I’m David Thorpe, a writer of climate fiction amongst other things, including lots of academic books and articles on climate change, but I’m probably best known for my work for Marvel comics.
I wrote a comic book in 1990 for Greenpeace to educate children about global warming. I started writing my first climate fiction novel Stormteller ten years ago.
This led me to be on the first climate fiction panel at the Hay literature festival and make contact with Dan Bloom who is responsible for popularising the term clifi.
Climate fiction’s roots were in dystopian fiction. Its first phase was to try to scare us out of our complacency into action with dystopian, apocalyptic stories of scorched and drowned worlds.
We are now in the second phase, I believe, where we are depicting solutions to, or ways of living with, climate change.
It’s something I called for in my 2018 Book, ‘One Planet’ Cities: Sustaining Humanity within Planetary Limits, which itself contains hundreds of examples of such solutions and a climate fiction short story.
We are now headed for certain for some kind of climate changed future. So the idea that describing an undesirable future would inspire people to avoid it didn’t work. It’s already here, with forest fires, unbearable heat and flash floods.
We need to imagine a successful future before we can build it. Writers are well-placed to do this, with our imagination and storytelling skills plus a little research.
These are messages of hope. Hope is what we need. Hope that even if it’s too late to save ourselves we can at least save our children from the disasters we can see coming if we carry on doing nothing.
There are thousands of solutions out there, for climate adaptation and mitigation. Most people don’t know about them, including politicians, so there is plenty of material for writers and for stories.
And God knows we need some hope as we swelter in the baking heat, the land burns or houses drown.
The purpose of climate fiction is not simply to warn the world about what is happening, but to aid preparations for what has not happened yet.
The most alarming global trend, apart from still-rising emissions that mean we are on course for 2.5C of heating, is the unexpected speed with which it is already causing chaos.
Given what we now know about the impact of the present 1C of warming, it is no exaggeration to say that this trajectory is not only suicidal but murderous.
The purpose of writing messages of hope is like delivering a placebo: if the doctor tells you you have a chance of recovery from a fatal disease this is like a placebo and you are more likely to live than if they tell you you are certain to die.
Stories describing how people are coping with climate change give us that hope.
Stronger than hope is faith or belief. Better than faith is knowledge.
Science gives us knowledge. Religion gives us faith (but it has its own problems). Writers can give us hope. This is our job now.
This is the first in a series of three blog posts around this theme. Read the second one here.