Climate change has created a new literary genre – climate fiction (‘cli-fi’)

Looking out over Bristol harbour in the south west of England, I ponder the statement Dan Bloom makes in his Washington Post article, ‘Climate change has created a new literary genre’ http://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2014/07/11/climate-change-has-created-a-new-literary-genre/

Having spent over 20 years advising businesses and Government on environmental issues, I have witnessed the shifts in opinion of what are considered to be the environmental issue of the day on a local to global scale. To motivate and accelerate change for the better in society requires energy, dialogue and understanding. And environmental concerns are no different.

I strongly believe cli-fi has enormous potential to engage a global audience on the many issues around climate change and make a real difference. However, I agree with Nathaniel Rich that to achieve this would require a shift in the perspective of writers from an exclusively western, wealthy nation perspective.

The cultural background of cli-fi writers and their stories is fundamental to getting the message across. Where can the faith perspectives be found? Who is engaging on the multi-cultural dimension of the effects of climate change? Has global politics and law slipped under the radar? Yes, getting the science broadly right is important but let’s not forget these other factors that will ultimately shape how we can adjust to the consequences of climate change and survive alongside each other as a species on Earth. Cli-fi has a responsibility to communicate a sense of reality but also to deliver a message of inclusiveness and optimism. It still has some way to go to be accepted as a genre that can make the difference but by those involved with the genre seriously engaging with the issues beyond their cultural background and experiences it’s just possible we can get there.

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1 comment
  1. Joe Follansbee said:

    “Cli-fi writers have a responsibility to communicate a sense of reality but also to deliver a message of inclusiveness and optimism.”

    Fiction writers have no such responsibility. Our responsibility is to explore how humanity will cope with the coming changes, to make educated guesses at how a warming world will transform culture, and ultimately to examine the human heart in all its perfection and its flaws. Too much of the climate debate is infused with preaching and other “messages.” Writers should leave that to the activists.

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