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Climate Stories in Action: An Introduction

Because the climate crisis affects every part of our lives, it also fits into every genre. We will die happy when we see a climate rom-com. (A climate activist falls in love with the daughter of a fossil fuel tycoon, anyone?) And detective fiction lends itself so well to this moment in which we need all the problem-solving skills we can get. Action-adventure, buddy comedies, political thrillers, police procedurals going after climate criminals, Wes Anderson–style ruminations on the meaning of home . . .

Climate has a place in every story. The climate crisis can be integrated into any storyline and genre, from a passing mention to being the driving force of an episode. You don’t have to dutifully churn out pamphlets on emissions. (Please don’t do that, there are so many pamphlets.) You can still write the stories that are most important to you, and climate can be part of them.

A bunch of classic UK soaps coordinated crossover climate-themed episodes ahead of the UN climate conference COP26. Imagine the crossover potential in the MCU!

The potential for drama is endless. When his mother is diagnosed with lung cancer, a teenage boy sets off on a one-man mission to sabotage the plastics factory next to his house. As fires close in on Los Angeles, a woman must escape, and she has nowhere else to move but into her uncle’s climate-denying, hyper-religious household. A heat wave causes so many unhoused people to need the ER that a doctor loses his shit in the cafeteria, quits, and joins the circus—okay, that one’s a mess, but you’re the writer.

You get the idea: bad for humans; great for story fodder.

In Climate Stories in Action, we illustrate the point using imagined climate loglines of off-air shows, plus case studies of films, TV shows, and novels that are already doing the awesome work of portraying the climate crisis in moving and entertaining ways.

PROMPT

Try out a climate crisis story for the protagonist of your favorite show or the last show you worked on. How would Tony Soprano deal with the emotional fallout of flash floods in yet another hurricane? How would he cope with the uncertainty of climate breakdown? Or what would Will Smith do if he had to cancel Uncle Phil’s surprise birthday pool party because of wildfire smoke? What would Jack McCoy do if a climate activist was arrested and the case landed on his desk?

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