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Imagination is essential to the ability of individuals and societies to create, design and bring about the futures they want. Given the massive planetary changes currently in progress, the past is no longer a reliable guide to the future. Instead of relying on experience and stability, we have to make use of future-oriented science combined with our own dreams and desires and our ability to trigger and manage times of change. In the human-dominated Anthropocene, we need to learn about and practice wisely our collective power to influence the distant future – the world in which not only our children but our grandchildren’s grandchildren will live.

There is a wild, free, unconstrained element in imagination – it is a space of radical possibility, the never-before-thought-of stuff. But when it comes to climate change, there is also a necessary element – the insights and knowledge gained from climate science.
How do these two elements – the unconstrained and the necessary – interact?

Telling stories, creating images and making music are ways humans grapple with their problems and work through, represent, critique and reinvent our world. Art and culture have the power to bring the not-yet-existent into life, the future into the present.
Can they bridge the gap between climate science and human choice?

The literary genre of climate fiction (CliFi) is emerging in the space between art, science and political decision-making. The Imagination and Climate Futures Initiative (ICF) explores how CliFi shapes our imagination, how it relates to climate science and how it might affect social and political life. What is the nature of imagination? How do art and science inform our imagination about climate futures? What is the relationship between climate fiction, the imagination and political decisions and behavior in response to climate change?

ICF pursues three primary goals:

  • We conduct research on the effects of art and culture around climate change in the political sphere. How do different imaginations of the future affect decision-making, policy design, technological development and institutional change? What role does imagination play in mobilizing communities and navigating times of turbulent change and transformation?
  • We seek to integrate questions and material around imagination and climate futures into curricula and teaching activities, getting as many students as possible involved in the ICF.
  • We convene scientists, artists, scholars, civil society, business and government for a broader public conversation about imagination and climate futures. We invite everyone to join the conversation during our events, as network partners or on Twitter (#climatefutures), to share your thoughts, concerns and emotions, and to raise questions ICF should explore.