Captain Planet, a blast from the past pertinent to the present to preserve the future. In the 1990s environmental ecologists and activists sought to educate and reach out to a new audience to voice their concerns on the wasteful destruction of Earth’s resources by creating an eco-conscience cartoon geared toward college bound youngsters who would soon be entering and graduating from high schools. With the financial help of billionaire Ted Turner all of this came into fruition, Captain Planet was created. The plot behind the storyline is simple: a quintet of teenagers work together to encourage environmentally responsible behavior by protecting the Earth with their individual elemental powers of Fire, Water, Earth, Wind, and Heart; when their powers are combined they summon a superhero, Captain Planet, to deal with extreme ecological disasters. This blast from the past may be what is needed presently to reach out to younger audiences once again, as planetary climate-change is occurring more rapidly with tangible physical evidence of the changes that will affect future generations. Though this cartoon is no longer producing new episodes, the program does run in syndication on some networks and many episodes can be found on YouTube. This show also inspired the Captain Planet Foundation, supporting environmental education. The greatest accomplishment of this program is that it reached a younger audience and entertainingly exposed the seriousness of planetary destruction, the dangers of over consumption, and economic greed; while fostering respect for the Earth as it will abide to man because it will exist long after homosapiens are gone.
I have often asked the question: How do you get someone to be more conscientious of environmental conservationism, global-warming, and climate-change? The best answer is to entice interest and bring awareness to these social concerns during a person’s early social and mental development. It has been proven through clinical research and social experiments that early onsite exposure during an adolescent’s pre-pubescent developmental stage is the best time to peek a child’s interest and form a cognitive bond to information. This is why it is easier for a young child to learn a foreign language than an adult; the mind is open to new experiences and information retention. With this in mind, children’s author Sarah Holding has taken this concept and written books targeting her audience of adolescents and their adult guardians. In an interview Sarah states, “I can’t speak for everyone, but I write cli-fi because it reconnects young readers with their environment, helping them to value it more, especially when today, a large amount of their time is spent in the virtual world. Cli-fi advocates restoring equilibrium to our physical environment, making it not just a setting or backdrop to a story, but a story’s primary purpose and emotional appeal. The characters in my writing are genuinely concerned about the environment and want to make a difference, which I hope is contagious and spreads to my readers too.” This is the purpose of literature: to reach out to a vast array of populaces to entertain and inform.
I am not into science and math. I am an English Literature Major: with a concentration in African-American Poetry, which denotes I have an extensive, functional vocabulary and my ability to comprehend or decode information through context clues is superb. However, when it comes to understanding jargon specific terminology and scientific-based language I get lost and often feel stupid, even though I shouldn’t. With this in mind, it is often difficult to become motivated by topics and information that are difficult to cognitively retain, even when it is a topic of interest. When someone cannot comprehend what they are reading or what is being presented they tend to lose interest. For this very reason the website, Shrink That Footprint, has attempted to simplify Climate Science for Beginners.
Hey everybody! Look at what I found! That’s RIGHT, an interview with cli-fi’s sweetheart, Dan Bloom! It’s actually pretty interesting. The interview was posted on January 19th, 2015 and it’s about his thoughts on cli-fi in general and how cities are portrayed in these worlds affected by climate. I figured this was a good post to leave you all with. I’ll see you all again someday, maybe, to finish that debate about whether or not clones are considered alive.
In the Los Angeles Review of Books, a great review of a new special issue of the journal Paradoxa about the state of science fiction. The review starts by name-dropping “cli-fi” and the writing of Kim Stanley Robinson and Margaret Atwood before moving into its description of the collection:
The more sophisticated offerings among these postapocalyptic fictions often highlight how end-of-the-world fantasies can often perpetuate triumphalist narratives of global capitalism, and this is one of the key launching points for Mark Bould and Rhys Williams’s recent special issue of the scholarly journal Paradoxa. This special issue — called Sf Now — examines cutting-edge trends in science fiction literature and theory, and it offers several articles that expand on Mark Fisher’s notion of “capitalist realism,” or the idea that challenges to capitalist norms are often preemptively rejected as fruitless and unrealistic.
If you ask me, the possibilities and power of “cli-fi” should be evaluated by how well it provides alternatives to this line of thinking — “capitalist realism” — and directly challenges its limitations. As we discussed in class, I think Kingsolver is actually doing this rather well in Flight Behavior if we account for her audience, mainly in the two scenes where Dellarobia goes shopping (first in the dollar store, later in the thrift store) — so it doesn’t always have to come in the form of science fiction.
You can read the Introduction to the special issue online.
I feel like many times in class we had a cyclical conversation about how there is absolutely nothing we can do to reverse the process of climate change. Here is one such example that could actually stand to do some real good. That is, granted our politicians can get their heads out of their asses. Fat chance right?
In the Guardian, author Sarah Holding gives her Top 10 Cli-fi books. The list is focused on Young Adult and children’s lit, which is where cli-fi is really taking off. Early in February, Holding wrote a piece for the Guardian about why she considers her own work cli-fi. The next time I teach this class, we’ll definitely read something geared towards the YA market.
Coined by climate activist Dan Bloom to capture an emergent literary genre dealing with life on Earth after it’s been ravaged by climate change, this is fast becoming the most exciting and challenging subject area driving YA literature. Although catastrophic by nature, it is far from mere disaster-movie fodder; these books are posing new questions about what it means not just to survive but to be human. Don’t be put off by the preponderance of floodwater or the scarcity of basic resources – what you’ve got here are fast-paced, intrepid adventures into the unknown, most of which, interestingly enough, have a strong female character leading the way.
Pictured above: an ice-hopping polar bear, something our blog has been missing to this point. Photo credit: “Polar Bear AdF” by Arturo de Frias Marques – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
Has anyone heard about this? This guy is pretty hardcore. Definitely an event that I would like to keep tabs on.
This article (for me) was a new take on how we view climate change. Especially relevant from our numerous conversations in class regarding, “What can we do?” and “Who is to blame?”. This piece is very comprehensive, and makes compelling arguments for its case. Here are some samples of the article.
“Negligence on the part of those governments and corporations towards peoples who have been displaced or further impoverished by climate change is a form of violence. That negligence has included severe underfunding for climate adaptation and mitigation efforts, and relative inaction or slow action on curbing overconsumption.”
“Citizens of the world have to press charges for human rights violations or even war crimes, not just environmental degradation —for both current and past harms. We have to look at figures of how many inches the ocean will rise and how many more storm events will wipe out coastal economies, and directly relate human lives to those numbers. We need prioritize the people whose homes and livings are going literally underwater, and make the heavy emitters (corporations and rich nations) pay.”
I was just prancing about Google and I figured I’d do a little more research on how cli-fi is portrayed in the movies and if it’s really having any impact on people. I found this great article written by the New York Times that explains why they think global warming dramas can sometimes be misleading.
Also on this page are links to other related articles also written by the New York Times that are there for you to click on. The one that interested me the most is titled, “Will Fiction Influence How We React to Climate Change?”, written in July of last year. But again, there are a million different articles you can read that have links on either of those pages if you don’t dig the one I suggested so much.
I’ll see you guys tonight!!
OH, and HAPPY EARTH DAY!
I’m not sure whether to laugh or cry at this 1960’s advertisement, honestly…”Humble” (another joke apparently) Oil & Refinery Co. is bragging about how they supply enough energy to melt 7 million tons of glacier each day! While I understand we did not know much about climate change 50 years ago, I find it funny that Humble recognized the (albeit very exaggerated) impact that their products could have on nature. Yet, instead of lamenting this issue, Humble saw it as a reason to brag! The 60’s were a strange era, indeed.
Today Reuters released what is supposed to be the first part of a string of articles by Kyle Plantz, who interviewed me a few weeks ago about our class. Suffice to say that if I knew the article was going to be about Game of Thrones I would have been super-pumped, as it is literally the only TV show I like other than Antiques Roadshow.
But here we are at the end of the piece:
But Ted Howell, who teaches a climate fiction class at Temple University in Philadelphia, said film-goers may be getting the wrong idea about what climate change looks like.
“Some people think (climate change) is going to be this massive tidal wave or giant snowstorm, but it’s actually slower than that,” he said.
Thank you, Captain Obvious.
I jest, but Kyle’s piece is really excellent and I can’t wait to read the next one.
While I was writing my expert review on Snowpiercer, I found a lot of cool interviews that will help you “pre-game”, if you will, for watching the movie in class tomorrow. It just gives some background on the movie and what some of the actors and producers think about it and it’ll really help get you into the world that we’ll be watching tomorrow. And who doesn’t love Chris Evans? Come on.
I really recommend looking at at least one of these interviews before coming in to watch the movie tomorrow. They’re all super interesting and not too long and the first one is a video.
See you guys tomorrow for pizza and Snowpiercer!!!
Recently, The New Yorker posted this piece by acclaimed author Jonathan Franzen. Here, Franzen displays some general foolishness and seems to be entirely ignorant of some general facts of the climate change “movement.” Franzen seems to believe that the environmentalist movement and the climate change movement (for lack of a better phrase) are two disparate entities and supporters of one cannot support the other. To me, Franzen’s defeatist attitude appears dangerous… If Franzen, one of the most acclaimed authors of the century, cannot get behind the push to help stop man-made climate change, how many others will buy into his nonsense? While Mr. Franzen’s defeatist attitude on the subject may be shared by many, I for one believe that we can save the birds AND the planet if we try hard enough.
Here’s an article from yesterday that I didn’t see until today. While this sounds all well and good, I can’t help but be skeptical.
In his essay, The Anthropocene Myth, Andreas Malm argues that “blaming all of humanity for climate change lets capitalism off the hook.” Indeed, while referring to our new, climate change entrenched, geological epoch as the Anthropocene might be radical in its assertion that humanity’s actions are the primary source of climate change, Malm is keen to point out how this generalization of the problem misses the key issue.
“Climate science, politics, and discourse are constantly couched in the Anthropocene narrative: species-thinking, humanity-bashing, undifferentiated collective self-flagellation, appeal to the general population of consumers to mend their ways and other ideological pirouettes that only serve to conceal the driver.”
Arguing over the semantics of climate change might seem silly, but Malm makes a crucial point about why this distinction is necessary:
“Without antagonism, there can never be any change in human societies. Species-thinking on climate change only induces paralysis. If everyone is to blame, then no one is.”
Should we already rename freshly dubbed Anthropocene to something more specifically targeted, such as the Capitalist epoch? It seems unlikely that any such name will be accepted by the mainstream discourse. Naming things is fickle business, and although sometimes useful for establishing a point, is rarely more than a way of summarizing content. Regardless of what we call the current epoch, however, Malm is right to suggest that how we conceptualize this epoch is important if we want to change the way things are headed. If the Anthropocene must be understood as involving humanity in its totality, then it must be in recognition of the complicated and varied relationships between climate change and humans, not as cause for universal blame.
In this article Klein argues the current moment is ripe for the world to take advantage of the dramatic drop in global oil prices by kicking the fossil fuel industry “while it’s down.” She goes on to says the fall in oil prices since last year should be seen as an opportunity for those concerned about both the prevailing economic order and the dangers of climate change. “Let’s turn this shock,” she says in the nearly five-minute video essay, “into the shift we need.” While this seems to be good idea in theory, our class last night (and Forty Signs of Rain) illuminated how hard it is to actually get anything achieved without added measures tacked on to potential progress.
Last week in class we talked for an hour about geoengineering even though not a single one of us is a scientist or capable of fully comprehending the intricacies of the plans we evaluated. Then, the next day, I came across this article from Grist, which had been published the day before: Why we should talk about geoengineering even if we never do it. A team of researchers found that — in addition to its helpfulness in understanding climate systems — geoengineering studies can help to make conversations about climate change less polarizing. And the article’s final paragraph mirrors many of our course’s key themes:
But just like other sci-fi fodder — black holes, time travel, artificial intelligence — geoengineering is the kind of concept that, by stoking imaginations and raising questions of ethics, politics, and the limits of human innovation, can influence society without ever having to become a reality. It’s dangerous, and scientists get that, but neglecting or hindering the broader climate change discussion is dangerous too.
This article explains this up and coming genre of sci-fi and it questions whether simply writing a sci-fi book is enough to make an impact on society. In other words, how should we ensure that these ideas continue to perpetuate once a book is published? The article also discussed how sci-fi authors are meeting with scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs to discuss bigger goals in relation to climate change. This union is in hope to bridge the gap between sci-fi and hard science. This article shows how sci-fi authors are becoming a true value in the fight of climate change.