Danny Bloom
I seek the truth wherever it lies.

The global climate crisis is here now: That’s why we really need ‘cli-fi’

Scared about what the future holds? Climate fiction writers can help change that.

A couple of facts to remember: Only 29 percent of Americans care about the climate crisis.

Cli-fi is leading the charge to envision new social structures and to wake up Americans (and citizens of all nations around the world).

Climate fiction, or “cli-fi, ” has since 2011 exploded onto the global literary scene in all Anglophone countries.

The genre has been around thanks to writers such as the very much alive Canadian Margaret Atwood, the late American Octavia Butler and the deceased writer JG Ballard from Britain adding to the mix.

George Washington University professor Michael Svoboda, a former bookstore owner and a friend of this blog, is an expert on climate-themed films, from “Downsizing,” starring Matt Damon, and “First Reformed,” starring Ethan Hawke, to earlier cli-fi films such as “The Day After Tomorrow” and “Geostorm.” Google his academic papers online.

A recent poll from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication indicates that a majority of Americans, 75 percent, believe that climate change is a happening thing and not groovy at all. Tragic and possibly life-threatening come the Climapocalypse in 2500 A.D.

A 2015 book titled ”What We Think About When We Try Not To Think About Global Warming: Toward a New Psychology of Climate Action” argues that the mass media tends to present climate change as ”a series of abstract facts and cold statistics, which do little to appeal to the human heart.”

Climate fiction writers can help change that.

Enter the new and rising literary genre of cli-fi, which has nothing to do with the escapist genre of ”science fiction” and has never been part of the sci-fi cult.

Matthew Schneider-Mayerson, a Yale graduate and now an assistant professor of environmental studies at Yale-NUS College in Singapore, informally surveyed cli-fi readers a few years ago and found at the time that some works of climate fiction can have a positive impact on the public discussion of the issues. That’s good to hear.

Dystopian narratives also can have a positive effect on readers. It  has been said that dystopian framing of cli-fi narratives might have the potential to spur political and social change. That’s good to hear, too.

An important cli-fi novel in this regard is Barbara Kingsolver’s “Flight Behaviour.”

Hollywood is also getting into the act. Cli-fi movies such as ”Downsizing,” ”First Reformed,” ”Infinity War” and ”Endgame” featured eco-concerns. Expect more cli-fi films in the 2020s and  2030s.

Another cli-fi novel to take note of: Kim Stanley Robinson’s novel ”New York 2140.”

So can cli-fi save the world before it’s too late? Maybe. Don’t go away. Stay tuned. There’s hope still.

What cli-fi really has, and has in spades, is the potential to inspire people to get started in fighting the “klimawandelkampf” we are in. That’s a long German word (klima wandel-kampf0 for ”climate change struggle.”

Cli-fi? We can win with the genre on our side.

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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