Before we begin, I will say right now, that I 100% believe in climate change. If you don’t believe in it, well that isn’t going to stop it happening. That said, I don’t really need to engage with conspiracies about how the planet is fine. If you go outside right now, a few miles from me, the world is on fire. Fires have increased in this area over the last few years as the weather gets hotter and the rain is not coming. It’s easy to imagine that this world that is coming for us, is going to come with a lot of changes that are going to be extremely difficult to cope with. Although humans are adaptable, it’s not difficult to imagine a landscape in which we have to fight for our survival. Books like The Hunger Games explore the options of what it would mean if we have to include a population control method such as the ‘games’, the same is true in Maze Runner and to some degree or other early films like Running Man show a dystopian landscape, where the strong survive. Writing this ‘future’ seems slightly easier now as we progress toward a changing landscape. An amazing article on the reasoning behind the new wave of climate change fiction is from the New Yorker. “How Climate-Change Fiction, or “Cli-Fi,” Forces Us to Confront the Incipient Death of the Planet” by Katy Waldman dives into why this confrontation is important to think about, what will our world be is somewhat up to debate, but it certainly is indisputable that we will have to work together to make things liveable.
In writing, the new wave of cli-fi as it’s now called has given rise to several authors, beginning in the 2000s, however, this early exposure of this issue did not really catch on. I believe this is more to do with denial. Although climate issues have been known since the 1800s, there was no real understanding of what was happening until much later. However, that did not change the writing that inspired us to begin thinking about this. In the early Victorian age you have novels that were written about the industrial age such as North and South which focuses on the new change in housing, if you watch the documentary that I mentioned during our last podcast, you will find that the home, the expansion of industry came at a cost. It caused new transformations to be invented such as sewage lines, cemeteries, waste handling business, and more. The use of coal and other fuels were on the rise, and many areas of London were covered in thick sticky black soot that caused early death in infants. People began to expect that something was wrong, but it was too soon to understand that the air they were breathing was toxic.
The novel The Time Machine was another example of how the future could be. In the movie of the same name, he travels to a future in which humans were not free, but kept as food by a race of beings, similar to Planet of the Apes and other future thoughts that include a reversal in the natural evolution chain. This is a common theme in a few literary places, that led to many episodes of The Twilight Zone imagining a world in which you would do year-long stints alone on desolate planets, the vision of us as not superior as a species is a common one in cli-fi and sci-fi because as was mentioned in our horror podcast, this genre also breaks what is natural. You could say it does not just break what is natural, because who is to say that this version of evolution was natural, but what I mean is, you posing a thought experiment its the IF xx didn’t happen then XX would not happen thus XX never came into being. It’s rational to believe that as we find we can’t change the past, but what if that past didn’t happen at all. This type of thinking is what leads us to open the talking point of OK but now it happened so now what. It does not mean we are not somewhat responsible for thinking about the OK then WHAT NOW.
It’s the what now the part that I for one am stumped on. As we find more studies that reflect our shifting world, how can we as writers bring home what the reality is, I believe that we can do that by opening talking about it? Seeing the glass half full, I think is quite normal for some of us, but this is not just the only possibility, the glass can be quite full too. Climate change is here, but it’s not inevitable that we cannot survive, humans, adapt. We see into the void and pull ourselves back from it, what is important now is to use the reality to keep the focus on this is not an IF anymore, this is NOW, and its time to stop the thought experiment and instead imagine and think of how we can solve it. I think writers are important in this area. Writers are realists and humanists to some degree, and I believe literature, preservation of culture, and continuing to push the boundaries to reflect and introspect on the WHAT IF.