seventy years from now, may say, warn or promote to someone in the past.