Twitter Account

Follow me on Twitter (@DCYakabuski) and Instagram (@doreenyakabuski).

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Climate Change Literature

Donald Trump doesn’t believe in climate change.  On November 6, 2012, he tweeted, "The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive."  In June of this year, he announced that the United States would withdraw from the Paris climate agreement unless there are major changes made to the carbon emissions pact.

I think Trump is in the minority in his skepticism.  Certainly, fiction writers have tackled this subject for a number of years.  Climate fiction, popularly abbreviated as cli-fi, is literature that deals with climate change and global warming. Not necessarily speculative in nature, works of cli-fi may take place in the world as we know it or in the near future.

Although the term "cli-fi" came into use in the late 2000s to describe novels and movies that deal with man-made climate change, historically, there have been any number of literary works that dealt with climate change as a natural disaster. One example is Jules Verne's 1889 novel The Purchase of the North Pole, which imagines a climate change due to tilting of Earth's axis. In his posthumous Paris in the Twentieth Century, written in 1883 and set during the 1960s, the titular city experiences a sudden drop in temperature, which lasts for three years.  Wikipedia has a list of cli-fi titles (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Climate_change_in_popular_culture#Literature) as does Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/shelf/show/climate-change).  

 Last month, The New York Times highlighted some climate-themed fiction: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/09/26/climate/climate-books-fiction-scifi-novels.htmlEarlier in the year, The Guardian focused on five climate change novels: https://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2017/jan/19/five-of-the-best-climate-change-novels-cormac-mccarthy-margaret-atwood. And on Earth Day, The Verge outlined eight works of fiction that explore climate science and what the future could hold: https://www.theverge.com/2017/4/22/15386776/earth-day-best-sci-fi-books-bacigalupi-atwood-ballard.

A novel that stands out in my mind is Barbara Kingsolver’s Flight Behaviour.  When this novel’s protagonist, Dellarobia, witnesses a striking vision of orange in the mountains, like fire with no smoke, she is convinced it is a sign from God. The vision makes her a quasi-celebrity, drawing journalists, religious leaders and a climate scientist into her small town. The various reactions and interpretations of the phenomenon — later discovered to be a colony of Monarch butterflies displaced by a flood in their usual home in Mexico — reflect contemporary conversations on climate change and open up Dellarobia’s world.  See my review at https://schatjesshelves.blogspot.ca/2015/12/book-advent-calendar-day-11-flight.html.