The World-Ecology of Climate Change Cinema

Research output: Other contribution


‘Cli-fi’ is an abbreviation of ‘climate fiction’, which was popularised in the last decade and refers to a category of genre or literary fiction that takes global warming or climate change as its subject. The prototype is probably Jules Verne’s Sans dessus dessous (1889, translated as The Purchase of the North Pole), an uncannily prescient novel involving a conspiracy to change the Earth’s climate to make more fossil fuel available to a corporation. Cli-fi includes novels, novellas and short stories featuring natural as well as anthropogenic climate change and J.G. Ballard’s early contribution, a quartet in which human civilisation was destroyed by all four of the classic elements, deployed both causes: The Wind from Nowhere (1961, air), The Drowned World (1962, water), The Burning World (1964, fire, later published as The Drought), and The Crystal World (1966, earth). Richard Fleischer’s Soylent Green (1973) is an early example of cinematic cli-fi and although it was a commercial and critical failure at the time of its release, it was regarded with greater respect in the year in which it is set – 2022 – in consequence of its critique of the capitalist mode of production. Ballard’s quartet provides a convenient heuristic for selecting a characteristic sample of the cinematic genre as it emerged at the end of the 20th century: Kevin Reynolds’ Waterworld (1995, water), Roland Emmerich’s The Day After Tomorrow (2004, air), George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road (2015, fire), and Adam McKay’s Don’t Look Up (2021, earth). Climate change is anthropogenic in all four cases, although the cause is implied in Waterworld and complicated in Don’t Look Up.
Original languageEnglish
Media of outputPrint & online
PublisherTheaker's Quarterly Fiction
Number of pages63
Place of PublicationBirmingham
Publication statusPublished - 20 Nov 2023


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