“Imagining climate positive futures will inspire us to act”
A project aimed at inspiring a wave of stories about what positive climate futures might look like for communities around the world has been launched by The Center for Science and the Imagination at Arizona State University.
The Climate Imagination Fellowship, a partner of the UN High-Level Climate Champions, will bring together top science fiction authors with community members, thinkers, researchers, and changemakers from around the world to create stories, grounded in science, that imagine what success might look like.
The idea is to invite people to imagine their own climate futures — to feel both agency and responsibility for defining a future that spurs us to take action today.
“Without positive climate futures, visions of climate adaptation and resilience that we can work toward, it’s much harder to motivate broad-based efforts for change in the present,” say organizers.
Traditionally, climate-related storytelling focuses on negative outcomes: “megastorms, crop failures, and heat waves loom over us, sending a signal that the problem is so vast, so complex, that it’s out of our control.”
But that narrative, they argue, is compelling for some, “but leaves others feeling hopeless, helpless, and disillusioned. Even the most ardent champions of decarbonization sometimes focus more on sounding the alarm than on imagining and mapping out what success might look like.”
Instead, the new concept encourages hopeful stories about how collective action, aided by scientific insights, culturally responsive technologies, and revolutions in governance and labour, can help us make progress towards a more equal, inclusive and sustainable world.
The Climate Imagination Fellows
(From left to right) Libia Brenda, a writer, editor, and translator based in Mexico City; Xia Jia (pen name of Wang Yao), a speculative fiction author and associate professor of Chinese Literature at Xi’an Jiaotong University; Hannah Onoguwe, a writer of fiction and nonfiction based in Yenagoa, in the Bayelsa State in southern Nigeria, a region famous for its oil industry; Vandana Singh, an author of speculative fiction, a professor of physics at Framingham State University, and an interdisciplinary researcher on the climate crisis.
Together, the fellows will create original short novels that narrate inspiring futures for climate action, adaptation, and resilience, set in communities grappling with the effects of the climate crisis in very different geographical, political, and cultural contexts.
In addition, each fellow will craft a handful of flash-fiction stories, capturing and communicating a range of possible futures shaped by the climate crisis and our collective responses to it.
These pieces of fiction will be collected, along with essays, interviews, art, and interactive activities, in a Climate Action Almanac, to be published in 2022.
The project is the brainchild of New York Times bestseller, Kim Stanley Robinson. His most recent novel, The Ministry for the Future, imagines a new transnational agency that advocates for the rights of future generations amidst escalating climate chaos, with a particular focus on radical technological interventions to address collapsing glaciers and other tipping-point phenomena, and on restructuring the world’s economic system with a new set of constraints and incentives.
In his TED talk (below) he tells the “history” of how humanity ended the climate crisis and restored the damage done to Earth’s biosphere. A rousing vision of how we might unite to overcome the greatest challenge of our time.