Before I begin, let me emphasize this (and empathize with all this as well): Canadian climate activist Katharine Hayhoe, who teaches at a prestigious university in Texas and gives speeches about communicating the pros and cons of climate change to audiences nationwide, is under tremendous pressure on social media, both from climate skeptics and also from would-be climate activist and scientist allies who want to argue with her.
As a result, according to a New York Times reporter in Texas, Professor Hayhoe ”blocks” many people who try to reach her on Twitter ”in order to preserve her sanity.”
In addition, she says she likes the cli-fi literary term for novels about climate change from a wide variety of points of view, although she prefers cli-fi novels that are hopeful and optimistic and utopian, but she does not read cli-fi that is depressing or dystopian. That’s her preference, and she is free to choose what kinds of novels from what kinds of genres she wants to read in her free time. As stated above, the busy professor does not have much free time.
“I am sorry, but I do not ever dream at night about climate change,” she says on Twitter. “Nor do I read ‘cli-fi.’ I prefer to keep a firm grip on reality when it comes to really tough and anxiety-inducing issues like global warming.”
When asked by a fellow academic in Canada if she ever reads cli-fi,” she replied: ”This is exactly why I don’t read cli-fi, I get enough bad news about climate change issues in real life.”
So no, “cli-fi” novels are not her cup of tea. Hayhoe recently told fellow Canadian who writes novels: “You’re right, my reading preferences are just my preferences. I study bad news every day. My free time is how I recover from it. Cli-fi doesn’t help.”
But at the same time, it is also true that cli-fi isn’t always depressing, and Professor Hayhoe should know that, if she keeps up with the national newspapers and magazines. True, the problem with any genre label is that it often acquires a stigma or at least preconceptions. Think of the negative press that the genre of sci-fi has received over the years. The key for Professor Hayhoe will be in overcoming her negative and misguided perceptions of sci-fi and cli-fi and to begin to see both genres for what the are: mirrors of the human mind and the human imagination.
So there’s hope for Katharine Hayhoe. She will find out one day, when she is ready, that cli-fi isn’t always depressing storytelling. She has been the victim of receiving the wrong impression about the rising new literary term. So let her be. She’s a good egg.
When she recently ”muted” and then ”blocked” a fellow climate activist from participating in her Twitter feed, she told her ”followers”: I had not replied to her as she was muted for being unable to communicate in a civil and constructive manner; now, she’s blocked for her ”third strike.” You’re right. It’s a preference. I study bad news every day. My free time is how I recover from it. Cli-fi doesn’t help.”
When a cli-fi novelist sent Professor Hayhoe a copy of his new cli-fi novel, by mail, for her to read, since they were Twitter friends, Hayhoe replied graciously but bluntly in a public tweet: “Thank you. I am truly grateful and will add it to my shelf from which students can sample, but to be totally honest I do not read cli-fi.”
To end this brief blog post, you should know that Katharine Hayhoe (who was born in 1972) is an atmospheric scientist and professor of political science at Texas Tech University, where she is director of the Climate Science Center. She is also the CEO of the consulting firm ATMOS Research and Consulting.
Hayhoe hails from Toronto but calls Texas home now Her father, Doug Hayhoe, was a science educator and a Christian missionary. When Hayhoe was nine, her family moved to the South American nation of Colombia where her parents served as Christian missionaries and educators. Hayhoe herself is married to a famous evangelical pastor and author, and Katharine is an evangelical herself.
Hayhoe received a Bachelor of Science degree in physics and astronomy from the University of Toronto in 1994 and has worked at Texas Tech since 2005. She also co-authored some reports for the US Global Change Research Program, as well as some National Academy of Sciences reports, including the 3rd National Climate Assessment, released on May 6, 2014.
Shortly after the report was released, Hayhoe said, “Climate change is here and now, and not in some distant time or place,” adding that, “The choices we’re making today will have a significant impact on our future.”
Long live Katharine Hayhoe!