CLI-FI AT 2Y: LEARNING GEOSCIENCE THOUGH CLIMATE-CHANGE FICTION
My English colleague and I team-teach seminar style and invite geoscience or humanities faculty as guest lecturers. To help students focus on climate change issues or themes, we use a “climate-change stress index.” In all students’ fictional reading, they locate and describe several features of the climate-changed world, such as adaptation/mitigation, breakdown in civilization/social order, climate imbalance/disorder, mass extinctions, illness/disease, and resource scarcity. This stress-index technique helps us use cli-fi’s settings, plots, and characters not just as jumping off points for general discussion but as windows through which students get an integrated view of science and fiction in one lesson. For example, when reading The Windup Girl, we use Google Earth to co-locate events in the novel with real Bangkok locations. We may ask, Where would the fictional engineers build the sea wall? How high would it have to be? If it failed (and it does), what areas of Bangkok would flood first? This literary science fact-checking motivates students to take the fiction seriously by critically checking or assessing its verisimilitude. As final projects, students write either original creative cli-fi pieces or research an aspect of climate change science important in their lives. All students present their projects at an end-of-semester cli-fi/geoscience mini-conference.