Can Cli-Fi Turn the Tide?
by staff writers with agencies and blogs
This is a scary time in terms of global warming for the planet. Earth’s biosphere is under stress from a myriad of human causes. Climate scientists have reached consensus about the existential threat of human-induced global warming. While the entire biosphere is under siege, many believe that the oceans are the canary in the coal mine. Recent scientific surveys report that more than 70% of the Great Barrier Reef’s shallow water corals north of Port Douglas are now dead; 29% died from bleaching in 2016 alone.
These findings paint a grim picture for the oceans and the world. Still, the U.S. remains hopelessly embroiled in political debate over scientific facts that are accepted by almost all climate experts around the globe. Why? And how do we break the deadlock?
Scientific and environmental advocacy groups are certainly crucial to sway public opinion, and they continue to present the evidence. But polls have shown that too many Americans remain utterly entrenched in their beliefs on this issue, ignoring arguments to the contrary. A growing movement within fiction-writing circles hopes to shift hearts and minds in ways that rational debate simply hasn’t been able to achieve. The emerging literary genre of “climate fiction” (also known as “cli-fi”) features authors like Ashley Shelby and Meg Little Reilly and James Bradley who are channeling their imaginations to portray the potential future of an Earth ravaged by climate change.
Renowned mainstream writers like Barbara Kingsolver (Flight Behavior) and Margaret Atwood (Oryx and Crake) have contributed novels that strike a chord with readers, affecting them on a visceral level that rational scientific argument simply hasn’t yet been able to duplicate.
Can fiction of this kind succeed where raw, unadorned facts have failed to convince so many Americans? I don’t honestly know. But I do believe in the power of story, of imagination, to move us. So do many, many fiction writers across many genres. Climate change is daunting when it acidifies our oceans, destroys ancient reefs, melts polar ice, and leads to relentless sea level rise that threatens to swallow coastal cities. Let’s hope that cli-fi novels and movies can succeed. Are we doomed, doomed? Let's hope not.