The Land is the Law: On Climate Fictions and Relational Thinking

All stories begin with Country. And as climate change reveals, all stories will end with Country, too. ‘Cli-fi’ might be a new genre, but the role of Country in shaping Indigenous literature is as old as time. All of our creation stories tell of life-giving climate change. Our songlines—which form the oldest continuing transnational literatures2—are designed to conserve Country through human stewardship, and to revitalise it through ceremonial activation.

If we take cli-fi to be any fiction that features a changing or threatening climate as inextricable from the story, then to Aboriginal people all stories set in Australia post-1788 are climate fictions. The climate grief many Australians increasingly feel in the wake of local bushfires and global warming has been felt acutely by Aboriginal people since 1788, when the first swathes of forest were cut down to make houses and farmland in what is now Sydney. Since 1788, Australia has been responsible for a disproportionate percentage of global extinctions, directly attributed to the ecocidal processes of colonial-capitalism and extractive industries. Aboriginal people, in their deep relationship with Country, encompassing attendant rights and responsibilities, have collectively mourned and fought for Country for more than two centuries.



Title image: 

Yhonnie Scarce
Thunder Raining Poison, 2015
Inkjet on perspex and wood
2000 blown glass yams, stainless steel and reinforced wire
Dimensions variable
Installation view: Tarnanthi Festival Adelaide, Art Gallery of South Australia
Photo: Janelle Low. Courtesy of the artist,
Art Gallery of South Australia and THIS IS NO FANTASY, Melbourne

Mykaela Saunders is an award-winning Koori writer, teacher and community researcher, who makes occasional forays into other types of arts. She writes across forms and disciplines and has won awards for her fiction, poetry, creative non-fiction and research. Of Dharug and Lebanese descent, she belongs to the Tweed Aboriginal community.