Drabble is a fun word for a short work of fiction that’s precisely 100 words long.
The word comes from a joke in Monty Python’s Big Red Book — the drabble was a game where players competed to be the first to write a novel, hence the necessarily short length.
After dipping our toes into the world of climate fiction, the Fix team decided to make it a mainstay of our new solutions-focused newsletter, Looking Forward. Fiction can be a powerful tool to help us think outside the confines of today and imagine the future that we want. That’s why most issues of the newsletter start with a cli-fi drabble — to give a glimpse of the endgame for the solutions and ideas we cover. We’re collecting some of our favorites below.
Want to try writing your own drabble? Send it our way, and we’ll consider featuring it in a future newsletter!
The fading golden-hour sun warmed the sand. The young boy squidged it between his toes as he walked along the shoreline. He paused to pick up an empty mussel shell, tossing it into the air. Suddenly he heard a thunderous splash. His eyes darted upward and met the horizon.
“Look! I saw its tail!” he hollered to his grandfather, who sat on the sand behind him, eyes closed, breathing in the salty breeze. The old man inhaled deeply. He opened his eyes and smiled, silently thanking the creatures for the clean air.
“You know, they’re one reason we’re still here.”
— More whale song, more carbon sequestration: December 8, 2022
Whales are an iconic symbol of conservation. But they might also be an overlooked, natural climate solution. Their massive bodies store a ton of carbon, and when they die, they carry it down to the deep. In this newsletter, we look at how protecting and restoring whale populations could help us manage global warming. Read more
It’s become a running joke in your family that you’re going to return any gift your brother gets you. Bless him, he just doesn’t understand your aesthetic, or your approach to stuff.
Hence, your jaw-drop when you unwrap this gorgeous pair of distressed, patch-covered, wide-legged jeans. You recognize the brand but they look so … unique.
“They’re refurbished,” he explains. “I thought it’d be funny, you know. You always return my presents, and this one has already been returned,” he chuckles.
You’re almost speechless. “Actually, I … love them.”
Equally shocked, he starts to smile. “Did I just win Christmas??”
— The gifts that keep on giving: November 22, 2022
The holidays bring many traditions that some of us would rather avoid: fossil fuel-guzzling travel, piles of leftover food that often go to waste, and the obligation of gift-giving. Although it’s a sweet ritual that can bring a lot of joy, it can also fuel overconsumption, extraction, and more waste. Thankfully, several companies have begun to recognize that holiday shoppers (and consumers year-round) want more sustainable options. This newsletter explores the rise of resale programs. Read more
Chocolate is hard to come by these days. But somehow, your mother found some to make the most heavenly birthday cake you’ve ever smelled.
The kitchen table groans under the weight of your gifts — glass jars filled with homemade treats, foraged herbs, stacks of books. And the one thing you were almost too shy to ask for: a brand new electric bike.
You’ve known about your “surprise” party all week. You can hear friends and neighbors whispering in the backyard, ready to jump out the moment you step into the garden. You smile, close your eyes, and drink in gratitude.
— Looking Forward’s birthday: October 27, 2022
She was a child of the tides — born from the warm sand and raised within the currents, where microplastics and anthropogenic chemicals no longer lingered.
Beneath the surface, she felt the coolness of the sea on her fins, as she glided along the glistening waves.
With a tender push, she flowed through the deep, diving gracefully toward the reef.
A blissful array of vibrant species greeted her, as sunbeams familiarly kissed her shell and said, “Welcome home.”
This magical place, once barren, had been restored.
And the heart of the ocean continued to abundantly beat on, along with her own.
— Can we 3D print corals? August 18, 2022
It’s no secret that coral reefs, a keystone of ocean health, are under threat due to the shifting climate. This newsletter explores an effort by one lab in Hawaii to provide something akin to a bone graft for reefs: 3D-printed fractal-like objects that resemble corals, and may help to repopulate and restore damaged reefs. Read more
I cycle down to the neighborhood store — mama forgot a tomato.
I loop down streets so wide you used to see rows of cars on either side, well before the rEVolution. Things are slow to change here, but last spring, my neighbors and I convinced the city council to add us a stop on the BRT. At least it’s something.
Bright, beautiful home gardens — no longer forbidden by archaic HOA rules — blossom in the late summer sun. Our crop had a tough start to the season this year, too much rain.
I wonder whose tomato I’m going to purchase tonight?
— Contributed by reader Bethany N. Bella
August 4, 2022
“This tastes … surprisingly good!” Akash remarked, chewing the salad I’d made from foraged roots, dressed with apple-peel vinegar and scraps of mango-turmeric we grew out back.
Appa and Usha came in with armfuls of kindling they found. “Most of it’s charred, but this stuff could be useful.”
We lit the fire, letting the sage-scented smoke rise up to the sky. Halfway across the world from where we were born, we are here now, permanent new natives, tied to this land.
As dawn broke, I heard the drip of our water-collection bags. I watched my sweet family, cobbled together, sleep.
— Contributed by reader Rani Jayakumar
August 4, 2022
“Cheer up! The AQI this morning is only 261, you’ll have at least 30 minutes,” she said with a sad smile and the heavy eyes that most grandmothers have.
Our new airsuits can only withstand 130 degrees Fahrenheit and an AQI of 265.
Sigh. I guess in 30 minutes, I can throw the ball around with Linux. Sometimes Grandma tells me about her dog Bear from the before times. I wish I knew how fur and grass felt.
Grandma tightens my airsuit’s oxygen mask.
“Come on Linux, let’s go while we can!” The robodog runs toward the fusion-powered sliding door.
— Contributed by reader Shai Basys
August 4, 2022
Mother says floods and wildfires caused a collapse of governments, financial systems, the internet, and power grids. …
So we garden and barter.
In the marketplace while waiting for someone to weigh my pumpkins, I see the boy I like, kneeling beside some bushes.
My heart flips as I wonder what he’s doing. Animals and insects are such honored members of our community, harming one would mean expulsion.
I approach. “Zander?”
He beams. “Astra! These mice have built a nest. I’m feeding them corn.”
“Oh!” I laugh.
“Want me to carry your basket home for you?” he asks.
I smile. “Okay.”
— Contributed by reader Susmita Ramani
August 4, 2022
“The carbon footprint is honestly not all that different,” your partner says, comparing the labels of two brands of canned RealMeat. You can’t stand the stuff, but she says it reminds her of the foods she ate as a kid.
“You know they don’t count the methane in that,” you say. It’s so dumb, but that’s how regulation moves sometimes. Companies are only required to display their CO2 emissions, nothing else.
“Good point,” she nods. “I’ll just steer clear of the beef ones then.” She glances at the label of a RealChicken, and tosses it in the cart.
— You know about CO2. Let’s talk CH4: July 21, 2022
Carbon dioxide has become somewhat synonymous with greenhouse gas emissions. But the second-most abundant greenhouse gas has recently gained attention for the harm it causes, and the opportunity we have to mitigate it — methane. In this newsletter we explore some of the surprising sources of methane, and the solutions that can reduce emissions. Read more
You try to limit your after-work screen time — but today, there’s been so much good news. You’ve been joyscrolling for over an hour, sharing all your best finds with your little digital community of climate and justice nerds.
You’re getting ready to log off when you see an email from a friend, wondering if you’ll proofread a cli-fi story he’s written. Ooh, you’re tempted.
You glance out the window. It’s still too rainy to go for a walk or rally the neighbors for stoop drinks.
So you flip on your electric tea kettle and settle in for another good read.
— Here’s looking at you: May 19, 2022
In this newsletter, we share the results from our Looking Forward audience survey, as well as a little bit of reintroduction of Looking Forward’s mission and what we strive to bring to our audience. Read more
In my dream, I heard loud cheers outside my window. I tossed my blanket aside and ran to the balcony, blinking in the morning light. A crowd of people, many of whom I knew, marched toward the town square, dancing and singing.
“We did it!” They cheered.
“Did what?” I yelled back. They looked so free, I wanted to join them.
“We walked into our banks and withdrew all our money.”
“All of you? All of your money? Where is it now?”
“It’s in the meadows, turning into butterflies. At the farm, sprouting greens. In the forest, becoming trees …”
— Put your money where your planet is: April 21, 2022
Using money to support climate action isn’t just about donating, or buying more ethical products. It also comes down to where our money “sleeps” — what the bank or investment firm does with it while we’re not using it. In this Earth Day newsletter, we share about money moves that can help support a greener and more compassionate economy. Read more
“I know it’s sort of an anachronism,” she says, gesturing sheepishly toward the wood-burning stove.
“It suits an old farmhouse like this,” you reply with a shrug. “And long as you’ve got wood, you’ll never be without heat.”
“Well, we never are,” she says. “Ever since they put up the new wind farm off the coast, we haven’t had a blackout. In fact, we hardly ever use this thing. But it does get drafty when it’s not going.”
You nod. “There are some things we can do to improve that.” You flip open your Energy Audit notebook and start writing.
— A more resilient grid is possible: February 10, 2022
A year after the deadly winter freeze in Texas, power outages remain a problem everywhere in the United States, thanks to worsening weather extremes that tax our aging grid. In this newsletter, we ask a few experts about the progress they’ve seen in the past year, and what still needs to be done to make our energy systems more resilient. Read more
It’s a friendly neighborhood contest. It provides dozens of fresh, nutritious loaves to the food pantry. Yeah, yeah. This year, you want to win.
It’s taken you weeks of practice to make half-decent bread out of HeatWheat2042 — the star variety from the mill this year. But you’ve tested and retested your latest recipe and … It. Is. Perfect.
“Are you done draining our kitchen battery now, you maniac?” your girlfriend asks. You only grin. Wiping sweat from your brow, you offer her a lightly buttered, warm slice of heaven.
“Oh, yeah,” she says, savoring her bite. “You’re going to win.”
— More carbs, less carbon: January 27, 2022
Climate change poses a threat to our food system — including important staple crops like wheat. But experimenting with different types of cooking and baking today might help us prepare for (or even prevent) that uncertain future. In this newsletter, we talk with Caroline Saunders, host of The Sustainable Baker podcast, about embracing experimentation and variability in the kitchen. Read more
“300 fruit trees. All alive and healthy,” she typed just before her mother interrupted to ask about the schedule at school tomorrow.
“We filed an absence request. We need to work on the final presentation for our Generation’s Mission,” she replied, and finished typing: “date of check: May 14th, 2053.”
She knew her mother always wanted to hear more, because back in her day you had homework to do, you did not engage on a mission to shorten the supply chain.
“Our entire neighborhood is now self-sufficient, fruit-wise. Fifth year in a row. We did it. Our generation did it.”
— Contributed by reader Anca Stănescu
January 13, 2022
We cross the street, over the permeable-paver bikeway, and duck into Lucas’s kitchen. At least the haze held off today.
“Wow, everything smells amazing!” I exclaim.
Turning back from the solar-powered stove, Lucas smiles and shouts, “Thanks!” as I swoon over maple-glazed brussels sprouts. Somehow, it’s never the same menu — just whatever was fresh from the day before.
Alli throws open the rented kitchen’s window, revealing a cluster of folks already outside with their ceramic containers. I tie my apron around my waist and wave excitedly out the window. Sunday mornings just aren’t the same without community.
“Let’s get serving!”
— Contributed by reader Bethany N. Bella
January 13, 2022
They make another venture out of the underground nest onto a forest floor teeming with the colorful flora and fauna of the tropics. These ants on a foraging mission don’t number very many, their tiny, dark bodies inconspicuous.
Years ago, the forest was an abandoned field. Its soil couldn’t support the hardiest of crops. Ants ventured, as they do, into the field. They built nests, foraged, defecated, and laid their dead to rest, all in the soil. They started something.
The foragers carry on, with only their mission in mind. They don’t know it, but they are agents of rebirth.
— Contributed by reader Anika Hazra
January 13, 2022
You stand and brush some dirt off your jeans. Your left palm’s a little scraped, but your bike looks unscathed.
“Really sorry, man,” the kid says. “I shoulda signaled.”
“It’s all good,” you tell him. “If you’d been a car, then maybe I’d be in trouble.”
He laughs, and you realize he may not be old enough to remember when cars and bikes shared these roads. How polluted this neighborhood used to be, before activists forced the city to care. You look off beyond the tree-filled median as the kid gets ready to remount.
“Ride safe,” you tell him, smiling.
— A more inclusive bike culture: December 9, 2021
When cities plan to expand safe bike infrastructure, they tend to cater to affluent white bikers. A lack of bike lanes in low-income communities of color is one reason why the fatality rate is 30 percent higher for Black cyclists and 23 percent higher for Hispanics, compared with white riders. This newsletter profiles the work of Courtney Williams — aka The Brown Bike Girl — a mobility justice advocate who pushes for systemic change while also educating individual riders about what they can do to stay safe. Read more
You sigh at the empty bottles forgotten on your kitchen counter. Your partner was supposed to stop by the refillery after work. You’re about to send a grumpy text when …
Ugh, is all they type.
DON’T buy more bottles, you write. You’ve got bottles galore, all you need is shampoo.
Let’s just go together tomorrow? We need to go food shopping too, we can hit both places. You’re annoyed, but at least now you get to go to the refillery — a favorite weekend stop. You start listing the other things that could use refilling: lotion, toothpaste, sunscreen …
— Refill, replace, upcycle: November 23, 2021
Plastic is an environmental scourge — emissions from the plastic industry are on track to surpass coal by the end of this decade. But the solutions to it are way more exciting than paper straws and canvas grocery bags. In this newsletter, we spotlight three paths to a less plasticky future. Read more
Affordable homes border swaths of public green space.
An environmental justice organization, well funded and powered by community voices, advocates for residents’ needs and brings its expertise to local and national policymaking.
Health care, locally grown produce, and sustainable goods abound — easily accessible by bike or electric bus.
Those goods are the result of a global supply chain that has taken a holistic approach to sustainability, changing the lives of millions of workers.
What’s behind this picture? “Holistic, comprehensive development,” “a diversity of perspectives and backgrounds in all environmental policymaking,” an end to “the exploitative nature of market capitalism.”
— based on visions of the future from Robert Bullard, Charles Lee, Peggy Shepard, and Baldemar Velasquez
To achieve a just future, you’ve got to know its roots:
November 11, 2021
Sometimes in order to look forward, you need to look back. In this newsletter, we interviewed four leaders who were part of the first National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit in 1991 about the history of the environmental justice movement — and how it marches on today, and into the future. Read more
Thank you, you whisper in your head as you sit comfortably on the floor of Ada’s attic, with your wife and kids and six neighbors.
Thank you for letting her borrow mint from the garden. Thank you for fixing that squeaky gate.
You don’t think about your own home flooding for the third time this year. You’re up here, dry and safe.
Thank you for those long sidewalk chats, even though you found her strange at first.
Ada offers you dried mangoes from her emergency supply bag — you shake your head, but squeeze her hand and smile.
— Community is a climate solution: October 28, 2021
The climate crisis can feel so big, but one of the best ways to be proactive in your own life is quite small — simply meeting your neighbors is a climate solution. In this newsletter, we talked to Christine Nieves about her work activating a Puerto Rican community to feed each other in the wake of Hurricane Maria, and about how community itself is a powerful tool in building climate resilience. Read more
Stay tuned for more drabbles, and subscribe to the Looking Forward newsletter to receive them, plus the current-day solutions they stem from, in your inbox every other Thursday.