Sci-fi to cli-fi: How climate fiction is driving change

Fantasy. Dystopia. Even crime. Who would have thought that the climate emergency could spawn...

Art Credit: Amanda Griffin/Global News exciting branch of literature known as “climate fiction” or “cli-fi” – for young adults?

Art Credit: Amanda Griffin/Global News

With its endless possibilities for creation – fear, yes, but also imagination and hope – “YA cli-fi” is one of the most exciting things to come out of literature in recent years.

Art Credit: Amanda Griffin/Global News

For over a decade, young people have been warning the ‘adults’ in the room of a looming catastrophe.

The reality of the climate emergency is now plain for all to see.

Cli-fli is inspiring action.

That’s Bijal Vachharajani, an Indian author and journalist who is making a name for herself...

...writing stories about how young people are ‘standing up’ to the grown-ups, pushing them to act.

In this book, she tells the story of a group of youngsters who force lawmakers to deal with their city's smog emergency.

Life was now divided between Before Bhura and After Bhura.

Before Bhura, her father had gone to Nepal, reaching in a few hours, and enjoying a trek in one of the world’s last remaining glaciers.

After Bhura, his flight, like all the others to Mumbai, had been cancelled.

Journalist and author Omar El Akkad says YA cli-fi has traditionally been overlooked by publishers – and that’s precisely what gave the genre the breadth and space to try new things.

Cli-fi, El Akkad says, confronts the status quo in ways other fiction can't.

YA cli-fi tests our assumptions about how the world works, what it means to be human and even what it means to face the end of the world.

For example, Indigenous Peoples, University of Manitoba Prof. Hee-Jung Serenity Joo says, "have already survived the quote-unquote apocalypse."

The same can be said about the Black experience, as documented in books like Nalo Hopkinson's "Brown Girl in the Ring."

Or in Octavia Butler's "Parable" series, which tells the story of a colony of outcasts – led by a young, Black protagonist – seeking protection from a tyrannical government.

There is a blunt honesty to YA cli-fi. Unlike their parents, Joo says, young people nowadays know that the world is in trouble...

“...that the future is not this thing that’s going to be bright and shiny like The Jetsons.”

But the idea of possibility must be there. What would any story be without that?

Art Credit: Amanda Griffin/Global News

"It definitely does not have to be ‘they lived happily ever after,'" Bijal Vachharajani says.

Art Credit: Amanda Griffin/Global News

But the possibility of a brighter future must always be there.

Art Credit: Amanda Griffin/Global News

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