Soneone asked me the other day if as someone who who has been busy for past ten years or so promoting the rising new literary genre of ”cli-fi” with a website called ”The Cli-Fi Report” if, given my literary background and heavy personal investment in the genre, if, in my opinion, I think cli-fi novels and movies can save the Earth from future impacts of runaway climate change. My blunt and perhaps surprising answer was a simple two-letter word — ”No!” — and to be honest my answer surprised me as well.
No? How could I, of all people, answer the question that way? Here is some of what I told the New York reporter who was interviewing me.
”You asked me for an honest answer and that’s my honest answer. In my own personal view of things, and I’ve thought about this a lot, humankind is not going to make it past the next 500 years or so, maybe the next 1000 years maximum. Okay, maybe we have another 5,000 years or even 10,000 years. But it’s going to be a miserable, pitiable, subsistence kind of life on a radically-changed planet and all our cli-fi novels and movies of the 21st century and 22nd century will not change a thing.
”Art is wonderful, language matters, words are important, storytelling is vital, but in the end all the cli-fi novels in the world cannot stop runaway global warming. They are just books, stories, movies, cultural artifacts. Interesting to read and see, but in the end, useless at stopping climate change.”
So why then, Danny, did you spend so much energy and put so much effort into promoting the cli-fi term and monitoring its use in media aorund the world?
“For some reason, I was drawn to it, and I still am. But as I monitored how people were reacting to the rise of cli-fi novels and movies, and how the term was mostly being ignored by scientists and politicians — and even by very aware and clued-in climate reporters like Nathaniel Rich and Naomi Oreskes and David Wells-Wallace and Naomi Klein and George Monbiot and Mark Lynas and Bill McKibben and Amitav Ghosh — I realized that nobody really cares. They’re all invested in their own careers, their own bylines, their own speaking fees, their own TV appearances and international conference appearances.
“So that’s it. We’re doomed. Novels and movies cannot change a thing, but they can make us think, and that’s still a good thing. So I am still promoting cli-fi and I will continue writing about it and promoting until I die, but I know deep down that all this has been for naught. Nobody really cares. Nobody can really get over the hump of denial, even die-hard climate activists.
”Nobody can accept that fact that we’re doomed, doomed, within the next 30 generations. People just ignore me when I say that in my blogs and opeds. Nobody responds. So I give up. I’ve led a usefless, meaningless life, thinking that literature and cinema might matter in the fight against climate change. I was wrong. These modern contrivances of art and storytelling don’t matter at all, in the big picture of things.
The reporter asked me, finally: ”So are you saying that cli-fi is a useless and meaningless genre? ”
”Yes,” I replied. ”Yes. Sad to say, but that’s my conclusion in 2019. Wake me in 2029.”