Danny Bloom
I seek the truth wherever it lies.

New literary genre hopes to wake people up about climate change in 21st century

The other day, environmental reporter Ilana Strauss, writing for the popular American ecology platform TreeHugger, published a piece her editors headlined ”This guy is devoting his life to spreading the climate change genre.”

“He thinks the new genre could wake people up,” Strauss wrote in her lede.

Without missing a beat, TreeHugger went straight to the heart of the matter: “Climate change is important, but it’s just not that fun to talk about. So some fiction writers are trying to capture people’s imaginations in ways dry new reports can’t quite manage. Climate fiction is a sub-genre of apocalypse-style narratives focusing on climate change. And Dan Bloom is devoting his life to spreading the genre.”

“I wanted a new genre as a wake-up call, a warning flare, a PR tool,” Strauss quotes me as saying. She interviewed me in November.

The novel literary term was picked up National Public Radio in 2013, and later by The New York Times in 2014, twice in one year, once in long article by Richard Perez-Pena in April and again in a “Room for Debate” section featuring five climate and literary experts in July. Since then, a website called “The Cli-Fi Report” has been set up offering translations in ten languages as a research tool to help academics and media folks worldwide find what they are looking for, Strauss shared.

In 2011, Jim Laughter, a retired Navy guy living in Oklahoma, was commissioned to write novel titled “Polar City Red.” Strauss got in touch with the Tulsa novelist and asked him how the book came to be.

“I’d never paid much attention to climate change before then,” Laughter told TreeHugger. “But after getting some emails from Dan, and doing quite a bit of my own research, I decided to give it a shot.”

Laughter’s novel was published in 2012, and, according to the book’s Amazon page, it spoke to the present and to the future.

“In the distant future — some say the near future — North America, northern Asia and Europe will see millions of climate refugees from southern lands trekking northward, and the entire Lower 48 might be under threat from the devastating impacts of ‘climate chaos’ –from rising sea levels to a scary scarcity of food, fuel and shelter,” the Amazon blurb said, adding: ”’Polar City Red’ is set in an imagined Alaska in the year 2075. But it could just as well be Tokyo or Oslo or Berlin. Global warming is borderless, and so are our fears.”

The novel was written entirely by Laughter with his own cast of characters and storyline, Strauss said, noting that the only thing the book packager asked for was to set the story in a domed ”polar city” in Alaska in the distant future.

Laughter told TreeHugger that he was impressed by Bloom’s passion.

“He’s a true environmentalist. He is also very good at promotion, and has many influential friends in publishing,” Laughter said. “It was mainly his passion about climate change that convinced me to write ‘Polar City Red’.”

There are hundreds of climate fiction books out today, Strauss reported, saying that Bloom hopes ”they’ll become a wake-up call, grabbing people’s attention.”

“I’m just a cheerleader egging on novelists worldwide to write such novels,” Bloom said.

Three comments that appeared online after the article was published posed their own questions and views.

“As long as people keep avoiding the elephant in the room, consumption and population growth, we’re going nowhere,” wrote one commenter. “There is only so much current technology can do in a finite planet. Most of the population growth is happening in the impoverished Third World, and bleeding hearts in advanced countries naively think we can take them all in. We can’t help them on so many levels, and our societies encourage unhealthy consumerism. Luckily, indebtedness will come back to bite us and birth rates are falling. We simply cannot afford developing countries to follow our long, arduous path.”

A second commenter said: “I have a bad feeling about this, but I might be wrong. To me it seems this just de-legitimizes climate change in the minds of many. Science fiction is just that — fiction. None of the stuff you see in sci-fi literature or movies ever really happens, except maybe tangentially and with a lot of interpretation. I fear this is just a lot of ammo for the climate deniers to ridicule the whole idea of climate change. What gives me hope is that I tend to try to make sense of everything, and the public in general is far less rational. Maybe showing what a future without action on climate change might look like is a better way of delivering the message. Most likely both scenarios will come to pass, which will be an opening for a conversation. It will be an opportunity that we must not let slip by.”

The third comment was short and to the point: “Good plan to get people to actually think about climate change. Hope it works.”

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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