Guest Post: “Cli-Fi”: Dystopian Fiction on Climate Change, Energy, and the Environment

January 25, 2016 Guests 0

All Things Urban Fantasy is pleased to welcome back Maria, previous guest posts on All Things Urban Fantasy can be found here. Have a great idea for a guest post? Feel free to reach out to us at [email protected]

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 Year of the FloodThe 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 The Bone ClocksWater 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.

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