For those operating in the climate change space, the science of global warming is nothing short of sectoral jargon. Facts such as temperatures having already climbed 1.1 degrees Celsius above pre-Industrial levels and phrases such as “a 2-degree world” get embedded in so many speeches, campaigns and literature that they become intuitive and irrevocable until a new bout of numbers comes along, and the lexicon updates accordingly.
But how many people in the world actually think about global warming in such an imperative way? Does it not rather play more of a cameo role, grabbing attention when there’s a heatwave and then disappearing again on a nice day? How do we close this gap between scientific and felt realities?
It is often said that the role of art is to hold a mirror up to society, but the ever-growing field of climate fiction – “cli-fi” – has an even greater responsibility: to hold a mirror up to the global future. By repurposing data and information into stories about life when summers are unsurvivable without air conditioning and potable water has to be manufactured, climate fiction has the power to make sweeping scientific projections comprehensible, personal and emotional.
In the lead-up to World Environment Day 2022, this GLF Live on 3 June brought together Abhiyant Tiwari, a leading heat health expert from India, and Alexandra Kleeman, a renowned author and journalist who recently published an applauded work of climate fiction, to discuss the interplay of their professional fields and how this can make a climatic difference.
Listen back to the conversation:
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Alexandra Kleeman is the author of the novel Something New Under the Sun, Intimations, a short story collection, and the novel You Too Can Have A Body Like Mine, which was awarded the 2016 Bard Fiction Prize and was a New York Times Editor’s Choice. In 2020, she was awarded the Rome Prize and the Berlin Prize, and was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in Fiction in 2022. Her fiction has been published in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Zoetrope, Conjunctions, and Guernica, among others, and other writing has appeared in Harper’s, The New York Times Magazine, VOGUE, Tin House, n+1, and The Guardian. She is an Assistant Professor at the New School and her second novel, Something New Under the Sun, named one of the New York Times’ Notable Books of 2021, was published in August by Hogarth Press and Fourth Estate (UK).
Abhiyant Tiwari is an Indian heat health expert. He hold’s a master’s in public health specialized in environmental health sciences from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Since 2013, as a public health researcher and practitioner at the Public Health Foundation of India, Tiwari has worked with partners including the Natural Resources Defense Council, the U.S., and national and sub-national government agencies on developing, implementing and scaling heatwave health adaptation plans in India. He led a preliminary study for the National Disaster Management of India to estimate local temperature thresholds for heatwave warning systems in more than 100 Indian cities and works on developing risk-informed heat health warning systems for the country’s states. He is a member of the National Disaster Management Authority of India’s technical experts’ group that develops national guidelines for heatwave adaptation plans and a member of the Technical Expert Group on Heat-Related Illnesses constituted by India’s National Centre for Disease Control. He is also a member of the management committee of the Global Heat Health Information Network, Regional Technical Working Group for Safe and Disaster Resilient Hospitals in PEER-South Asia and the Indian Meteorological Society, and is a fellow of both LEAD India and Climate Reality.
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