Episode 19: Utopia, Pt 2 (Climate Change Fiction)

Words To That Effect Ep19 (Climate Change Fiction & Utopia)

This week’s episode continues on from the last episode. So, if you haven’t listened to that, head on over to Episode 18 first. From the history of utopia in the last episode, we move to the future of the planet and the climate change fiction that addresses it.


Creating Utopia

“For me, utopianism is the creative attempt by a group of people to respond to the great challenges of any age and to do so in a way that’s visionary, it’s not limited, it’s not following a set recipe that has an end point, it’s an open ended future”

This episode is about creating utopias, real and imaginary, and the need for utopian thinking as we are faced with the greatest threat to the future of our planet: climate change.



I talk to a member of the Cloughjordan Ecovillage, in Tipperary, Ireland. What is life actually like in a community like this. Is daily life very different from your average life in a small Irish town? How do you join, and does someone decide if you get in or not? And what exactly is ecological about the ecovillage?

Climate Change Fiction

We then move from an ecovillage to climate change fiction, or “clifi”, a whole subgenre of literature that explores the possibilities of a future affected by climate change. Writers are imagining dystopian futures with water scarcity or rising sea levels, with desertification, agricultural catastrophes or the spread of new diseases. Others are highlighting the utopian thinking needed to mitigate against many of these issues.

From Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars trilogy, and his many utopian works, to Frank Schätzing‘s best-selling novel The Swarm, to films like The Day After Tomorrow, there are many ways of representing and exploring climate change. What is clear, though, is that this is most certainly an issue that needs to be explored, and climate change fiction is a particularly good way of representing the timescales involved.



My guests this week are Prof Tom Moylan and Prof Peadar Kirby.

ralahine_logo Words To That Effect Ep18 utopian literatureTom Moylan is Glucksman Professor Emeritus in the School of Languages, Literature, Culture at the University of Limerick. He is Founder and Co-Director of the Ralahine Centre for Utopian Studies, where he is also one of the editors of the Ralahine Utopian Studies Book Series. His full bio can be found here

The Ralahine Centre for Utopian Studies can be found here


Peadar Kirby is Professor Emeritus of International Politics and Public Policy in the University of Limerick. He has published widely on Ireland’’s model of development, on Latin American politics and political economy, on globalisation, and on climate change. He is a director of the company developing Cloughjordan ecovillage, Co. Tipperary, where he lives. His full bio can be found here.

His latest book is The Political Economy of the Low-Carbon Transition: Pathways Beyond Techno-Optimism, co-authored with Dr Tadhg O’Mahony, recently published by Palgrave Macmillan

In early 2017, Transitioning to a Post-Carbon Society: Degrowth, Austerity and Wellbeing‘, co-edited with Ernest Garcia and Mercedes Martinez-Iglesias, was published by Palgrave Macmillan. It has a chapter on Cloughjordan ecovillage as modelling the transition to a low-carbon society.

You can find out more about the Cloughjordan Eco Village on their website here



Music this week was by Forrests. You can listen to more and buy their music here forrests polydrug ep (words to that effect climate change fiction episode)

Track Listings

Polydrug (Polydrug EP)

Corridor (Polydrug EP)





There was also music from Saso. You can have a listen to their music hereSaso - mysterium words To That Effect ep18 utopian literature

Hermetic (Mysterium)

Mysteria (Mysterium)

Secret Ministry (Exitudes)



Works Mentioned

Kim Stanley Robinson: Mars Trilogy

Kim Stanley Robinson: Science in the Capital Trilogy

Paolo Bacigalupi: The Water Knife

Frank Schätzing: The Swarm

George Miller (dir.): Mad Max: Fury Road

Roland Emmerich(dir.): The Day After Tomorrow

Lisa Garforth: Green Utopias: Environmental Hope Before and After Nature

Gerry Canavan & Kim Stanley Robinson (eds.): Green Planets: Ecology and Science Fiction

Donna Harraway: Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene


Looking for more science fiction to go with your utopias? This episode is on Irish Science Fiction and this one is on brain myths and science fiction

Or how about an episode on transhumanism, science fiction and immortality
and a very different type of utopian (or dystopian future)


If you enjoy the episode and want to find out how to support the show then click here for more information.

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Want to build your own utopia? Let me know in the comments below or check out the Words To That Effect Facebook Page

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Words To That Effect is a member of the Headstuff Podcast Network.

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