“Similarly, at exactly the time when it has become clear that global warming is in every sense a collective predicament, humanity finds itself in the thrall of a dominant culture in which the idea of the collective has been exiled from politics, economics, and literature alike”- Amitav Ghosh
Climate Fiction is defined by The Oxford Dictionary as a genre of fiction that deals with the impact of climate change and global warming. The above paragraph is an anecdote from celebrated Indian Author and Academic Amitav Ghosh's latest work The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable.
Amitav Ghosh pens down the perils of climate change and draws attention to, among many things, the lack of seriousness given to issues pertaining to the climate, how our current inaction will lead future generations to think us deranged, etc. He also argues that the climate crisis requires us to imagine and consider other forms of life and human-existence for which literature remains the most suitable of cultural tools.
This is one example, among many others, of Literature acting as a mediator for awareness of climatic repercussions, a genre also known as Cli-Fi. Cli-fi was coined by former journalist and English teacher Dan Bloom in the mid-2000s for fiction that explores the consequences of climate change. It was reportedly after watching the film The Day After Tomorrow that Bloom considered the art of storytelling to bring together similar mindsets who are concerned for the future of life on earth.
The story can be set in the past, present or future but is constructed to visually present to readers the drastic consequences and changes that await our future. This fictional-genre also tributes much of its narrative to scientists, especially with regard to style and voice where there is a detachment from popular ideas of the environment. Setting plays a crucial role in cli-fi while crisis forms a core element in the narrative framework.
Today, cli-fi is a prophetic and much needed movement in modern fiction which as some noted authors reportedly acknowledge, will become a dominant genre in itself as all fiction will soon include and discuss the climate, its effects and its past. The aim behind this genre is to raise an awareness among readers of the impending doom and extinction that industrialisation and an absence of empathy carry. As time and tide change, human concern for mother nature lurks in shadowed corners which is what cli-fi aims to change. As Amitav Ghosh says “ Climate change is like death, nobody wants to talk about it.”
Few books that could adorn your cli-fi collection
Flight Behaviour (2012): In this NY Times bestseller, author Barbara Kingsolver narrates the story of a poverty-stricken rural Tennesse housewife's accidental discovery of millions of beautiful Monarch butterflies, a morbid indicator of the looming climate change. The plot revolves around one woman, one family, a town and that woman's groundbreaking journey of conscience.
Odds Against Tomorrow (2013): A gifted young mathematician hired by Futureworld, a New York-based financial firm shrouded in mystery, is tasked with intricately calculating and studying worst case scenarios which are later sold to corprorates to indemnify them against future calamities.
Green Earth (The Science in the Capital 2015)- Author Kim Stanley Robinson translates with cutting-clarity the ramifications of climate change and the horrific outcome of upsetting an ecological balance in this updated compressed compilation of his Forty Signs of Rain, Fifty Degrees Below and Sixty Days and Counting. The story revolves a round a couple who fight against global warming but as they fight to align the modernities of technology with the breathtaking sources of nature,science is pitted against politics to weather up a storm that is an ugly, bitter truth of the situation today.
The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable (2016): Amitav Ghosh in his latest non-fiction bluntly details the perils of the changing climate and human ignorance. The celebrated author unapologetically dissects our failure at a literary, historical and political level to comprehend the grave repercussions and violence brought on by climate change. He analyses how today both literature and politics have become areas of individual and personal moral concern than that of collective action.
The Overstory (2018): Richard Power's Pulitzer Prize Winning novel effortlessly breathes life into trees and meshes together an articulate work of activism and resistance that both exhilirates the reader and holds context wider than human life. The novel brings to life inanimate objects and speaks of a ghostly world alongside earth that is vast, interconnected and extremely resourceful, almost invisible to humans. The narrative follows a handful of people who are the lucky few to see that world, and the consequences thereafter.
The History of Bees (2017): Norwegian Author Maja Lunde weaves weaves her book around three geenrations set in three different timeframes to tailor a powerful, thought-provoking tale about the compelling bond between parents and children, one that closely mimics our relationship with nature and humanity. A hauntingly dystopian tale that jumps back and forth in time tells the story of three beekepers and the aftermath of global warming on the bees.