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Cli-fi forum: Big ideas for the small screen

Screenwriter John Collee, Adriana Verges, Steve Lewandowsky and Fiona Johnson. CREDIT:LOUIE DOUVIS

For ages scientists have been using our graphs and our data and our facts to try to communicate our science but it's been demonstrated that this doesn't really work very well. It very rarely influences people's opinions and hardly ever motivates action.

Storytelling, in contrast, is emerging as a very clear way to communicate environmental issues.

Adriana Vergés

‘Big ideas for the small screen’ brought together UNSW climate scientists and some of Australia’s leading screen creatives, to explore climate-fiction, an emerging small screen genre. This ‘cli-fi’ forum presented independent TV writers and creatives with hard facts and forecasts from leading scientists and thinkers working in the climate change space. Speakers included John Collee, the screenwriter of Happy Feet, Walking with Dinosaurs and Master and Commander, and American climate scientist Professor Michael E. Mann. 

A morning of presentations from specialists in climate science, geoengineering, psychology, human health, renewable energy, politics and history was followed by a discussion led by John Collee seeking input and ideas from all quarters of the room. The goal was to bring science and story together to stimulate ideas for powerful screen content.

The idea was the brainchild of UNSW Science marine ecologist Dr Adriana Vergés who brought on board Jungle Productions, ABC TV, Screen Australia, Create NSW and venue partner AFTRS. Together, they started seeding the idea of developing a drama TV series to provide a more compelling way to understand the impacts of climate change. The series is currently in development and is an anthology with six episodes and the working title “By Degrees”. Each episode is centred on human narratives, where characters living 50 years from now have been deeply impacted by climate change.