In a small Asian island nation in the Western Pacific, the seeds for a major climate-themed literary revolution in world literature and cinema were sown in 2011 when a new literary term ”cli-fi” (short for ”climate change science fiction”) was coined.
Since then the term has caught on worldwide, with novelists and literary critics in dozens of countries latching on to the new term and placing it front and center in hundreds of newspaper articles and academic papers published in English and other languages. It’s true:the eye-catching now-famous 5-letter literary buzzword was created in a nation known more for its noodles and potstickers than its literary culture and the term has exploded across the media world since its inception and initial promotion nearly 10 years ago.
It wasn’t a government project and it didn’t have the sponsorship of a major university on the island or any think tank. It was created by a retired newspaper man noodling around one day with his pen and a piece of paper at a sidewalk noodle shop in a small rural town in the southern part of the island where the climate is subtropical and balmy.
Welcome to Taiwan where cli-fi was born, refined and passionately promoted by an internet warrior with a yen to make a difference and step up the world’s fight against climate indifference. Yes, cli-fi was created to warn against climate apathy.
In related news, a group of government, academic and industry professionals on the island have recently called on leaders to prepare for the effects of climate change islandwide.
So yes, there is a burning need for climate action.
While much of the media’s attention has been on next elections, Beijing’s manipulation efforts and the protests racking Hong Kong, the Disaster Prevention Industry Association yesterday chose to focus on the bigger picture, with a grim prognostication for the nation this year regardless of which political party is in power come in the future.
As of this year in 2020, Taiwan has officially entered ”a climate emergency,” the association said.
It cited the Oxford Dictionaries’ choice of the term — defined as “a situation in which urgent action is required to reduce or halt climate change and avoid potentially irreversible environmental damage resulting from it” — as its word of the year for last year.
The association’s warning comes just over six months after more than 30 groups marched in Taipei calling on the government to declare a climate emergency and urging politicians to pay more attention to climate issues that pose a threat to national security.
Given the scope of climate disasters facing two other nations in the region — the raging bushfires in Australia that have so far consumed at least 5 million hectares, killed an estimated half-billion native animals and almost a score of people, and the widescale flooding in Jakarta this week that has killed at least an equal number of people — it might be tempting to dismiss the association’s declaration on Taiwan as crying wolf.
However, it is exactly the scope of those disasters that makes it essential for Taiwanese to heed the association’s warning, for as several of its members said, despite all of the attention on international efforts to reduce carbon emissions and the debate over the cause and effect of global warming, many nations are failing to ensure that disaster prevention efforts are keeping pace with a rapidly changing climate.
The Environmental Protection Administration, in a press release on Nov. 13 last year, said that the government had created a National Climate Change Adaptation Action Plan aimed at responding to eight aspects of climate change, but since the headline was “Taiwan can be a valuable partner in the global response to climate change,” cynics might question whether the action plan was little more than a public relations effort.
The association certainly seems to believe that the government should do more.
It urged the government to take more concrete measures by establishing a carbon reduction plan and long-term carbon neutrality goals, creating a national land plan that could respond to climate risks, building a complete disaster prevention legal system, and creating a mechanism to integrate the disaster prevention units of ministries and departments.
While some of that heat should be turned on national leaders who place more value on economic growth than natural systems and the global environment, the public must realize that the time for complacency is long past.
Long live the blooming genre of cli-fi.