Visions of Ecotopia

Two more Honors CoPhi classes today, then Environmental Ethics. There we’ll be looking for hope, amidst all the ominous portents of planetary catastrophe we’ve noted lately. July apparently was the warmest month on record, ever. The heat is on. (Yesterday happened to be a marvelously mild respite, in middle Tennessee. Weather’s not climate.)

But is hope vanishing? Naomi Klen says wait a minute, “we can seize the existential crisis of climate change to transform our failed economic system into something radically better.” It’s just barely possible, at least through 2017. Grasping and running with possibility is what philosophy is all about. Just look at what this little English village has done. Look what’s in the wind just offshore.

Our next author, Tim Flannery, says “there is also diverse, effective, and innovative activity toward cutting carbon dioxide emissions.” If we can do that, in tandem with moving towards renewable energy sources, there may indeed be hope for something radically better.

Then we’ll revisit the late Ernest Callenbach’s vision of Ecotopia, because hope requires vision. Without it, the people proverbially perish. “The novel, now being rediscovered, speaks to our ecological present: in the flush of a financial crisis, the Pacific Northwest secedes from the United States, and its citizens establish a sustainable economy, a cross between Scandinavian socialism and Northern California back-to-the-landism, with the custom — years before the environmental writer Michael Pollan began his campaign — to eat local.”
And then, my hope is that the class will decide to read at least one more text in November before our curtain falls. My candidates, pending a class vote:
  • The Clock of the Long Now by Stewart Brand – “How do we make long-term thinking automatic and common,” asks Stewart Brand, “instead of difficult and rare?” Or, to put it another way, how does one get people to develop a natural perspective of their present moment that extends beyond a few days in either direction? The Clock of the Long Now describes a potential solution…”
  • The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert – “She makes an irrefutable case that what we are doing to cause a sixth mass extinction is clearly wrong. And she makes it clear that doing what is right means accelerating our transition to a more sustainable world.”
  • Pacific Edge by Kim Stanley Robinson – “Robinson presents us with three options of how the future might be, and some concrete ideas for making the third (and best) future come true… his most important idea seems to be that we should limit the size of corporations.”
  • OR all of the above, via crowdsourcing & division of labor
  • OR none…
So we’ll begin the conversation today. Full of hope, can’t wait.

5:20/6:14, 63/89, 7:25

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