Lucy Jones, the British arts and culture beat reporter for the ”Independent” newspaper in London, wants to ask a very important question: In the wake of the massive devastation caused by global cyclones, hurricanes, typhoons, floods, wildfires, heatwaves, doughts, is mainstream culture about to wake up — and wake up with a start! — about climate change?
Well, a new concept album from the Ukrainian-Canadian singer/songwriter Grimes and many mew new novels suggest we are be entering a new era of climate-related stories about this time we live in. And cli-fi novels and movies are leading the way.
Case in point: the popular American TV quiz show “Jeopardy” hosted by Alex Trebak recently used the ”cli-fi” term as a clue for one its guest panel questions. It went down like this on the March 20 show, archived as Episode 57 for 2019:
The correct answer was “climate fiction.”
The subject of climate change in novels and movies is ripe for Hollywood movies and stories of corporate derring-do, according to Jones. And as the impact of a changing climate accelerates and millions of young people mobilize in school strikes following the lead of 16 year old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, music and television and film and fiction are starting to capture the ”zeitgeist” of ecological and climate anxiety, according to The Cli-Fi Report.
Jones cites examples of environmental art such as of Hollywood cli-fi thrillers (Waterworld, The Day After Tomorrow), novels (Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake, John Lanchester’s The Wall), songs (Anohni’s “4 Degrees,” Radiohead’s “Idioteque,” and Pixies’ “Monkey Gone To Heaven”).
While we don’t yet have the vocabulary to express what is happening to humanity and planet Earth at this point in history, cli-fi novels are getting there. And “Earth Emotions,” a new book by this blogger’s Australian friend Glenn Albrecht, speaks to this need for a new language to tell ecological stories. He coined the term “solastalgia” 20 years ago and it has made its mark.
His new non-fiction book of essays will be published in May by Cornell University Press.
Albrecht’s concept of solastalgia means “the pain and distress caused by ongoing loss of solace and the sense of desolation connected to the present state of one’s home and territory.” He offers a framework within which to understand and acknowledge the dissociation of humans from the living world. With a new language and means of expression, a wider array of cli-fi stories from diverse voices can hopefully be heard.
So yes, cli-fi novels and movies, within popular culture east and west, in dozens of languages,can serve a wake-up call to this planet where we all now sing the climate protest anthem “We All Live in the Yellow Anthrocene.” And yes, stories, music and art can move us in a way that hard facts don’t, according to the Cli-Fi Report’s spokesman.