Don’t expect the future to turn out like popular 1960s TV show The Jetsons.
Thanks to the efforts of climate activists, the climate and ecological emergency has never been more prominent. But acknowledging the problem is just a starting point. Now this momentum must be harnessed to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reverse habitat destruction.
To accelerate this transition, we need a vision of the future – and there are many out there. The problem is that some of these visions severely misunderstand and underestimate the nature of the crises we face. If we rally behind the wrong one, we may end up propelling the planet all the more quickly towards destruction.
Building a future in sync with the natural world will not be easy. Our collective imagination is bound to ideas that have delivered us to the cusp of environmental catastrophe. The ways we work, travel, eat, and even think are all locked into systems that perpetuate the use of fossil fuels, encroach on the natural world, and exploit wealth and resources from the Global South.
This means that to avoid the worst of climate breakdown, we have to transform every aspect of society as we know it. But to do this well requires deep understanding of why industries have been allowed to pollute the upper atmosphere, and how we can build economic and political infrastructure to stop emitting greenhouse gases and degrading ecosystems.
Worringly, this understanding is sorely lacking in two of the most popular emerging visions of the future – ecomodernism and left accelerationism. In a nutshell, both envisage that technological progress will allow us to address climate and ecological breakdown while also dramatically increasing production and consumption.
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