As the cli-fi literary genre gathers steam worldwide, it turns out that the major force behind its meteoric rise — both championing cli-fi and studying it — is academia. This is my love letter to academics worldwide, who have taken up the challenge of researching, studying and writing about cli-fi.
Cli-Fi is where it is today largely due to the interest of hundreds academics in English-speaking nations, including the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the UK. Among them, just to name a few here, there’s Edward Rubin at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, there’s Arindam Basu in New Zealand, there’s Stephanie LeMenager at the University of Oregon, there’s Jennifer Wicke in Virginia, there’s Adeline Johns-Putra in the UK, there’s Andrew Milner at Monash University in Australia, there’s PhD candidate Cat Sparks in Canberra, there’s Daniel Aldana Cohen in Pennsylvania, there’s Axel Goodbody in Britain, there’s Amitav Ghosh in Brooklyn, there’s Gerry Canavan in the Midwest, there’s Catriona Sandilands in Canada, there’s Serpil Oppermann in Turkey, there’s Elizabeth Trobaugh at Holyoke Community College (and a fellow Tufts alum), there’s Terry Alan Harpold in Florida, there’s Heather Sullivan at Trinity College in Texas, there’s Greta Gaard at the University of Wisconsin, there’s Amy Brady with a PhD from the University of Massachusetts, there’s Ted Howell who earned his doctorate from Temple University, there’s Dan Kahan with a deep interest in communicating climate issues, and there’s Manjana Milkoreit who is teaching and writing now at Purdue University. And dozens more, more than 100, more than 500 actually. Don’t forget T. Ravichandran in India, Scott Slovic in Idaho and Una Chaudhuri at New York University.
Academics all. Part of a worldwide movement among academics studying and promoting the literary genre of cli-fi since 2010, some even earlier.
Cli-fi has become popular not because of the main newspaper and website media — not the mainstream media like the New York Times or the Washington Post or the Boston Globe — nor because of solitary freelance book reviewers, or literary critics or literature and science bloggers. No, the main force behind cli-fi’s rise has been the global army of literary academics who have been writing papers, penning opeds and publishing books about cli-fi. It’s in the air, and they are writing about it loud and clear.
So this is my love letter to academics worldwide, who often labor in obscurity and without major newspaper headlines announcing their work to the world, but who aside from their teaching duties in classrooms and workshops, take the time to delve into a new literary genre that has much to say about our literary response to global warming and climate change.
Academics are interested in cli-fi and for a very good reason. The rise of cli-fi fits into the reason why they worked hard to obtain their PhDs and become academics in the first place. They are not beholden to the mass media or to literary gatekeepers. Academics are pioneers, seekers, philosophers, critics. They see the world through their own personal lenses, and cli-fi fits right into their very reason to be alive and living in the 21 Century. Academics are the vanguard, while most literary gatekeepers represent the rear-guard, afraid to venture out of the comfortable cubicles and challenge the status quo. I mean, why rock the boat.
But academics have a different mindset and they are not afraid to rock the boat. It’s always been that way. Academics fear nothing.
So long live academics! They are championing cli-fi in a way the MSM has never done, except for a few odd articles here and there. Academics go where their interests take them, without fear or favor. Academics are trailblazers, not gatekeepers, and they are not interested in keeping the “new” out of sight and off our radar screens. Academics write nonfiction, but what they write is powerful and important, full of brilliant insights and analysis in this Age of the Anthracene.
Academics of the world, I love you!
When I showed a preview of this oped to a friend of mine in academia who has been at the forefront of the cli-fi movement among his peers, he told me in an email: “Nice piece! Very well put. And it’s great to see praise for academics.”
An academic paper online now by Susanne Leikam and Julia Leyda in Europe shows exactly how welcoming the academic world has been to the rise of cli-fi and how welcoming it will remain in the future as well.