An article here bemoans the fact that writers of fiction are not writing about climate change. The point is well made. Fiction can’t change the world, but it is a part of culture, and culture, in a way, is a set of priorities, a set of pointers as to what is worth paying attention to.
It’s a bit irritating, though, that Daniel Kramb (the author of this article) didn’t even mention science fiction. Surely this is the obvious fictional mode for writing about future threats to humanity? And science fiction writers do regularly write, one way or the other, about climate change. (See, for example, Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Wind-Up Girl.).
I should write more about it myself – I have an idea for a novel on the back burner – but so far my rather modest contribution has been the short stories ‘Greenland’, and ‘Rat Island’. Prompted by this article, I’ll make ‘Rat Island’ available here.
How to write about climate change in a useful way is another question. Appallingly bleak scenarios probably just encourage fatalism, while heartwarming stories of people in the future rebuilding civilisation from scratch after a catastrophe can seem positively appealing (Aldiss spoke of ‘cosy apocalypses’: books like Wyndham’s The Day of the Triffids).
One thing writers could do would be to think about the words we use. ‘Global warming’ is misleading, because an average global increase in temperature will result in colder weather in some places, including perhaps the UK. ‘Climate change’ is a bit bland, and invites the thought that the climate has changed many times in the past, from ice ages to warm wet periods when there were no polar ice caps at all, so what’s the big deal? What’s different here is the speed of change, too fast for ecosystems to adapt.
‘Climate collapse’, perhaps, or ‘climate breakdown’?