Friday, February 1, 2019

Opinion: We need cli-fi novels and movies to fight climate change

Sen. Kamala Harris was half right in her speech launching her 2020 presidential campaign in January 2019, when she said Americans need to address climate change based on “science fact, not science fiction.” She wasn't talking about the literary genre of ''science fiction'' but rather she was talking about the fictional science "facts" that climate denialists and Donald Trump use to try to attack climate scientists and climate activists.

When the California Democrat’s statement about climate change went out on social media, a number of people pointed out that the rising new literary genre of cli-fi novels and movies has in fact been helping us to prepare for a world of potentially disastrous climate upheaval for years. Sadly, many right wing denialists took issue with Harris’ warnings about climate change, because in our post-truth era, the scientific consensus about what humans are doing to our planet is still somehow a matter of ''opinion.'' But it's no longer a matter of opinion. Climate change is science fact.

And that’s why cli-fi novels and movies are so very important today, as Harris herself knows. No amount of scientific evidence will convince climate deniers - or the vast number of people who merely live in a state of denial. We live in an era in which facts and fiction are blurring into an indistinguishable mess and power belongs to whoever can tell the best story, true or not.

Nobody can even tell what’s real anymore, and what matters is just how something makes us feel - which is why we need good and compelling cli-fi stories and movies.

Cli-fi movies? Think “The Day After Tomorrow,” “Geostorm” and “Waterworld.” \

Also think cli-fi authors such as Kim Stanley Robinson, Margaret Atwood, Barbara Kingsolver, Paolo Bacigalupi, Megan Hunter and Nathaiel Rich who have been writing powerful works that depict the effects of climate change, and how we might mitigate it.

Stories about climate change might can help to sway people’s hearts and minds in a different way than a government charts and statistics. That's where the power of cli-fi storytelling comes in.

Cli-fi novelists and film directors have been doing some soul-searching that includes looking for ways we can do more to restore people’s faith in the future.

When the truth becomes near-impossible to distinguish through the fog of disinformation and “alternative facts,” people tend to feel powerless to change the world. Veteran activist L.A. Kauffman (author of “How to Read a Protest”) says people need to be reminded that they “have more collective power than they realize." Adds Kauffman, “There are truths we can get to through the imagination that are hard to get to through purely factual accounts.”

Again, that's where the power of cli-fi storytelling comes in.

And listen: because cli-fi is the literature and cinema of problem-solving, our stories about science and innovation can play an important role in helping us to regain our faith in our own ability to create change. So as Harris goes out and campaigns for decision-making based on science facts, she will also be talking about how we can harness the awesome power of cli-fi storytelling, the most important literary genre of the 21st century.


No comments: