Climate-Fiction: Championing Climate Change
Imagine you're driving to a new destination and you have two options: a map that shows only the roads and landmarks, or a GPS navigation system that provides not just directions but also real-time updates on traffic, potential detours, and the estimated time of arrival. Like me, you would probably prefer to avoid the map and go for a GPS navigation system.Well, I have a somewhat similar relationship with news about climate change. It often focuses solely on the negative impacts and statistics, much like a map showing only roads and landmarks.
Climate Fiction or “Cli-Fi” portrays climate change in a more holistic manner. It not only presents the facts, but also explores how individuals and communities can respond to the challenges of climate change. It allows us to visualise the future and figure out how our actions today affect our tomorrow.
When I first got to know about Cli-Fi, I was fascinated by it. Fiction already held a special place in my heart. Blend fiction with climate change and you’ve got a recipe to inspire climate action! To explore how well this recipe works and how climate fiction can create an impact I reached out to Mr. Tory Stephens - Climate Fiction Creative Manager and Network Weaver at Grist. He was also the project lead for Imagine 2200: Climate Fiction for Future Ancestors contest. Imagine 2200 invites creative writers from across the globe to pen down intersectional and culturally diverse cli-fi stories.
When asked about how climate fiction can contribute towards solving the climate crisis, here’s what he had to say-
“We’re trying to imagine a world that is clean, green, and just, and all three of those things are important. Sometimes when you’re looking at the world right now, it's hard to imagine, how we will get there. But, fiction allows you to dream of whatever you want, it's your imagination that decides how clean, green, or just the world will be in your story. And so, activating writers, getting people to engage with these stories, I think that is a huge part of this.”
However, climate fiction has its own limitations.
Firstly, climate fiction is an emerging genre and studies suggest that most people who read cli-fi are younger and already more concerned about the environment. Further, it is quite unlikely that a climate change denier or sceptic would ever read such a book, right?
Here’s what Mr. Stephens had to say,
"One of the limitations that exist today is that many people don’t know that climate fiction is a genre. If you were to go to your local library, and ask the librarian to suggest some climate fiction books, I don’t know how many librarians right now are up on directing people towards different cli-fi books and what they mean. I'm sure there are some, so I don't want to slander librarians. I am not trying to do that, I'm just saying that the genre itself needs to become more popular."
Studies have found that reading climate fiction significantly increased readers' beliefs that climate change is human-caused and will result in droughts, floods, poverty, and displacement. However, these effects were short-lived and only lasted about a month. Moreover, studies have also found that although climate fiction could increase readers’ motivation to act, it doesn’t necessarily translate into meaningful behavioural changes. Studies have also suggested that cli-fi can elicit any negative, scary, or anxiety-related feelings among readers.
I asked Mr. Stephens about his thoughts on this and here’s what he had to say:
“I know a lot of young people and even some older people that express climate anxiety or what we like to call eco-anxiety. I think stories of hope and climate solutions can relieve that anxiety because instead of everybody collectively saying that ‘Ugggh, we cannot get out of this crisis’, it would be so lovely if the whole planet– and I know this is going to come off or seen as idealistic, but imagine if could all rally together collectively as a planet, in our own different ways and believe, “You know what, we can do this, we can make this change”.
With forward-thinking, solutions focussed climate fiction to envision sustainable futures, address the repercussions of climate change, while acknowledging the diversity in cultures. Like a GPS navigation system, it should not only help people steer though climate misinformation but empower bold climate action amongst readers!
By Nishtha Sehgal