Author Chen Qiufan thinks science fiction is the best genre to discuss the climate

The Chinese writer believes in the power of compassion and empathy to solve the climate change crisis.

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(Bloomberg) —

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In Chinese science fiction writer Chen Qiufan’s new book, Net Zero China, the protagonist travels back in time to the year 2060 and sees a China in which President Xi Jinping’s net zero pledge is being fulfilled. “There are too many pressing climate issues today, and I think the main one is the energy transition. If we can’t make the transition from fossil fuels to clean energy fast enough, then many other efforts will just float to the surface without touching the deep root of the problem,” Chen said of what is causing him. keeps awake. night. Still, the author said he believes “a crisis can be an opportunity in disguise.”

As told to Karoline Kan

“Our world is full of pressing climate issues, and each one is difficult to solve. I tried to look for answers in my science fiction writing, but the more I learn, the harder I find the questions, and in the end I think sometimes you have to go back to imagination, to love and empathy. We need compassion to realize the urgency of the climate crisis and realize that we are all victims of climate change. We must unite and act to change things. These can be the most powerful solutions.

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I’ve been a science fiction fan since I was a kid. I started watching Star Wars and Star Trek in kindergarten. So writing science fiction is a very natural choice for me. Then, about ten years ago, I wrote my first environmental science fiction Waste Tide (荒潮), which was a story dealing with the problem of e-waste, climate change and the environment. .

Although science fiction is popular today, back when I was writing Waste Tide, few people in mainland China with professions related to climate research were talking about it. In the media, little attention has been paid to climate change. People thought it was weird that I spent time on this literary genre. But in the last ten years, that has changed so much. China has various policies in place, and the most recent is the commitment to achieve carbon neutrality.

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I linked my writing to climate change totally accidentally, but more and more I realized how important it is. I have consciously included topics such as environmental pollution, biodiversity, loss of indigenous culture in my writings. I think science fiction is the best literary genre to lead discussions on climate change because instead of a human-centric angle, you can view the entire universe as a collective living community in stories. Science fiction can function as a bridge that connects all aspects, from technology to humanity, from history to the future, and from reality to imagination. It is a medium that can expand the limits of worldly people’s understanding. Science fiction also has the freedom to explore all sorts of interesting hypotheses, which is powerful for amplifying messages about the climate crisis.

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My latest book is a science fiction book on carbon neutrality for young people. I find these children’s books particularly important because today’s teenagers and children will be the generation that will help achieve carbon neutrality in China in the next forty years. In the book, I explored how we can do the little things in our lives to achieve carbon neutrality. The protagonist lives today but can time travel. He travels to 2060 and sees how society works with the help of all kinds of technological breakthroughs and a smooth system that helps the country reach net zero. At the end, he comes back with the new insights he learned in 2060 and shares them with people who are helping to achieve the climate goal. In the process, of course, there are various conflicts between people with climate goodwill and groups that want to put up barriers, like the powerful fossil fuel corporations. As in reality, there are conflicts with interest groups and a clash of values.

The Covid-19 pandemic is a public alert. I hope people can learn from the pandemic that humans should respect nature, which is also ancient wisdom in traditional Chinese culture. Ironically, after all the so-called modern education and all the technological revolutions, people today are forgetting a certain wisdom that our ancestors knew thousands of years ago.



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Lola R. McClure