Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Heidi Cullen calls for an ''epic Cli-Fi novel of our time''

During a recent public forum at Yale University's  Forestry and Environment School in New Haven on the theme of climate change communications, Heidi Cullen told a crowded room full of students and faculty at FES that she is still waiting for someone to write an epic "Cli-fi" novel of our time.
The Yale people tweeted it out this way:

''I am waiting for someone to write the epic "Cli-fi" [literary genre on climate change] novel of our time," said @HeidiCullen
Yale FES Twttr account is at:
Dr Cullen's comment is worth noting, because she was one of the experts assembled by editors of the New York Times ROOM FOR DEBATE forum on cli-fi movies and novels that was published on July 29, 2014.
Here is what Dr Cullen said there then:

Personal Stories About Global Warming Change Minds

Heidi Cullen
Heidi Cullen is the chief scientist for Climate Central, a visiting lecturer at Princeton University and the chief science adviser for Showtime's "Years of Living Dangerously." She is on Twitter.
July 30, 2014
As a climate scientist, I’m acutely aware that facts are not enough to reach most people when it comes to global warming. The so-called deficit model of science communication — “If you only understood the facts, you’d understand that climate change is an urgent threat” — doesn’t work to make people act. For many, climate change simply feels too distant, both in time and space.
That’s where storytelling comes in.

In his book “Thinking, Fast and Slow,” Daniel Kahneman outlines two parallel but interacting modes of information processing: an emotional system (thinking fast) and a rational system (thinking slow). His research suggests that emotionally derived knowledge is more effective than rational knowledge in influencing behavior. In other words, personal growth and understanding require the heat of emotion.
It is personal stories that make the issue of climate change hit close to home for many people.
This duality was driven home for me in working on the Showtime global warming documentary film series “Years of Living Dangerously.” Our goal was to take viewers on a transformational journey by telling personal stories about climate change with the help of Hollywood A-listers like Harrison Ford and Arnold Schwarzenegger. My job was to make sure each episode got the science right.
But I’ll be the first to admit it: It was the personal stories that made the issue of climate change hit close to home for many viewers.

The best films and novels have always tackled the most compelling issues of the time. “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” and “The Jungle” moved people to demand action because of their unique ability to weave together the emotional, rational and moral threads around fraught topics like slavery, poverty and dangerous working conditions. When done right, true stories are explosive. They provide us with new ways of seeing the world and our place in it.

The facts themselves may be unable to make global warming feel psychologically proximate, but we still need them to make informed decisions. Climate change and its associated effects — rising seas, acidifying oceans, species extinction and increasingly extreme weather — can evoke strong feelings including anxiety, fear, denial and even despair.

While we need those feelings in order to take action, documentaries and science fiction allow us to safely grapple with the concept and reflect on the consequences that come with burning fossil fuels. In that sense, works of fiction have the potential to help us not only understand our impact on the planet more fully, but also to demand a sustainable path forward.
This all gave me an idea today. With the support of Dr Cullen and Yale FES administrators and others, it might be possible some day to set up and fundraise for a literary prize called the ''Yale Prize for Climate Fiction" -- to be presented every five years beginning in 2020 to recognize the best cli-fi novels of the five previous years (a winner and two runner-ups) -- with a cash prize of $100,000 to the winner and $50,000 and $25,000 to the two runner-ups. And if after the first ten years, the Yale Prize proves to be popular and worthwhile, it might be then possible to set the award event annualyy begining in 2031.
Just a dream. Heidi? Anthony? FES administrators and professors?
There could be a public event to award the prize at the FES in New Haven in 2020, 2025 and 2030 to get things started, and one could go from there, with funding from Yale alumni and benefactors to carry the program forward to 100 years at least.


Steve Salmony said...

All who are interested in cli-fi need to pay attention to the latest novel by Salman Rushdie.


When Salman Rushd's new cli-fi novel ''2 Years 8 Months and 28 Nights'' goes #clifi, you know something's up in NYC http://www.pri.org/stories/2015-09-22/salman-rushdies-new-novel-fantastical-portrait-beguiling-genies-who-threaten


dcdesign1 notes:

Here in Vermont, a unique state with a bastion of ideas around how to create solutions to put a stop to climate change, we are eager to get involved in the Yale Cli-Fi Book Prize. One of the books we recently published at Vermont's Green Writers Press, is a stunning collection of poetry by farmer/poet Leland Kinsey entitled Winter Ready. This book, which was printed in Vermont on recycled paper, was chosen as a finalist for the first ever Vermont Book Award: there were 6 finalists, (chosen out of almost eighty entries), and the winner will be announced this Saturday night at a gala dinner at Vermont College of the Fine Arts. A year ago, the award was conceived and a committee established headed by bookstore owners and a few prominent writers in Vermont. The winner (only one in all categories—fiction, poetry, etc.) gets $5,000.