The trouble with climate change is that it’s too slow: a creeping disaster causing incremental changes to our lives one year at a time. It moves so slowly, in fact, that by the time the forecast for destruction proves correct (years or decades after it was made), we’ve already turned off the news. As a topic, a debate, and a modern theological schism, climate change seems to be washed up in popular imagination even as the ice melts, the forest fires rage, and the drought deepens. Occasionally we’re confronted with stark reminders of its power, like images documenting the retreat of glaciers or starving polar bears, but because the political trench war over climate change has been going on for so long, we can barely move beyond hopelessness to muster some pity.
It is, as Al Gore put it, an inconvenient truth, but the title backfired on him — the truth proved so difficult to contend with that we work harder and harder to ignore it. We are so immersed in the slow boil of climate change that we’ve lost sight of it completely, and we need to escape lived reality before we can even learn to see it. A jetpack, a flying car, a TARDIS… We need better stories about the future to talk sensibly about the present. It turns out we need the unreality of fiction to understand reality. Speculative fiction, science fiction, climate fiction — call it what you will, it all runs on the same biofuel of imagination.