The Power of “Cli-Fi”: Some Good Environmental Dystopias
''While not a new issue, climate change and its effects on our world have become hot topics of discussion and debate in recent years. It’s been a trend reflected in our media and literature, from Make Room! Make Room! published in the early 1970s to contemporary trilogies such as The Hunger Games and Divergent. In particular, young adult dystopian literature has taken to describing the adverse effects of climate change as a main cause of their environmental and political failures. This, in turn, created a subgenre dubbed “cli-fi,” or climate change fiction. While many of these stories are post-apocalyptic in nature, there are also those that describe the early consequences of our abuse of and disregard for our planet’s natural resources. The following list provides a look at some of the best to arrive this century. ''
The Power of “Cli-FI”: Best Environmental Dystopias2
The Islands at the End of the World by Austin AslanOff to paradise in this novel, taking place on the Hawaiian Islands and narrated by protagonist Leilani, a 16-year old girl with epilepsy who also struggles with her status as a “half-breed” among native Hawaiians. Leilani and her non-Hawaiian father are away from home on a neighboring island when the power goes out worldwide after only hints of global weather catastrophes. They fight desperately to return home in the face of increasing hostility, prejudice, and savagery as people begin to realize they are cut off from the rest of the world.
The Carbon Diaries by Saci Lloyd
Set in the then-future year of 2015, the UK implements “carbon dioxide rationing” as a response to worldwide weather catastrophes caused by man-made climate change. Each person is allowed a certain amount of carbon points for things such as heat in the winter or use of a personal vehicle. According to Alberta Energy, aout 6,500 million metric tons of greenhouse gases are emitted yearly in the United States alone – proving the concept in The Carbon Diaries doesn’t seem so farfetched. While not explicitly offering a solution to the crisis, the message is clear: either find ways to reverse some of the damage done or face a future in an increasingly hostile natural environment.
Blood Red Road by Moira YoungThis one is fully post-apocalyptic, with a setting reminiscent of a Mad Max movie or of The Scorch Trials, complete with an assumed similar cause to that of the devastation in The Maze Runner series. Protagonist 18-year old Saba lives with what’s left of her family until her twin brother is kidnapped. The remainder of the novel follows Saba’s quest to rescue him and allows us to see her develop into a fierce and independent warrior and revolutionary as she faces threats from both the environment and other people seeking to control the little remaining resources.
Breathe by Sarah Crossan
In a world with no trees and no naturally occurring oxygen, after something called “The Switch,” in which most of humanity perished, survivors live inside glass domes and are provided manufactured air for a price. This story follows three teenagers from different social circumstances who question the authorities in charge of the domes and risk everything to find out if the environment outside can be saved or if there truly is no more air.
Red Rock by Kate Kelly14-year old protagonist, Danni, lives in a near-future world of melted polar ice caps, drowned coastal areas, and flooded inner cities. Danni lives in Greenland with her aunt and uncle until the former is assassinated and the latter is taken hostage, apparently because of a mysterious red rock entrusted to Danni by her dying aunt. According to NASA, sea levels have risen twice as much in the last decade alone as in the entire century before it – making the premise in this novel not so far-fetched or futuristic.
Like other works before them, these novels offer important messages within their guise as fictional entertainment. The messages are clear. If we don’t stop depleting our planet’s natural resources and disregarding the damage from climate change, these works of fiction may very well predict our future reality.
And from ALL THINGS URBAN FANTASY blog, where the same Maria Christine wrote:
Guest Post: “Cli-Fi”: Dystopian Fiction on Climate Change, Energy, and the Environment
Despite climate change deniers, people are becoming more and more concerned about the environment, as the recent Paris climate conference clearly demonstrates. That concern has not only entered into our political and social discourse, but also into the fiction of today’s pop culture with new genre of fiction known as “Cli-Fi”, or Climate Fiction, having emerged as a response to the worry floating through today’s society about what state our planet will be in in the future.
Major blockbusters such as the Hunger Games and Divergent series reveal worlds in which resources are extremely limited and citizens are under attack by their own governments. TV shows such as The 100 echo the same theme, as do a multitude of books. While these dystopian civilizations are captivating and leave viewers highly entertained, what audiences perhaps fear the most, is how close to reality this dystopian fiction truly is.
The term Cli-Fi itself is fairly new, though climate fiction has been around for decades. Author and climate activist Dan Bloom was the first to officially coin the term, but it quickly caught hold and was spread by other authors who focus on climate themes, including Margaret Atwood, author of the critically acclaimed MaddAddam trilogy, focused on a world where humanity has nearly destroyed itself and the few survivors must fight nature itself.
Older works of literature touch on the topic as well. 1966’s Dune, in which the protagonist battles not only against an evil government but attempts to rehabilitate the desert planet of Arrakis and re-introduce plant life and water to it, is one of the earlier examples. In fact, as far back as climate change has been a known problem, artists have tried to envision what the future might look like, to generally foreboding results.
Modern Cli-Fi books are even more pessimistic and direct in their message.
Emmi Itaranta’s Memory of Water imagines in stark detail of a world where water is so scarce wars break out to try to control it. The Bone Clocks (David Mitchell) is a slower and more supernaturally based book which spans 45 years and shows the terrifying end result of a culture obsessed with youth and consumerism. Even children become fodder in this book as certain characters will surpass all boundaries of decency in their quest for eternal life.
Both these books, and many others in the genre, depict worlds where human being’s own greed and shortsightedness create nightmare societies. Unfortunately, this is fairly reflective of real problems in our world, as resources are being consumed far quicker than they can be replenished, and often for frivolous uses. Take for example, the apparel industry. As the second dirtiest industry behind oil, Alberta Energy estimates it takes nearly 70 million barrels of oil to produce the polyester used in fabrics for just one year, and yet consumers continue to buy mass produced items that they quickly discard. Similarly, NEEF reported food waste is the largest component of US landfills at 21 percent, and contributes nearly 20 percent of methane emissions significantly contributing to global warming and climate change.
The good news is that young people are talking. They are talking through art, fiction, films and TV shows – and better yet, they are talking to each other and demanding change. Recycling is becoming more common, retailers and designers are making meaningful attempts to go green, and solar power went from being a futuristic technology to a fact of life. These books and films helped to start a conversation among today’s youth that previously only scientists and politicians were participating in. Now that the fear of what climate change might bring has entered into the population, it is time for people to turn their imaginations to finding a solution. As terrifying as the futures presented by these works of fiction can be, it is not too late to begin to fix what we have broken.