You’re in the world of The Walking Dead, Fallout, or Max Max, and the world as you know it is gone. You can either sit back and accept your doom or do something about it. In these worlds, human interactions are the the driving forces of existence. The heros are there to save people and “make things right” again.
Networks in both utopias and dystopias are imperative. Many utopias are separated from society in some way, on an island or in a far off forest somewhere, amplifying the importance of the network of people in that utopia as resources for each other and as the driving force of society. In dystopias people are driven together for different reasons, mostly for survival purposes but the same effect is achieved: one of the most important resources available are the people around you.
Lyttelton is an interesting case study of both a utopia and dystopia: from the dystopia that occurred after the devastating earthquake in 2011 sprung a kind of utopia that is prevailing right now, one that promotes community resilience and social capital. What can people do to create these structures before disaster occurs? Whose utopia is this? Are there voices that aren’t being heard?
These questions stemmed from our class discussion of utopias and dystopias this week. It made me realize that utopias and dystopias might not be opposites after all — they could be two necessary components of a driven, resilient community. If there are no problems, it could be harder to find the motivation to make any changes, but if there are too many problems and no networks to rely on, it could be an overwhelming task to try and make any kind of change happen.
Moser’s article about how to be a successful environmental leader was really interesting to me in terms of how we talk about dystopian futures (2012). She reminded me a lot of the leaders that I met in Lyttelton — environmental leaders needed to be almost like psychologists, and hold the ability to hold grief and optimism, amnesty and accountability. I think of typical environmental leaders as pushing forward and staying positive no matter what, but many times I’ve thought of that as improbable (if not impossible) for a person to do at all times when faced with such a huge task. Moser’s article brought together utopia and dystopia in her suggestions for environmental leaders, and with both of them together environmental change seems more manageable.
Dystopias might be inevitable, and utopias improbable, depending on how one sees the world. In my view, we need both to move forward as environmental leaders, just like all of Moser’s paradoxes. In each case, we need to rely on each other — networks of people as resources for a better future.