Aiming for climate action? Maybe.

In a mad rush to hitch themselves to the pop-culture rocket sauce of The Hunger Games, a few media outlets (uh, guilty as charged) have suggested that the dystopian appeal of the books and now movies draws strength from the young’uns’ acceptance of the climate-disaster-addled hellhole they are destined to inherit. I’m not so sure. Suzanne Collins’ fleet prose is built for action; she largely skips the details of her futuristic world of Panem so that we can get on with the underage stabbin’. As such, any allusions to climate change must be drawn from one line:

[The mayor] tells of the history of Panem. He lists the disasters, the droughts, the storms, the fires, the encroaching seas that swallowed up so much of the land, the brutal war for what little sustenance remained. The result was Panem, a shining Capitol ringed by thirteen districts … ”

Is that enough for kids to draw connections between the fantasy world du jour and their own? Can Hunger Games make this generation care more about climate than the last? Curiously absent from this conversation are the Voices of the Youth themselves. So I decided to head into the belly of the beast: I would go to a midnight premiere in downtown Seattle to talk to the climate disaster survivors of the future. (It would be like war reporting, but with higher-pitched screams.)

As I enter the theater, I’m a stranger in a strange land. Even though I’ve burned through the books detailing heroine Katniss Everdeen’s struggle to win a battle royale against other teens for the entertainment of the oppressive Capitol government, I’m unprepared to translate the agitated parrot chatter of the tween crush around me. I think about reverting to hand signals when Laura and Lyla*, both 14, take pity on this old wretch to answer a few questions.