Curious, empathetic, compassionate. That’s what we should be as human beings, no?
I’m thinking of that today because as Emily Dropkin has written in a very good essay titled “Climate Change and the Human Imagination,” we need cli-fi novels and movies about global warming from many different perspectives more than ever now.
What we need are climate change novels and movies that remind us viscerally, emotionally, of the truth of runaway climate change and its possible future impacts on humanity in the future, and even now. What we need from climate fiction and climate movies is empathy.
Yes, it would be nice if empathy made the world go around, but sadly it doesn’t, not yet. We are hardwired as a species to be ruthless, brutal and cruel, and in between the cracks some of us have found ways to be empathetic and caring. As climate change perplexes both scientists and novelists, it’s time to sit down and start writing. If you’re a novelist, do it. Don’t wait. If you’re a Hollywood screenwriter or director or a producer, do it: make that cli-fi movie now. We need dozens of them to turn the tide. Now is the time to write, direct, produce and release: novels, movies, poems, stage plays, musicals, operas, comics.
We need cli-fi novels and movies in order to consider future perspectives that could spark greater climate consciousness and action. Aha, there it is, the key word: action.
But it needs to be said that no cli-fi novel or movie is going to impact any reader or viewer into taking action on climate change. Novels and movies are just window dressing, weekend entertainments, HBO specials, Netflix distractions, Hulu hullabaloos. Cli-fi is just another entertainment vehicle, another way to distract us, to make us forget the reality we want so much to forget.
So when Emily Dropkin suggests that we need novels and movies that can spur us into action on climate change, she is wrong. Novels and movies won’t change a thing. Never did, never will. ”Uncle Tom’s Cabin” didn’t stop slavery or improve the lives of African-Americans. ”Silent Spring” didn’t improve the environment. “The Day After Tomorrow” in 2004 didn’t help alert people to the risks and dangers of global warming.
The tragic truth is that we are not prepared, we will never be prepared, and in the final analysis, we are dooomed, doomed. Not now, and not in 100 years, and not for another 500 years at least. Thirty more generations of men and women will live and die before the End Days finally come, due to our inability to stop global warming impact events. The New York magazine reporter David Wallace-Wells understood this very well when he published his now-viral doomsday eulogy for the human species. He was brave to do so, to probe the facts and report the truth. David Roberts at Vox was brave to applaud Wallace-Wells, as was Susan Matthews at Slate and Ken Drum at Mother Jones.
Everyone else just caved. They couldn’t take the truth staring at them from the text on the page, or the pixels on the screen. But David Wallace-Wells was right, and most of the climate change community of scholars and academics and pundits were wrong to cave and say magazine piece was dangerous and counterproductive.
No, it was a very productive article. It made us stand up and pay attention. Sure, we can write cli-fi novels and make cli-fi movies — and we will, we will: this is the Century of Cli-Fi, for the next 100 years — but nothing will come of our creative endeavors. Books do not spur people into action on climate change. Only the mother of all global warming impact events will do this and by then it will be too late. Margaret Atwood said that in an interview a few years ago. She knows.