Framing futures through fiction and folklore – Weaving past and prospective narratives of public understanding of climate science

Author: Debashish Munshi – University of Waikato, New Zealand

Priya Kurian – University of Waikato
Sandra Morrison – University of Waikato

Some of the best contemporary science fiction writers such as Margaret Atwood, Paolo Bacigalupito, Emmi Itäranta, David Mitchell, and Saci Lloyd, to name a few, have made amazing use of climate science research to project the future and trigger action on climate change. At the same time, traditional storytellers are also drawing into the deep recesses of folklore to chart maps of a changing climate to prepare people for the future.

In this paper we explore the convergences and divergences between the rapidly emerging genre of climate fiction, or cli-fi as it is popularly called, and community legends of the past to gain insights into productive ways of furthering public engagement on climate science. In doing so, we build on our culture-centred framework of public engagement on climate adaptation which holds significant implications for science communication.

Drawing on a critical reading of science fiction texts as well as a discourse analysis of interviews with communities in New Zealand, especially Maori, we examine how insights from fiction and folklore may resonate with scientific understandings of climate change impacts on the ocean, land, and atmosphere. We weave together narratives from science, fiction and folklore to inform culturally nuanced strategies for climate adaptation. Such an exercise lies at the heart of Futures Studies which, as Sardar (2006: 60) says, aims “not so much to predict the future (a highly hazardous exercise) but to anticipate possible futures and work towards shaping the most desirable ones.”

The author has not yet submitted a copy of the full paper.

Presentation type: Individual paper
Theme: Stories
Area of interest: Building a theoretical basis for science communication