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ARE WE DROWNING IN DYSTOPIAS?

by Dawn, December 13, 2009

By Ella Saltmarshe at Treehugger

When we think about the future of the world, it’s mostly bad. I’m not sure when this dawned on me. It could have been while watching Dune or Children of Men or The Road or perhaps while reading Margaret Atwood’s brilliant new Armageddon novel, The Year of the Flood. The cherry on the cake was the trailer for 2012, Hollywood’s latest offering of disaster porn. In the space of 2 mins 48, the Vatican crashes to the ground, Rio’s iconic statue of Christ crumbles, Mecca/ Tibet/ London/ India are engulfed by chaos, firebombs fall from the sky onto American forests and countless skyscrapers collapse. Our response to uncertainty is to create negative futures.

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Doomsaying is our default position
As environmental activists, doomsaying has long been our default campaigning position. As visions of rising seas, expanding deserts and mass extinctions move from sci-fi books to peer reviewed scientific articles, the logic is that when people realise how dark the outlook is, they’ll change. If we can just communicate this grim future graphically enough, politicians will legislate for clean energy, couples will stop flying to Prague for romantic getaways, teenagers will turn off their TVs at the plug… and so on…

Except that in the last decade of communicating sustainability in the West, we’ve learnt that fear only works with small demographics. Study after study has shown that Armageddon scenarios do not motivate most people to change their behaviour.

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Personally, I like dystopian novels. Seeing that it could be worse is kind of cathartic. I also believe that books reflect the times, and we’re at a point that seems  bleak; between the environment and the economy we are having a rough decade.

What do you think of dystopian stories?

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