Danny Bloom
I seek the truth wherever it lies.

Australian ‘cli-fi’ TV drama captures ethical dilemma of motherhood amid fires

From Australia to the world: a new 8-part clifi TV drama series titled “The Commons” imagines a world in which Sydney is a place where air-quality is precarious in the extreme and going outside when it’s raining means potentially suffering acid burns from the toxic precipitation. Sound familiar? Does that description sound like a review of the actual show or a real-life news dispatch from one of the Land Down Under’s many newspapers and websites?
Well, we’re talking about a clifi TV drama series set in what the producers are calling ‘‘the distant future’’. But look around you and turn on the telly, you will see that Sydney is blanketed in a layer of smoke and the story doesn’t seem all that far–fetched, according to Sydney reporter Courtney Thompson.
Reviewers in Australia are already saying ”The Commons” is one of the most topical and urgent Australian television series of the year. It started airing Down Under on Christmas Day and already there is talk of a second season next year.
In Australia in 2019, climate change has never been more real, Thompson writes, noting: “With much of New South Wales on fire, even the staunchest climate denialists are being forced to reckon with the grim reality that we’re at a tipping-point, where inaction can cost us not only the lives of future generations, but even the lives of people living today.”
The show is “an effective and rousing call-to-arms, deftly exploring ideas around climate change and disaster capitalism to make audiences think deeper about the personal consequences of our literally decaying world,” she adds.
One of the issues the 8-part series zeroes in on is the moral dilemma of having children in the face of a climate crisis. As Greta Thunberg and her band of teenage eco-warriors worldwide have been saying to anyone who will listen, this dilemma is one of the biggest conversations many young people are having as talk of the long-term effects of climate change reaches fever pitch: ”How can we justify bringing people into a world that is doomed for almost certain catastrophe?”
”The Commons” is one of the first TV series anywhere in the world to face that question and present it as an ethically-ambiguous situation that highlights how complicated the answer will become as the years go on, where the effects of climate change will continue steadily accelerate and technology advances.
For example, will Greta Thunberg choose someday to marry and have children?
The main character in the show, a woman named Eadie, is desperate to be a mother, we learn.
“Despite the fact that it’s a world where things have gotten so bad that rain means acid burns, over the course of the 8-episode series, she goes to extreme lengths in order to conceive a child, pushing ethical boundaries in the process. As a neuropsychologist working at the forefront of the climate catastrophe, she is one of the people who are acutely aware of how dire the situation is, and yet through it all she can’t escape dreams of being pregnant and the burning desire to conceive,” Thompson writes in her review of the show.
At the moment, the TV drama is only available for viewing in Australia, although things might change if contracts are signed with streaming services in North America and Europe, according to sources in the TV industry.
When we’re at a juncture as we are right now in the fight against climate change, inaction just doesn’t seem like an option anymore, says the producer of the show.
“The Most Chilling Part Of Thriller Series ‘The Commons’ Is That It Could Totally Bloody Happen” is how another newspaper in Australia characterized the TV drama.
Matt Galea, writing for a Pedestrian TV in Sydney, doesn’t mince words, noting: “Look, I love a bit of chill, no-stress viewing as much as the next person, but every once in a while I love nothing more than getting lost in something more intense and thought-provoking. Enter ‘The Commons’.”
Set in the not-too-distant future, the epic new clifi thriller series paints a scarily-realistic picture of what could go down after the next wave of climate change hits Australia and other nations, he adds.
Actor David Lyons explains the show as “presenting humanity in a particular context and asking people to go on a journey.”
“I think we’ll start to see more of these stories come to the fore because this is our reality,” Lyons said. ”It’s not futuristic in the sense of sci-fi, there’s been a word banging around here called ‘cli-fi’ (climate change fiction), it’s not terribly fictional.”
Lyons added, “It’s a really topical show, one that doesn’t try to preach but shows people what we’re going to be dealing with in 15 years time.”
About the Author
Danny Bloom is editor of The Cli-Fi Report at www.cli-fi.net. Danny graduated from Tufts University in Boston in 1971 with a major in Yiddish Literature. A newspaper editor and reporter since his days in Alaska, Japan and Taiwan, he has lived and worked in 14 countries and speaks French, Japanese and Chinese. He hopes to live until 2032, when his tombstone will read "I came, I saw, I ate cho-dofu."
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