Launching the Climate Fiction Prize

Leo Barasi, founder of Climate Fiction Prize

Leo Barasi, Prize founder

I’m a co-founder of the climate fiction prize, and I write about public opinion and climate change.

Last week, a 40-year-old labourer in New Delhi collapsed and died as the temperature hit 49.9 degrees. This prize is his story.

Somewhere else in that city, there’s a woman who will set up a network of cooling centres, so no-one else has to die when the heat becomes unsurvivable. The prize is her story too.

There’s a child who will one day work on technology to reflect some of the sun’s energy back into space.

There’s another child who will mobilise a campaign against that technology.

There’s the community that’s creating nature corridors so animals can migrate as their habitats shift.

And there are the farmers who planned to use that same land for their animals.

The prize is all of their stories.

 About what’s happening now, what’s coming, what we can do about it.

Five years ago, when I came to my colleagues Rose Goddard and Imran Khan with the idea of setting up a climate fiction prize, we all agreed that we needed to celebrate and encourage storytelling about climate change.

Because climate science is heroic but it isn’t enough.

No IPCC report can tell people what it feels like to live through a climate catastrophe, or to imagine how their community could respond.

We need stories for that.

 Stories can fire our imagination in a way that statistics can’t, and they can allow us to see ourselves as part of a future we choose.

Back then we weren’t sure the genre of climate fiction was big enough for a prize

But since 2019, we’ve had Greta and Extinction Rebellion,
40 degrees in England,
50 degrees in India,
the Great Barrier Reef bleached,
Pakistan underwater,
Canada’s heat dome,
Greece’s fires.
Australia’s fires too.

And fiction has responded.

 We’ve seen novels exploring the unsettling feeling of climate anxiety,
giving birth in a climate catastrophe,
imagining messy but hopeful futures
 and drawing parallels between ecological collapse and the breakdown of a family unit.

I’m thrilled to see the Climate Fiction Prize become a reality and I’m excited to read the books that come through it.

Many of climate change’s stories are now being told.

I hope, with the encouragement and support of the Prize, that we will soon get to hear even more of those stories.