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cli-fi

It is 2017 and the newly elected President of the United States of America is apologizing to the world for its contribution to environmental injustices at home and globally. Could this happen? Should it happen?

There is a long list of historic environmental injustices that the nation has inflicted upon its own peoples and cultures, and globally. Environmental racism, where environmental laws, policies and practices have differentially affected individuals, groups of communities based on race or colour, the watered down approach of American companies towards corporate social responsibility, and its significant contribution towards climate change all form part of a shameful record.

At home, over the last few decades, the nation has experienced unprecedented extreme weather conditions – droughts, floods, hurricanes. It doesn’t take much to see the strain on the faces of citizens who are having to move from their communities and sell their businesses. For some, the sense of helplessness is too much to bear. Do we really know the consequences for the nation on the mental health of its citizens?

The United States of America is a proud nation. A courageous nation. But it must be honest with itself. Its future must be based on mutual respect, mutual resolve and mutual responsibility. The damaging and dangerous notions, fantasies and myths of American exceptionalism and Manifest Destiny that continue to influence political ideology must be confined to history.

The nation can look to its former Presidents for good examples of environmental leadership. It was Theodore Roosevelt who recognized that the environment had a direct connection to democratic ideals and that the conservation of natural resources was a duty we owe to our children and our children’s children.

Patriotism demands embracing a sense of belonging to a community and showing an allegiance through meeting its moral obligation to make amends for a nation’s past wrongs. Only by willingly acknowledging its responsibility for discharging its moral obligations to apologize can the nation take pride in itself, restore and maintain its dignity and self-esteem.

The nation’s courage must no diminish. This is not the time for soft mindedness. Through investing in, and redefining its spiritual and moral values, the nation can find new ways to communicate with the peoples of the world, to be better understood, and to right the wrongs of the past.

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.

The term ‘cli-fi’ (short for climate fiction) was coined by Dan Bloom. Cli-fi describes a loose collection of novels, films, plays, works of art and even video games which all touch on, or are concerned with, climate change.

I am really interested in the potential of cli-fi to engage a wide and diverse audience on the issues around climate change and influence the debate. With this in mind, I have set up a Facebook cli-fi group for anyone with an interest in cli-fi to share and discuss their work, ideas and find out more about this exciting genre.

It would be great to see you there! Here’s the link https://www.facebook.com/groups/320538704765997/

Paul