Abandoned/evacuated zones in climate fiction
November 16, 2021 1:56 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for fiction involving cities or other places that have been abandoned due to climate change. I'm a newbie when it comes to "cli-fi," so any book or movie tips are much appreciated.
posted by Beardman to Media & Arts (33 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
I have not read Sherri Smith's Orleans but the description fits.
posted by Constance Mirabella at 2:01 PM on November 16, 2021

Who Should Live in Flooded Old New York was an "Op-Ed from the Future" in the New York Times. It does a terrific job of describing an NYC that is flooded and largely abandoned, except by scavengers looking for treasures from the past.
posted by Winnie the Proust at 2:14 PM on November 16, 2021

Gold Fame Citrus and The Water Knife.
posted by zepheria at 2:15 PM on November 16, 2021 [1 favorite]

Jon Bois's 17776 includes someone discussing visiting abandoned NYC.

"A Luxury Like Hope" by Aimee Ogden includes a scene of someone visiting such a place.

"Love at the End" by Deborah Germaine Augustin I think fits your remit: "I woke up hungover the day after Kuala Lumpur was supposed to end."

Probably several stories published by Reckoning are along the dimensions you desire.
posted by brainwane at 2:34 PM on November 16, 2021 [1 favorite]

Book Bingo NW 2021 list: Cli-fi or Environmental Non-fiction
posted by MonkeyToes at 2:46 PM on November 16, 2021

This is a key part of Cory Doctorow's Walkaway
posted by Ragged Richard at 2:51 PM on November 16, 2021

The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi is a very good book set in a near future Phoenix, which is being abandoned because it has lost all its water rights to a diminishing Colorado River to Las Vegas and LA.
posted by rtimmel at 2:57 PM on November 16, 2021

I only know of the The Road movie because parts for filmed on the abandoned PA Turnpike, the tunnels of which make for good exploring.
posted by Press Butt.on to Check at 2:59 PM on November 16, 2021

The Book of Joan by Lidia Yuknavitch is set in an apocalyptic future where much of the Earth is uninhabitable and the wealthiest have abandoned it completely.

American War by Omar El Akkad has entire swaths of the US flooded.
posted by bluedaisy at 3:01 PM on November 16, 2021 [2 favorites]

Weathering With You is a beautiful film. It’s anime but very approachable for someone otherwise uninterested in the medium, I think. It is a more near-future look at climate change than complete abandonment, though there are a lot of pockets of dilapidation and emptiness.
posted by Mizu at 3:01 PM on November 16, 2021 [1 favorite]

The NYT Op Ed from the Future comment section recommends New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson a couple times.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 3:37 PM on November 16, 2021 [1 favorite]

The Southern Reach books? I dunno.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 4:08 PM on November 16, 2021 [1 favorite]

The Year of the Flood/Oryx and Crake (both Margaret Atwood) are pretty good for this.
posted by Temeraria at 4:23 PM on November 16, 2021 [1 favorite]

The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi

almost all of Bacigalupi's books and stories are set in a post-climate disaster world.
posted by Dr. Twist at 4:23 PM on November 16, 2021 [2 favorites]

Forced densification of human habitation (abandoning and rewilding suburbs and rural areas) is found in Gamechanger by LX Beckett.
Rewilding is also a theme in 2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson, set further in the future than Gamechanger.
Blackfish City by Sam Miller is closer to the time of collapse and migration.
Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach by Kelly Robson is more fantastical (time travel!) but starts in an era where much of the surface of Earth has been abandoned by humans.
posted by esoterrica at 4:25 PM on November 16, 2021

Spoiler warning, but Randall Munroe's long semi-animated Time series has elements of this.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 4:49 PM on November 16, 2021

Mississippi Blues by Kathleen Ann Goonan has inundated coastal Los Angeles and New Orleans.
posted by Rash at 4:50 PM on November 16, 2021

J. G. Ballard! The Drowned World takes place in the sea above London.
posted by clockwork at 4:56 PM on November 16, 2021 [3 favorites]

Borne by Jeff van der Meer
posted by minervous at 5:07 PM on November 16, 2021 [1 favorite]

"Stations of the Tide" by Michael Swanwick is about dramatic climate change, but one that's part of an alien world's normal cycle. The protagonist is a bureaucrat who enforces strict technology controls that prevent various things including the runaway AI evolution which is the reason nobody lives on Earth anymore. He is visiting a somewhat backwards planet, Miranda, whereon an entire continent is in the last week of evacuation before the whole place is flooded by the planet's peculiar tide. Someone has stolen a critical technology and he must locate the man and the stolen tech. Some really good worldbuilding and the people there have all kinds of thoughts about their role in the world to come. It's very good, even if it's not the kind of climate change you might be looking for.
posted by Sunburnt at 5:26 PM on November 16, 2021 [2 favorites]

It's a minor feature, but Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash has "sacrifice zones" that are essentially Superfund sites that will never be mitigated. I did not realize until googling just now that sacrifice zones are a real thing.
posted by mumkin at 5:37 PM on November 16, 2021

Just out on home video is the recent movie Reminiscence, set in a flooded Miami (and at some point, New Orleans) in a world that is both damaged by floods, but also traumatized by the resource conflicts that followed. The main thrust is that Hugh Jackman operates a technology that lets people relive their memories, so main conflicts are not about the climate problem, though.

The current movie, Finch (Apple TV+ in the US) set in a post-apocalyptic world whose ecosphere was mostly wiped out by a major solar flare; the main character encounters tremendous superstorms, and a completely arid central US, high temperatures and instant-burn UV radiation. The movie is substantially a road movie, but the first act is in, and under, St. Louis. He appears to be the only resident of that city.

And coming very soon, judging from the marketing blitz that started this week, is Don't Look Up, the Adam McKay-penned satire about the political and popular response to a comet which will be changing the climates on Earth from inhabitable to uninhabitable.
posted by Sunburnt at 5:41 PM on November 16, 2021

Blue Sub #6
Blue Remembered Earth
The Peripheral
posted by nickggully at 6:11 PM on November 16, 2021

The aforementioned Paolo Bacigalupi also wrote The Windup Girl, which is largely about agriculture and global climate catastrophe, set in a future Bangkok that is protected from rising sea levels via a system of Chekhov's levees. It won both the Hugo and the Nebula.
posted by bcwinters at 6:46 PM on November 16, 2021 [3 favorites]

Just a note, but Robinson’s New York 2140 (which is very good) actually takes place in a New York that is flooded but very much occupied.
posted by lhauser at 7:31 PM on November 16, 2021

"Venice Drowned" by Kim Stanley Robinson (funny how often this guy shows up)
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 9:34 PM on November 16, 2021 [1 favorite]

Station Eleven By Emily St John Mandel - about a traveling band of sorts (because the cities become unlivable) but I distinctly remember parts about what happens to some of the people left behind in the cities and how they’re surviving
Severance by Ling Ma - the beginning of the book is set in Manhattan, or a city like it, after an apocalyptic event and it is very eerie, but then the protagonist is forced to leave
The Road by Cormac McCarthy - I mean, this is the gold standard and it’s a masterpiece
posted by SomethinsWrong at 1:35 AM on November 17, 2021

Also, Find Me by Laura Van Den Berg
posted by SomethinsWrong at 1:50 AM on November 17, 2021

Appleseed by Matt Bell - the whole western half of the US is emptied out and abandoned.

If The Road is on the right track for you, Parable of the Sower would also be worth reading (and is great whether or not it fully meets your abandoned places interest).

Rebecca Roanhorse's Trail of Lightning and its sequels may also fit.
posted by snaw at 4:17 AM on November 17, 2021

While most of Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars trilogy takes place on Mara, or on the way there (I think), there is one section set on Earth that vividly describes part of England that is very, very flooded. Sorry, I can’t remember which volume that’s in though.
posted by fabius at 6:11 AM on November 17, 2021

The Passage is about a different kind of apocalypse but contains significant scenes in a Houston that was abandoned before that due to Climate Change flooding.
posted by lunasol at 8:11 AM on November 17, 2021

Riddley Walker was written in the age of nuclear anxiety but has the same themes of a future where portions of earth have been uninhabitable (but in this story are getting re-inhabited).
posted by latkes at 10:51 AM on November 17, 2021

In Ministry for the Future, the current Cli-Fi hit, a full 50% of the earth's surface is rewilded. There's a short chapter from the perspective of someone whose town is 'closed'.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 1:13 PM on November 18, 2021

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