Gaddafi's death: pick of the comment

A selection of commentary at home and abroad.

New York Times

An editorial expresses discomfort at the way the dictator died, and urges the National Transitional Council to include former Gaddafi loyalists in the new Libya.

Libyans must resist further reprisals and channel their passion into building a united, free and productive country. If not, they risk even more chaos and suffering.


Abdel Bari Atwan, editor of London-based pan-Arab newspaper Al-Quds Al-Arabi, outlines the many challenges that lie ahead -- including conflict between Islamists and secular liberals, communication problems across Libya's vast expanse, and continuing tribal loyalty to Gaddafi.

Another challenge will be how to achieve and maintain independence from foreign interference, especially given Nato's involvement in the uprising. Libya's oil reserves are the largest in Africa, and a tempting prize for energy-hungry world powers. Furthermore, Libya has no history of democracy and lacks even the most embryonic social institutions to administer such a system. This is not to say that it cannot meet the challenge, but simply that this is nation-building from scratch.

The National

An editorial stresses the importance of reconciliation with tribes that remained loyal to Gaddafi until the end.

The purges after the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime swelled the ranks of insurgents on the battlefield and crippled the civilian government. That would be a similar disaster in Libya, where major tribes remained loyal to the regime. The National Transition Council has made the right statements about reconciliation and now it needs to follow through.

Daily Telegraph

Regime change is the easy bit, says Peter Oborne -- now is the moment of truth, with different militia groups jostling to own the revolution. He warns that Libya's abundance of weaponry is a serious concern.

Already the armaments stockpiled by Gaddafi are pouring into neighbouring countries through Libya's porous and unpoliced borders, a potent menace in a region already destabilised by popular revolutions and the rise of al-Qaeda through the Maghreb.


Robert Fisk highlights the hypocrisy of the west's changing attitudes to Gaddadi.

So he is gone, the colonel who was once beloved of the Foreign Office (after the coup against King Idris), then guarded as a "safe pair of hands", then loathed because he sent weapons to the IRA, then loved, etc, etc. Can you blame the man for thinking he was a good guy?


Cambridge lecturer Tarak Barkawi places Libya's next chapter in the context of post-colonialism and ongoing conflict.

Like Iraq, Libya was assembled through histories of empire and its aftermath. It has been torn apart by war. Now it has lost the one thing that united much of the country: hatred of Colonel Gaddafi and his regime. Libyans are left to face the legacy of his mastery of the art of divide and rule.



Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

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How “cli-fi” novels humanise the science of climate change

The paradox is that the harder climate-fiction novels try, the less effective they are.

When the Paris UN Climate Change Conference begins at the end of November, the world’s leaders will review the climate framework agreed in Rio in 1992. For well over 20 years, the world has not just been thinking and talking about climate change, it has also been writing and reading about it, in blogs, newspapers, magazines – and in novels.

Climate change fiction is now a recognisable literary phenomenon replete with its own nickname: “cli-fi”. The term was coined in 2007 by Taiwan-based blogger Dan Bloom. Since then, its use has spread: it was even tweeted by Margaret Atwood in 2013:

It is not a genre in the accepted scholarly sense, since it lacks the plot formulas or stylistic conventions that tend to define genres (such as science fiction or the western). However, it does name a remarkable recent literary and publishing trend.

A 21st-century phenomenon?

Putting a number to this phenomenon depends, partly, on how one defines cli-fi. How much of a novel has to be devoted to climate change before it is considered cli-fi? Should we restrict the term to novels about man-made global warming? (If we don’t, we should remember that narratives about global climatic change are as old as The Epic of Gilgamesh and the Biblical story of the flood.) If we define cli-fi as fictional treatments of climate change caused by human activity in terms of setting, theme or plot – and accept there will be grey areas in the extent of this treatment – a conservative estimate would put the all-time number of cli-fi novels at 150 and growing. This is the figure put forward by Adam Trexler, who has worked with me to survey the development of cli-fi.

This definition also gives us a start date for cli-fi’s history. While planetary climatic change occurs in much 20th-century science fiction, it is only after growing scientific awareness of specifically man-made, carbon-induced climate change in the 1960s and 1970s that novels on this subject emerged. The first is Arthur Herzog’s Heat in 1976, followed by George Turner’s The Sun and the Summer (published in the US as Drowning Towers) in 1987.

At the turn of this century, Maggie Gee and TC Boyle were among the first mainstream authors to publish climate change novels. In this century, we can count Atwood, Michael Crichton, Barbara Kingsolver, Ian McEwan, Kim Stanley Robinson, Ilija Trojanow and Jeanette Winterson as major authors who have written about climate change. The past five years have given us notable examples of cli-fi by emerging authors, such as Steven Amsterdam, Edan Lepucki, Jane Rawson, Nathaniel Rich and Antti Tuomainen.

Creative challenges

Cli-fi is all the more noteworthy considering the creative challenge posed by climate change. First, there is the problem of scale – spatial and temporal. Climate change affects the entire planet and all its species – and concerns the end of this planet as we know it. Novels, by contrast, conventionally concern the actions of individual protagonists and/or, sometimes, small communities.

Added to this is the networked nature of climate change: in physical terms, the climate is a large, complex system whose effects are difficult to model. In socio-cultural terms, solutions require intergovernmental agreement – just what COP21 intends – and various top-down and bottom-up transformations. Finally, there exists the difficulty of translating scientific information, with all its predictive uncertainty, into something both accurate and interesting to the average reader.

Still, cli-fi writers have adopted a range of strategies to engage their readers. Many cli-fi novels could be classified as dystopian, post-apocalyptic or, indeed, both – depicting nightmarish societies triggered by sometimes catastrophic climate events. A future world is one effective way of narrating the planetary condition of climate change.

Some novelists are also careful to underpin their scenarios with rigorous climatic predictions and, in this way, translate science fact into a fictional setting. Kingsolver, who trained as an ecologist, is the best example of this – and Atwood and Robinson are also known for their attempts at making their speculations scientifically plausible. Also, cli-fi novels, particularly those set in the present day or very near future rather than in a dystopian future, tend to show the political or psychological dimensions of living with climate change. Readers can identify with protagonists. To some extent, the global community is represented in fictional everymen or everywomen. Or, often, it is through such characters that science is humanised and its role in combating climate change better understood.

Can cli-fi lead to change?

Could cli-fi affect how we think and act on climate change? The paradox is that the harder cli-fi tries, the less effective it is. Many writers want to inspire change, not insist on it: the line between literature and propaganda is one that most novelists respect. Literature invites us to inhabit other worlds and live other lives. Cli-fi at its best lets us travel to climate-changed worlds, to strive there alongside others and then to return armed with that experience.

In Paris, the UN will seek a global agreement on climate action for the first time in more than 20 years. There is plenty of climate change fiction out there to help provide the mental and psychological space to consider that action.

The Conversation

Adeline Johns-Putra, Reader in English Literature, University of Surrey

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.