In the shadow of looming climate crisis it might seem that there is not much hope around for a better, greener future.
Visions of more sustainable and satisfying societies have emerged in strange places over the last 50 years, and have endured to form a distinct but changing eco-utopian tradition.
In her new book Green Utopias Lisa Garforth explores environmental hope in fiction, philosophy, theory and policy from the announcement of environmental crisis in the early 1970s to the slow social response to climate change in the early C21st. She adopts Ruth Levitas’s broad definition of utopianism as ‘the expression of desire for a better way of living and being’ and positions utopias as doubly social - products of specific social, cultural and political contexts, and critical interventions into the societies that we have and might want.
In the early stages of environmentalism, projections of imminent crisis cleared a space for the imagination of new ways of living and social forms beyond economic growth and anthropocentrism. Since then we have seen claims that nature has ended, whether through human destruction or as a useful category for ecological thought. Ecological challenges to modern societies have been internalised, and crisis has arguably been normalised as a way of life.
So how are we to imagine greener societies after nature and when the environmental future feels suspended between imminent apocalypse and everyday indifference? The book explores theoretical utopianism in science studies and new materialism; the language of hopeful reform in climate policy; and new expressions of utopian desire in contemporary science fiction. Green utopian desire now comes framed by narratives of loss and disaster and affects of mourning. There are few positive depictions of alternative green societies. But hope persists into the Anthropocene, and we still need it.
‘This subtle, lucid and measured account charts the changing and conflicting discourses of limits, sustainability, wildness, adaptation and apocalypse. With clarity and care, Lisa Garforth’s distinctive use of social theory explains and counters the difficulty of thinking (beyond) crisis and the importance of the utopian lens in exploring possible futures.’
Ruth Levitas, University of Bristol
published on: 26 October 2017