Thursday, December 31, 2015

Brian Merchant and Claire Evans at Vice Motherboard give a shout out to cli-fi in Year End Essay on "what the future fiction created in and released in 2015 said about humans today (LINK)

We’re Feeling the Heat of Climate Change

In what is all but certain to be the hottest year ever recorded, the multiplexes ignored climate change—not a single major film put the planet’s biggest ecological crisis in its sights. But other media came through. In fact, “the biggest entertainment event of the year” (at least until Star Wars) imagines a future wracked by global warming—and forces the audience to play through it. The new Call of Duty game has players battling extreme weather as much as the terrorists.

Meanwhile, Paolo Bacigalupi’s novel ''TheWater Knife'' was a grimy, near-future noir about the intense, drought-struck, climate changed West. And Gold Fame Citrus another realist work of cli-fi also honed in on the epic drought scenario, focusing on the soon-to-be ruined Los Angeles. All of which could help us make sense of the continued effort to combat the phenomenon, which culminated in a crucial international conference in Paris this year.

Image: Descender, Image Comics

​What the Future Fiction of 2015 Said About Humans Today

Written by Brian Merchant

'We told a lot of stories about the future in 2015. More than usual, maybe. Big budget blockbusters, hefty, idea-rich novels, and epic, dystopian video games—there was complex, stirring speculative fiction dripping from every media faucet we’ve got. And, as per usual, it spoke volumes about our anxieties and aspirations right now.

[Brian has already taken a look at the top sci-fi films of the year, and below, he discusses those films with fiction co-editor Claire Evans, as well as what they saw in the wild, excellent stories we published this year on Terraform.]

Camille Parmesan and Terry Root: Climate Scientists Face the Bare Naked Truth about the coming Climapocalyse in 30 more generations

It's the End of the World — How Do You Feel?


Climate depression is for real. Just ask a scientist

Two years ago, Camille Parmesan, a professor at Plymouth University and the University of Texas at Austin, became so “professionally depressed” that she questioned abandoning her research in climate change entirely.
Parmesan has a pretty serious stake in the field. In 2007, she shared a Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore for her work as a lead author of the Third Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). In 2009, The Atlantic named her one of 27 “Brave Thinkers” for her work on the impacts of climate change on species around the globe. Barack Obama and Mark Zuckerberg were also on the list.
Despite the accolades, she was fed up. “I felt like here was this huge signal I was finding and no one was paying attention to it,” Parmesan says. “I was really thinking, ‘Why am I doing this?’” She ultimately packed up her life here in the States and moved to her husband’s native United Kingdom.
“In the U.S., [climate change] isn’t well-supported by the funding system, and when I give public talks in the U.S., I have to devote the first half of the talk to [the topic] that climate change is really happening,” says Parmesan, now a professor at Plymouth University in England.
Parmesan certainly isn’t the first to experience some sort of climate-change blues. From depression to substance abuse to suicide and post-traumatic stress disorder, growing bodies of research in the relatively new field of psychology of global warming suggest that climate change will take a pretty heavy toll on the human psyche as storms become more destructive and droughts more prolonged. For your everyday environmentalist, the emotional stress suffered by a rapidly changing Earth can result in some pretty substantial anxieties.
For scientists like Parmesan on the front lines of trying to save the planet, the stakes can be that much higher. The ability to process and understand dense climatic data doesn’t necessarily translate to coping with that data’s emotional ramifications. Turns out scientists are people, too.
Climate scientists not only wade knee-deep through doomsday research day in and day out, but given the importance of their work, many also find themselves thrust into a maelstrom of political, ideological, and social debate with increasing frequency.
As Naomi Klein writes in her most recent book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate, “We probably shouldn’t be surprised that some climate scientists are a little spooked by the radical implications of their own research. Most of them were quietly measuring ice cores, running global climate models, and studying ocean acidification, only to discover, as Australian climate expert and author Clive Hamilton puts it, that in breaking the news of the depth of our collective climate failure, they were ‘unwittingly destabilizing the political and social order.’” Talk about a lot of pressure.
“I don’t know of a single scientist that’s not having an emotional reaction to what is being lost,” Parmesan is quoted saying in the National Wildlife Federation’s 2012 report, “The Psychological Effects of Global Warming on the United States: And Why the U.S. Mental Health Care System is Not Adequately Prepared.” “It’s gotten to be so depressing that I’m not sure I’m going to go back to this particular site again,” she says, referring to an ocean reef she has studied since 2002, “because I just know I’m going to see more and more of it dead, and bleached, and covered with brown algae.”
Lise Van Susteren, a forensic psychiatrist based in Washington, D.C. — and co-author of the National Wildlife Federation’s report — calls this emotional reaction “pre-traumatic stress disorder,” a term she coined to describe the mental anguish that results from preparing for the worst, before it actually happens.
“It’s an intense preoccupation with thoughts we cannot get out of our minds,” Van Susteren says. And for some, it’s a preoccupation that extends well outside of the office. “Everyday irritations as parents and spouses have their place, they’re legitimate,” she says. “But when you’re talking about thousands of years of impacts and species, giving a shit about whether you’re going to get the right soccer equipment or whether you forgot something at school is pretty tough.”
What’s even more deflating for a climate scientist is when sounding the alarm on climatic catastrophes seems to fall on deaf ears. “How would that make you feel? You take this information to someone and they say they don’t believe you, as if it’s a question of beliefs,” says Jeffrey Kiehl, senior scientist for climate change research at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder. “I’m not talking about religion here, I’m talking about facts. It’s equivalent to a doctor doing extremely detailed observations on someone and concluding that someone needed to have an operation, and the person looks at the doctor and says, ‘I don’t believe you.’ How would a doctor feel in that moment, not think, but feel in that moment?”
Even if scientists did bring a little emotion to their findings — which raises questions about the importance of objectivity in the sciences — Kiehl worries that such honesty would just provide even more fodder for climate deniers.
“I could imagine that if scientists start to talk about how they’re feeling about the issue and how emotional they’re feeling about the issue, those who are critical about climate change would seize that information and use it in any way they could to say that we should reject their science,” he says.
It’s only natural then that many climate scientists and activists often feel an extreme pressure to keep their emotions in check, even when out of the spotlight. For activists like Mike Tidwell — founder of the nonprofit Chesapeake Climate Action Network and author of The Ravaging Tide: Strange Weather, Future Katrinas, and the Race to Save America’s Coastal Cities — part of being on the front lines means being outspoken and passionate about the cause. But while activism may be a more forgiving platform to express emotional stresses than within the scientific community, the personal toll of the work goes largely undiscussed.
“You don’t just start talking about unbelievably fast sea-level rise at a cocktail party at a friend’s house,” Tidwell says. “So having to deny the emotional need to talk about what’s on your mind all the time … those are some of the burdens that climate aware scientists and activists have to endure. People talk about climate change, openly talk about activism, and people even talk about how scary it is, and about how screwed we are and unbelievable it is that sea level is rising, and world governments still aren’t doing shit. But nobody talks about how it makes them feel personally.”
So how does a climate scientist handle the stress? Van Susteren offers several “climate trauma survival tips” for those in the field. Meditation and therapy are two, as are taking particular care to reinforce boundaries between work and one’s personal life. But she also says being honest is just as important. “[Don’t] believe that you are invulnerable,” she writes. “In fact, admitting what you are going through makes you more resilient.”
And a dose of honesty may be more than just therapeutic. Some real talk about how we’re all screwed may be just what the climate movement needs. Back in March, Grist’s Brentin Mock wrote that in order to really drive home the urgency of global warming and not just view “climate change only as that thing that happened one year on television to those poor communities in Brooklyn,” maybe it’s OK, when appropriate, to ditch a very limited “just the facts” vocabulary in favor of more emotional language. In other words, he argues that scientists should start dropping F bombs. “Forgive my language here, but if scientists are looking for a clearer language to express the urgency of climate change, there’s no clearer word that expresses that urgency than FUCK,” Mock writes. “We need scientists to speak more of these non-hard science truths, no matter how inconvenient or how dirty.”
Climate deniers aren’t going away anytime soon. But with global organizations like the IPCC reinforcing facts like the 95 percent certainty that humans are driving global warming, the research is sticking. Perhaps it’s time for those deeply involved in climate science to come forward about the emotional struggle, or at the very least, for those in mental health research and support to start exploring climate change psychology with more fervor. And reaching out to scientists in particular could be a huge opportunity to better explore the world of climate psych, says psychosocial researcher and consultant Renee Lertzman.
“There’s a taboo talking about it,” Lertzman says, adding that the tight-lipped culture of the scientific community can be difficult to bridge. “We’re just starting to piece that together. The field of the psychology of climate change is still very, very young … I believe there are profound and not well-recognized or understood psychological implications of what I would call being a frontliner. There needs to be a lot more attention given to frontliners and where they’re given support.”


Terry Root often goes to sleep at night wondering how she’ll be able to get up the next morning and do it all over again. Then the sun comes up and she forces herself out of bed. She might go for a run to release the pent-up anxiety. Sometimes she cries. Or she’ll commiserate with colleagues, sharing in and validating each other’s angst. What keeps Terry up at night aren’t the usual ailments; it’s not a tyrant boss or broken heart.

The diagnosis: global warming.

A senior fellow at Stanford’s Woods Institute for the Environment, Root has spent the past two decades unraveling the thread between climate change and the eventual mass extinctions of countless species of plants, animals — and, yes, humans. “That’s a tough, tough thing to cope with,” Root says in a weary, jagged voice. There’s more. When the gray-haired bird watcher shares her End of Days findings, she’s often met with personal attacks; naysayers hurl their disagreement and disdain, complete with name-calling and threats from politicians. But the absolute worst part of her job? We’re not listening. “It’s harder than hell to carry that,” says Root.

Windhover 129
Stanford University built a non-secular spiritual center on campus called Windhover, where students and faculty can go to meditate and reflect. It opened last year.
Armageddon aside for a moment, that an acclaimed scientist will say h-e-l-l to a reporter and use words like cope is a sign of changing times. Not only are we living on a warming planet but a progressively emotive one. It started with parents coddling their kids (no more advice to “just suck it up”), then it was emojis (punctuation isn’t enough) and now it’s climatologists tweeting “we’re f’d” and field researchers speaking up about climate depression — or even pretraumatic stress disorder.
There is a paradigm shift taking place in the field of science with the recognition that even the most stoic minds of the world need a way to process their doomsday findings. All of this is fueling a debate that’s raged since before Galileo and until recently landed on one central question: What place does human emotion have in scientific reasoning? But in 2015, there’s another layer that’s been schlepped into the controversial heap: What do you do when your job is to document the end of the world?
For centuries, professors say, the scientific fraternity has adhered to a “hidden curriculum” — right there, in invisible block letters, beneath the sign saying Goggles must be worn at all times. No. Crying. In. Science. And for good reason, many argue. In this world of double-blind trials and peer-reviewed articles, objectivity rules all. Otherwise cracks open up and doubt seeps in, rotting the very foundation science is built upon.
But what if the entire goddamned profession gets wiped out in a hurricane? Then what? There’s a growing sense of urgency as worsening environmental catastrophes play out before us. In the midst of what many in the science community — by “many,” we mean upward of 95 percent — are calling a planetary crisis, more researchers are finding that they can’t simply present their data in a vacuum, then go home at the end of the day and crack open a beer. “Scientists are going from these totally objective outsiders into being much more subjective and a part of the community,” says Faith Kearns, an outreach coordinator for the California Institute for Water Resources, which tries to solve drought-related challenges.
Indeed, the façade of total objectivity has deteriorated in recent years alongside intensifying environmental cataclysms. In 2012, Camille Parmesan, who shared a Nobel Prize with Al Gore in 2007 for her climate work, publicly announced her professional depression and frustration with the current political stalemate. Shortly after The Atlantic named Parmesan one of its 27 “Brave Thinkers,” alongside Steve Jobs and Barack Obama, for her efforts to save species, she temporarily left her university job in Texas for a reprieve across the pond. Then last summer, climatologist Jason Box’s tweet — “If even a small fraction of Arctic sea floor carbon is released to the atmosphere, we’re f’d” — went viral, provoking a media frenzy. The public relentlessly chastised him for a) making a definitive statement instead of dealing in the usual probabilities and b) expressing emotion.
And now there’s the website Is This How You Feel?, which publishes handwritten letters from climate scientists expressing their frustrations, fears and hopes. One professor writes, “It’s probably the first time I have ever been asked to say what I feel rather than what I think.” Another scrawls, “I feel exasperation and despair. … I feel vulnerable that by writing this letter I will expose myself to trolling and vitriol.” Joe Duggan, the mohawked Aussie with a nose ring and master’s degree in the growing field of science communications who manages the site, says he’s been shocked at how many responses he’s gotten in the mail: “There is a movement of scientists looking for new ways to connect; they’re emoting in ways they never have before,” he says.

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Stanford’s Windhover integrates nature throughout the center to help visitors re-connect with and replenish their spirits.
Elizabeth Allison turns off the lights. She instructs her students to stack one vertebra on top of the next until their spines are straight and long. Then to focus on the rhythm of their breath. In. And out. In. And out. Acknowledge any feelings or sensations that arise, then let them go. After 15 minutes she slowly guides them back into the present. Feet and hands begin to stir. Eyelids slowly make their way to full attention.
OK, that’s it. See you all next week — and don’t forget your homework assignment is due. After all, this is graduate-level course PAR 6079.
So much for that centuries-old hidden curriculum. From professors like Allison taking students through a guided meditation after a discussion on retreating rainforests to scientists signing up for workshops on compassion and communication to support groups for climatologists, human emotion has wedged itself into every step of the scientific method. Marilyn Cornelius, a Stanford-trained researcher, has found the best way to explore creative solutions for the planet’s woes is to meld behavioral science, biomimicry, meditation and design thinking. Now she works as a consultant, taking energy experts on wilderness retreats and teaching lab coats to connect with themselves and nature. “I made a decision to work on behavior change,” Cornelius says, “because it’s a positive way to work on the climate problem.”
This isn’t just about managing the feelings of scientists, though. Kearns, from the California Institute for Water Resources, acknowledges how painful it can be to watch academics try to relate to everyday folks and has made it her mission to make these interactions less cringe-inducing. The soft-spoken brunette first began thinking about this impasse after some years back she hosted a community workshop on emerging “stay or go” science that weighs whether home owners can — and should — protect their property from increasingly frequent and ferocious wildfires. Her audience was a small northern California community that had recently faced that very dilemma. Fear, anger and helplessness pulsed through the room. “I started to feel their anxiety,” Kearns says. “Our research has an effect on people’s lives. My scientific training hadn’t prepared me to cope with the emotions that come with that.”
But there is still the camp that believes feelings erode credibility and breed bias. It’s the naturalistic fallacy, and it’s the difference between the is and the ought. The philosophy is that facts can’t substantiate value judgments. Science is perhaps the last frontier of neutrality, especially in today’s polarized society. As Philip Handler, former president of the National Academy of Sciences, once said, scientists “best serve public policy by living within the ethics of science, not those of politics.”

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Windhover is named after Nathan Oliveira’s renowned series of paintings that were ”inspired by kestrels swooping above the Stanford foothills,” according to the website.
The seismic sentimental shift among scientists parallels an outpouring of feeling — and narcissism — across American society. Once-detached psychotherapists are hugging their clients, journalists have come to love the personal essay (in fact, it seems like everyone has a story to tell these days), even man-eating corporations are experimenting with emotional leadership. Or think of the impassioned protests around Black Lives Matter, the outrage at sexual abuse and the pleas against social inequality. “There’s been more space in the public realm for bringing up and dealing with emotional stuff, and that has cracked the shell of otherwise very removed scientists,” says Allison, a professor at the California Institute for Integral Studies. Then again, maybe climatologists are more cunning than we give them credit for, and they’re simply taking a page out of their opponents’ playbook.
Indeed, emotions are a powerful tool for those who know how to use them. Which is why those leading the climate-change charge aren’t looking to labs anymore. Instead, eager students are following Cornelius’s path, pursuing studies in contemplative environmentalism or transformational ecology, which looks to shrinks, money and Facebook to protect the planet. With the future of everything at stake, what has traditionally separated science from sentiment is a lot less defined — and perhaps even irrelevant.
But emotions are less predictable than facts and figures. Root remembers giving a talk once at the University of Utah. Afterward a few students came up to ask questions; one young man had tears in his eyes. “Is it really this bad?” he pleaded. Root told him it’s worse. He went on to become an activist and was sent to prison for one of his illegal protests. Root has always felt responsible.
“I’d always thought that facts and the truth would win out; then I realized that wasn’t the case,” Root says.

Welcome to 3rd day of 406 A.D. (anthropocenus deflexus) since Anthropocene began in 1610.

This era is no longer [Anno Domini], aka A.D.-- but Anthropocene-Dated, that is to say:

....or.... (take your pick of modern Latin)

anthropocenus deflexus

[Andy Revkin at DOT EARTH blog at NYT tells me just now that the next meeting of Anthropocene Working Group [[The International Commission on Stratigraphy]] will be in Oslo in late April 2016. And he will be among those attending.]

The International Commission on Stratigraphy is expected to make a formal decision about recognizing the Anthropocene as a distinct geological epoch in 2016. Regardless of the ruling’s outcome, Lewis and Maslin have put forth powerful evidence that the age of the human-shaped planet has been around for centuries. via MOTHERBOARD: link below:


Anno Domini = A.D. in some outdated religious dating systems

     for background info see ANDREW REVKIN at NYTIMES DOT EARTH BLOG in 2011


The term anno domini was Medieval Latin, which meant at the time in the year of the Lord[1] 

There is no year zero in this old outdated scheme, so the year A.D. 1 immediately followed the year 1 BCE. This dating system was devised in 525, but was not widely used until after 800.[10]


The geology of the planet

Welcome to the Anthropocene

Humans have changed the way the world works. Now they have to change the way they think about it, too, and the way they date the calendar we now live by, and Dan Bloom suggests we call this year of 2016 as year 406 A.D. meaning Anthropocenus Deflexus or Anthropocenus Destructus 

THE Earth is a big thing; if you divided it up evenly among its 7 billion inhabitants, they would get almost 1 trillion tonnes each. To think that the workings of so vast an entity could be lastingly changed by a species that has been scampering across its surface for less than 1% of 1% of its history seems, on the face of it, absurd. But it is not. Humans have become a force of nature reshaping the planet on a geological scale—but at a far-faster-than-geological speed.
A single engineering project, the Syncrude mine in the Athabasca tar sands, involves moving 30 billion tonnes of earth—twice the amount of sediment that flows down all the rivers in the world in a year. That sediment flow itself, meanwhile, is shrinking; almost 50,000 large dams have over the past half- century cut the flow by nearly a fifth. That is one reason why the Earth's deltas, home to hundreds of millions of people, are eroding away faster than they can be replenished.
Geologists care about sediments, hammering away at them to uncover what they have to say about the past—especially the huge spans of time as the Earth passes from one geological period to another. In the same spirit they look at the distribution of fossils, at the traces of glaciers and sea-level rises, and at other tokens of the forces that have shaped the planet. Now a number of these scientists are arguing that future geologists observing this moment in the Earth's progress will conclude that something very odd was going on.
The carbon cycle (and the global warming debate) is part of this change. So too is the nitrogen cycle, which converts pure nitrogen from the air into useful chemicals, and which mankind has helped speed up by over 150%. They and a host of other previously natural processes have been interrupted, refashioned and, most of all, accelerated (see article). Scientists are increasingly using a new name for this new period. Rather than placing us still in the Holocene, a peculiarly stable era that began only around 10,000 years ago, the geologists say we are already living in the Anthropocene: the age of man.
The new geology leaves all in doubt
What geologists choose to call a period of history normally matters little to the rest of mankind; tussles at the International Commission on Stratigraphy over the boundaries of the Ordovician era do not normally capture headlines. The Anthropocene is different. It is one of those moments where a scientific realisation, like Copernicus grasping that the Earth goes round the sun, could fundamentally change people's view of things far beyond science. It means more than rewriting some textbooks. It means thinking afresh about the relationship between people and their world and acting accordingly.
Thinking afresh is the easier bit. Too many natural scientists embrace the comforting assumption that nature can be studied, indeed should be studied, in isolation from the human world, with people as mere observers. Many environmentalists—especially those in the American tradition inspired by Henry David Thoreau—believe that “in wilderness is the preservation of the world”. But the wilderness, for good or ill, is increasingly irrelevant.
Almost 90% of the world's plant activity, by some estimates, is to be found in ecosystems where humans play a significant role. Although farms have changed the world for millennia, the Anthropocene advent of fossil fuels, scientific breeding and, most of all, artificial nitrogen fertiliser has vastly increased agriculture's power. The relevance of wilderness to our world has shrunk in the face of this onslaught. The sheer amount of biomass now walking around the planet in the form of humans and livestock handily outweighs that of all other large animals. The world's ecosystems are dominated by an increasingly homogenous and limited suite of cosmopolitan crops, livestock and creatures that get on well in environments dominated by humans. Creatures less useful or adaptable get short shrift: the extinction rate is running far higher than during normal geological periods.
Recycling the planet
How frightened should people be about this? It would be odd not to be worried. The planet's history contains many less stable and clement eras than the Holocene. Who is to say that human action might not tip the planet into new instability?
Some will want simply to put the clock back. But returning to the way things were is neither realistic nor morally tenable. A planet that could soon be supporting as many as 10 billion human beings has to work differently from the one that held 1 billion people, mostly peasants, 200 years ago. The challenge of the Anthropocene is to use human ingenuity to set things up so that the planet can accomplish its 21st-century task.
Increasing the planet's resilience will probably involve a few dramatic changes and a lot of fiddling. An example of the former could be geoengineering. Today the copious carbon dioxide emitted to the atmosphere is left for nature to pick up, which it cannot do fast enough. Although the technologies are still nascent, the idea that humans might help remove carbon from the skies as well as put it there is a reasonable Anthropocene expectation; it wouldn't stop climate change any time soon, but it might shorten its lease, and reduce the changes in ocean chemistry that excess carbon brings about.
More often the answer will be fiddling—finding ways to apply human muscle with the grain of nature, rather than against it, and help it in its inbuilt tendency to recycle things. Human interference in the nitrogen cycle has made far more nitrogen available to plants and animals; it has done much less to help the planet deal with all that nitrogen when they have finished with it. Instead we suffer ever more coastal “dead zones” overrun by nitrogen-fed algal blooms. Quite small things, such as smarter farming and better sewage treatment, could help a lot.
For humans to be intimately involved in many interconnected processes at a planetary scale carries huge risks. But it is possible to add to the planet's resilience, often through simple and piecemeal actions, if they are well thought through. And one of the messages of the Anthropocene is that piecemeal actions can quickly add up to planetary change.



"Anthropocene" is a term first coined in 1960s by Soviet scientists and later in 2000 to describe what scientists believe is a completely new geological epoch caused by humans' drastic alteration of the planet. While enough people still decry woman-caused climate change that the Associated Press coined the new term "climate change denialist" to displease them, and the scientific consensus is that real action needs to be taken to address the warming of the planet.

Thus, this year brought us a historic climate agreement hammered out in Paris and approved by 195 countries to stay below the agreed-upon 2°C global warming threshold.

Of course, this year also saw the massive Volkswagen "clean diesel" scandal, disastrous forest fires in Indonesia, and an unusually strong El Niño that combined with rising sea surface temperatures to bring about record-breaking high temperatures and weather events.

Clayton Aldern at GRIST does an end of year take down of obit for climate denialists, R.I.P

Climate change deniers

We all remember our first denier: that spittle-flecked cherub, teething and tight-fisted, babbling breathlessly, incoherently, in that language understood only by beings worthier than us at The National Review. Yes, the deniers were of that special marble — the harder, hawkier stone always destined to craft the Palinesque renegade. They were loud and proud; the special snowflakes that refused to melt. How they loved their charts! The radically disproportionate axes!

We stood with the deniers [denialists!] when the AP barred us from calling them such. We stood with them as the seas lapped at our toes, gently patting them on the soft spots above their blindfolds and their “18-Year-Pause” neck tattoos, sweetly shushing them before they could finish the canonical “I’m no scientist but–.” We are saddened to bathe in these rising waters; in the cacophony of scientific consensus.

Climate change deniers are survived by Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), and other congressional sea cucumbers.

-- Clayton Aldern at GRIST

Does climate fiction about climate change = a new genre? [Yes, it turns out.]

Does climate fiction about climate change = a new genre? [Yes, it turns out.]

The Digital Reader sends us a report from The Conversation on the phenomenon, which appears to have been introduced as a concept in 2008 by American climate activist Dan Bloom. Dissent Magazine had a useful survey article on it in 2013. Wikipedia, which is silent on the origin of the term, assures us that “Hundreds of universities worldwide now offer climate-change fiction courses that deal with both literature and film.”


Seems to have made it to the cover of Time in March 2014. I should pay attention!

As to whether cli-fi really does represent a full-blown genre, I [await the response from the publishing industry's senior editors and CEOs in New York and London].

Still, if it makes fans happy to live with cli-fi, what harm’s done? For such, there’s a Twitter hashtag, #clifi, created by UK PR maven Lisa Devaney, and a Facebook Cli-fi community. For novices, keen to engage with the phenomenon, The Guardian provides a reading list of 10 YA cli-fi books to get started on, while Goodreads hits you over the head with 132 titles.

h/t Richard Horlick

Amelia Urry at GRIST explains why ''Climate change is showing up in blockbusters and binge watches.''

Climate change is showing up in blockbusters and binge watches. So what?

Cli-fi opens up doors in the African continent, too

Jonathan Dotse is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in management information systems at Ashesi University College, Ghana. He is a techno-progressive promoting science- and speculative-fiction for Africa, working on his debut novel and discussing the future of African science fiction at He has ruminated about the future of sci fi in Africa, and one wonders also how he might feel about the future of cli-fi in Africa, too. Since climate change and global warming are evefn more important issues than silly escpapist sci fi entertainments in Africa. We will ask him by email. Jonathan?

New wave of African cli-fi will inspire solutions to mitigtation, adaptation in age of global warming

The Industrial Revolution sparked the first wave of modern science fiction narratives, which used the power of creative storytelling to explore the implications of unfolding technological developments. Science and speculation drove those stories and narratives, allowing people to truly begin to envisage the radical possibilities that lay in the near and distant future. Now comes climate fiction, aka Cli-Fi.
The technological climate in Africa today bears many similarities to that of Europe and America in the wake of the Industrial Revolution. Emerging technologies are raising standards of living by providing access to new tools of production, scalable energy systems and globalised distribution networks. Information and communications technologies have opened up an unprecedented range of economic opportunities and transformed the lives of millions of people across Africa.
These dramatic changes are fertile ground for speculation about the climate-related future of the continent — and climate fiction novels and movies can inspire Africans to envision their future with a renewed sense of agency and possibility.
Connecting climate science with society
Well-crafted climate fiction narratives can analyse technical concepts using accessible language and captivating stories, making it easier for the public to engage in contemporary climate debate and discourse.
In the short film Pumzi, screened at the Sundance film festival in 2010, Kenyan filmmaker Wanuri Kahiu explored water scarcity, already a critical problem in parts of Africa today. Set in a post-apocalyptic East Africa, her film highlights the technological systems required to conserve this vital resource, while telling the story of a woman determined to revive the terrestrial ecosystem.

 Climate fiction also enables people to visualise the various pathways through which climate science and technology interact with the underlying framework of society. Lauren Beukes’ award-winning novel Zoo City, for instance, employs magical realism to explore the complex dynamics of life in present day Johannesburg. One lens through which her novel explores this is the practice of traditional priests called sangomas operating black magic services via the internet. Her narratives cleverly illustrate the often counterintuitive interplay between modern technology and traditional African belief systems.
From imagination to innovation
The sheer scope of imaginary possibilities presented in climate fiction imparts a sense of wonder, inspiring young people to pursue scientific and literary innovation as a means to improve society. Before it is too late.
Many of the technologies which have redefined the modern world — including mobile phones and the internet — were first imagined in science fiction stories. The ideas and concepts these narratives explored have primed the imaginations of countless scientists and inventors, inspiring them to pursue innovations and discoveries which might otherwise have been inconceivable.

Now it's time for cli-fi novels and movies to work their magic on the pressing issues of climate change and man-made global warming.
When cli-fi  captures the imagination, it stimulates critical thought about the scenarios it presents, and shapes public opinion on the issues it addresses. Societies that develop a vibrant discourse around these issues are better placed to understand the developmental implications of public investment in science and technology -- and in mitigation and in adaptation.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Strange climates: Writing Cli-Fi in the Anthropocene - an astute oped by James Bradley in Australia


But fiction can also help us repossess our future, take imaginative control of it. In time that might mean big change: as Ursula Le Guin observed recently, “We live in capitalism, its power seems inescapable – but then, so did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art. Very often in our art, the art of words.”.

But if nothing else it can help us grasp the enormity of what is happening in a way that allows us to comprehend it, and perhaps, just perhaps, begin to do something about it.

This piece originally appeared in The Weekend Australian newspaper on January 24, 2015.

James Bradley in Australia, a top literary critic and acclaimed novelist there, talks about genre and what it means in insightful blog post

The End of Nature and Post-Naturalism: Literature and the Anthropocene


One of the most interesting things about watching a novel go into the world is discovering what other people think it’s about. Sometimes that can be illuminating, sometimes it’s frustrating, but it’s always fascinating, not least because the book people seem to read is never quite the book you thought you were writing.

In Clade’s case this process was complicated by the fact a lot of people didn’t seem to know quite how to categorise it. For my part I tended to say it was science fiction, simply because that’s easy and relatively uncontroversial.

A number of reviewers, especially in literary outlets, called it dystopian, which it isn’t, or not quite, while a couple of reviewers with an interest in science fiction described it a slow apocalypse or breakdown novel, which I suspect it is, at least in one sense.

 Others have called it ''cli fi'' ........elsewhere some people have called it Anthropocene fiction.

Interestingly though, several reviewers registered the inadequacies of the terminology, and went on to ask about how exactly we should be describing the growing number of books engaged directly or indirectly with climate change and environmental transformation.



The most substantial of these discussions was in Niall Harrison’s review that ended with what he described as “a coda about categories”. Noting first that Clade was only one of a number of recent novels “that to varying degrees explore the personal and social effects of environmental crisis”, he went on to note that while many such novels are “kinds of science fiction … there is a sound political logic for discussing them as a group unto themselves”.

Like others, Harrison thinks it’s possible to distinguish such novels from other kinds of science fiction because “climate change is already happening, which means it is in a different class of speculation and social relevance to, say, a pandemic: writing about it is a question of degree and perspective, not whether or not it will happen at all, and the degrees and perspectives that writers choose can be usefully compared”  (a point that Dan Bloom has also made.)

But Harrison also rightly – points out that acknowledging this distinction then demands we recognise the existence of novels such as Barbara Kingsolver’s Flight Behavior, which are engaged with these questions but are not science fiction in any meaningful sense.

Into the Future with ''Cli-Fi'' in Taiwan: University course proves popular with students on a subtropical island


In 2016, students at National University (NU) in southern Taiwan who talked about taking a new climate-fiction [often called "Cli-Fi" as a nickname] course were often met with incredulous stares from their peers. The three-credit course, Introduction to Cli-Fi, explores how cli-fi reflects a culture's dreams for the future.  Word of the class and the professors' unique teaching methods spread quickly, and the students relished the opportunity to spar with their professors over just what the world was coming to in terms of man-made global warming and how literature and movies might help move mountains, so to speak.  Students who are taking the class gush with enthusiasm about their days in the classroom, making what was at first an oddity into a campus phenomenon.

"The teachers are incredible," says David A. Lee,  a human science and sociology student. "They know everything there is to know about cli-fi."  The course at National University was put together by two NU professors. Dr Chen and Dr Wu,   and the 60 available seats in the class were hotly contested. The cli-fi term itself was coined by an elderly American journalist and climate activist living in Taiwan. 

"This class encourages critical thinking," Allen Yu, another NU student, says. Students are welcome to challenge the speakers and this interaction helps students see things from different perspectives.  "We grew up with Hollywood movies like 'The Day After Tomorrow' without giving a thought to what was behind them," he says.

"The professors questions that often come to me as a shock. The cultural implications and influences behind what I read and see never crossed my mind before I took this class. It never occurred to me that many materials our parents discouraged us from looking at could be a subject of study."  

Although its two professors are from backgrounds as diverse as ecology  and American literature, the cultural aspect of the course content is what interests them both. Chen believes that cli-fi pushes the development of real climate science, not because it provides answers, but because it reflects a culture's ideas of what can happen and gives that vision direction.  

Wu, on the other hand, believes cli-fi can stimulate critical thinking and wants the public to give due respect to the genre. "I emphasize the climate science angle. I have no intention of scaring the students off with scientific climate change formulas or obscure jargon."

In Taiwan, however, Chen points out that cli-fi, and its elder brother sci-fi, have long been considered culturally deleterious. For this reason, both genres have been treated mostly by ignoring them.  "If a culture is to find its own path in the development of technology and science, it cannot rely solely on engineers," he says. "Taiwan has plenty of good engineers; they contribute to the quality of manufacturers, so our industries are strong. But this is like walking on one foot; it's unstable, and you're not going to get very far. We need another foot so we can walk steadily into the climate future; this foot has to be cultural strength. I believe we need to rely on our scientific climate imagination to shore up this footing."

So a class focussing on cli-fi novels and movies is just what Taiwan needs, Wu adds.  

Indeed, it was this concern that brought professors Chen and Wu together at NU. They believe that Taiwanese are averse to the imaginative side of their culture because they prefer the safety of the well-traveled road. "If we don't risk making mistakes with imagining climate fiction, we'll always be followers," Chen says.

Chen and Wu are hoping to encourage boldness in young people, the boldness to break free from unnecessary constraints and imported influences, to make mistakes and dream their own future.

Irene Chan says the class has steered her in a new literary direction and her positivity is infectious. "The amazing thing about cli-fi novels and movies is that you imagine what might happen in the future if we do nothing to stop runaway global warming, and there's a chance that the dire warnings we hear from climate experts in North Americ and Europe may come true someday, even here in subtropical Taiwan."

Monday, December 28, 2015

STALKER, a sci-fi movie from 1979 by Soviet director Andrei Tarkovsky, has plenty to say about ''the climate imaginary

STALKER, a sci-fi movie from 1979 by Soviet director Andrei Tarkovsky, has plenty to say about ''the climate imaginary''

A masters thesis by Vanderbilt University PhD candidate goes like this:

ABSTRACT online:

This thesis explores contemporary debates regarding the artistic and philosophical responses to global climate change through a close reading of Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1979 science fiction epic Stalker. I read Tarkovsky’s film, which was shot in the Soviet Union during the Cold War, as an investigation of the time and space of environmental catastrophe and argue that today it can be productively read as a film about climate change because of its fascination with the invisible and its persistent refusal to depict the catastrophe with which it is concerned. In this way, my thesis takes up Stalker as a kind of hinge text or conduit through which we can compare the nuclear criticism of the Cold War and today’s climate change criticism (especially that of Bruno Latour and Srinivas Aravamudan) in order to examine continuities the relationship between catastrophe and artistic representation as well as the politics of making visible invisible crises. My thesis concludes that is precisely through withholding an image of catastrophe that Tarkovsky is able to effectively represent an environmental disaster in its fullness and that this artistic strategy seems increasingly important for thinkers in the humanities who are attempting to understand global climate change.


Jesse Montgomery is teaching a cli-fi class at Vanderbilt University in Spring 2016 semester

He is teaching a course in the spring 2016 that intersects with the cli-fi conversation. Some texts his students will be reading are recognizably "cli-fi", bu others aren't. For more, google the Vanderbilt classes.


Amitav Ghosh's new University of Chicago lecture series book on the Anthropocene -- nonfiction texts of four lectures last fall in the Berlin Family Lectures series at UC

The book is titled "The Great Derangement: [Pithy subtitle to be announced later]'' according to publishing sources in Chicago, with publication set for the fall publishing season of 2016.

The Randy L. and Melvin R. Berlin Family Lectures were set up by two Jewish philanthropists in 2014 to bring to campus individuals who are making fundamental contributions to the arts, humanities, and humanistic social sciences. Each visitor offers an extended series of lectures and develops a book for publication with the University of Chicago Press.

More on the Berlins here: RE:
Melvin Berlin left college to marry Randy Lamm (his wife of over 60 years), and in 1957 formed his own company, selling commodities to food manufacturers and metal products to farm stores. In 1959, he entered a partnership with a metal service business. Some 8 years later, he bought his partner’s shares, becoming Berlin Metals. In 1987, he purchased a small distributor of rigid packaging containers based in the United States. Today, that company, Berlin Packaging LLC, has 60 locations worldwide. Melvin and his wife, Randy, a retired lawyer and currently a Lecturer in Law at the University of Chicago Law School, also support 20 post-combat Israel Defense Forces soldiers.

4 videos of Amitav Ghosh's recent Berlin Lectures on Global Warming in Septembr 2015 at the University of Chicago are now online

Amitav Ghosh

A Voice for the Anthropocene

Chrestomather | October 15, 2015 in Current Reading | Comments (1)

Because of my recently-concluded lecture series at the University of Chicago the Anthropocene has been much on my mind of late. It was serendipitous then that I happened to read Swimmer Among the Stars, Kanishk Tharoor’s debut collection of stories, at just this time.
Not that these stories address the Anthropocene as such: what caught my interest is the manner in which Tharoor breaks with the fictional conventions of this era. It is as though he were conjuring up possibilities that are better suited for times to come. 
Here is the first paragraph of the third story in the collection, A United Nations in Space:
In between sessions, the ambassadors come to the viewing vestibule and search the shadowed half of the earth. They crowd the portholes. Where once they might have seen the bright fuzz of cities and towns, now the dark patches are profound. It’s not simply a case of the electricity being cut, the lights winking out, the streets and homes rolled away. No, Kiribati thinks, it’s as if humanity’s white webs have been coloured black… a black more velvet than the night, continental in its spidery sprawl.
The story continues:
For months amidst its other work, the council has been trying to find a site where it might reinstall itself on earth. Bhutan’s offer of his mountain capital was initially welcomed, largely because the Himalayas seemed the most secure place in a world scoured by the oceans. But then the noise of war spread up the valleys, big countries growled at each other over glaciers, and little Bhutan demurred, saying that this might not be the best time to discuss the logistics of diplomatic license plates. Australia put herself forward, evoking the immensity of the continent, but the island was too remote for many members; one may as well be in near-earth orbit as in the Antipodes. The ambassadors debated the prospects of other sites, none proving palatable for the majority.
The characters in the story are identified only by the names of their countries: Bhutan, Botswana, Kiribati, Mexico. Tharoor refuses to individualize or characterize, in the usual sense; he refuses even to allow his characters any subjectivity. These refusals recur through the collection, like a series of fractures marking breaks in time. The effect is haunting and mysteriously powerful.
Equally striking is the presence of the non-human. The first story in the collection, Elephant at Sea, begins thus:
In the late summer of 1979, the Second Secretary of the Indian Embassy to Morocco received a cable that uprooted his considerable years of training and left him floundering. The message read simply: ‘Elephant en route’. Was it some sort of code? Further investigation only deepened his confusion. The cable had come from the customs office in Cochin, a port in the south of India. No, the customs officials reported back to him, it wasn’t code. It was an elephant – an elephant that along with its mahout, its driver, was now very much headed by ship to Casablanca. The Second Secretary probed: why send an elephant? Here at the customs office, the reply came, we handle only the movement of goods; for the movement of reasons, please refer your inquiry to the ministry of external affairs.
Not only are animals present in these stories, they are able to speak for themselves. In one story a stallion addresses a letter to his owner, who happens to be Afanasii Nikitin, the colourful Russian traveler who visited India in the 15th century and wrote The Journey Beyond Three Seas.
For me, you were given some sum. Not once did you stroke my mane, even though you liked admiring me from behind and feeling my muscular haunches. I know. My eyes are on the sides of my head, you see. I have a better sense of before and after than you do. Before me, there was only a man and his horse. After me will come textiles, coins, pepper, more coins, gems, slaves, more pepper and even more coins; you will do well in Hormuz and Ethiopia, be penniless by the time you get to Trebizond, shiver in Crimea. As you die of pneumonia on your way home to Tver, remember that at the beginning we were lonely together. You tried to ride me once, but fell off.
In these stories the nation state – that great motor of contemporary fiction – exists principally as a historical irony. Tharoor depicts a world of connections that both pre-exist and post-date nations: this is a universe in which the boundaries of the modern era have melted away; where Mexico dances with Luxembourg in a space station and she refuses his advances by saying: ‘I’m sorry… I can’t, no part of me can … even my desires feel weightless.’
Among the many refusals of Tharoor’s technique not the least is his evasion of the idea of determinate ‘periods’. Some of the stories slide sinuously over time, both recalling and reimagining the techniques of non-modern forms of fiction.
For a few centuries, many people decided to believe that a medieval Welsh prince sailed to america, discovering the continent long before Columbus. They dated his voyage to 1170… Several men in the seventeenth century claimed separately to have been saved by knowledge of Welsh. Captured by surly Indian tribesmen, they squealed for mercy in their mother tongue… Thomas Jefferson asked Meriwether Lewis to keep his eyes peeled for Indians who spoke Welsh.
Tharoor’s prose is finely wrought, filled with surprises and lexical treats. Here are a few excerpts from the story Icebreakers:
It takes only moments for an icebreaker in the Antarctic to come to the profound realisation that it can no longer break ice…
The captain breathes deeply from his inhaler. I should have known better, he thinks. Misled by weather forecasts and satellite imagery, he let his boat venture deep into the sea ice. Often, polar winds keep channels free, passages that Arctic and Antarctic sailors call polynyas (Russian is the language of ice). The captain steered his expedition down a known polynya, only to find it close around him…
In the Antarctic the silence is so total that even light carries sound.
Kanishk Tharoor is thirty-one; he is thus of the first generation to have come of age in the full awareness of the arrival of the Anthropocene. These stories give us a foretaste of some of the ways in which the uncanniness of the Anthropocene will express itself in years to come.
Swimmer Among The Stars announces the arrival of a writer who is gifted not just with extraordinary talent but also with a subtle, original and probing mind. 
[Swimmer Among The Stars is to be published in India by Aleph in January 2016, and in the UK and US by Picador and Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, in 2017].
- See more at:

 "The Great Derangement: Fiction, History, and Politics in the Age of Global Warming"
In 4 lectures over two weeks, Ghosh highlighted the literature, history, and politics of climate change. All four lectures were held at the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts at the University of Chicago.

David Palumbo-Liu: I’ll end by asking you the typical question: what’s next?

Amitav Ghosh: Well, I’ve actually just sort of finished writing another book. I just did a series of lectures at the University of Chicago — they’re called the Berlin Lectures — and they’ll be published as a book. I finished the lectures last week.

David Palumbo-Liu:  Okay, and when will they be published?

Amitav Ghosh: Probably next year. [sometime in 2016]

David Palumbo-Liu: Do you want to tell us anything about it?

Amitav Ghosh:  They are basically on the Anthropocene, and especially what it signifies for fiction


Lecture One: Fiction I
Tuesday, September 29, 2015
Logan Center for the Arts, Performance Hall

Lecture Two: Fiction II
Wednesday, September 30, 2015
Logan Center for the Arts, Performance Hall

Lecture Three: History
Tuesday, October 6, 2015
Logan Center for the Arts, Performance Hall
915 East 60th Street
5:30 p.m.

Lecture Four: Politics
Wednesday, October 7, 2015
Logan Center for the Arts, Performance Hall
915 East 60th Street
5:30 p.m.

About Amitav Ghosh 

David Palumbo-Liu interviews Amitav Ghosh

The Opium Wars, Neoliberalism, and the Anthropocene

Amitav Ghosh was born in Calcutta and grew up in India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. He received his BA and MA from the University of Delhi followed by a PhD in social anthropology from the University of Oxford.