Note — Jun 27, 2021

A Messy Utopia Is All We Might Get

Deanna K. Kreise weaves together the visions put forth in three books to consider perspectives beyond soft denial and soft nihilism; Bill Gates’s How to Avoid a Climate Disaster, the extended essay Ideas to Postpone the End of the World, by Brazilian Indigenous activist Ailton Krenak, and Kim Stanley Robinson’s most recent novel, The Ministry for the Future. Kreise proposes that between tech-optimism, and simple postponement of collapse, there is a third way, and that at “the very least, it’s good to have these ideas—these possible futures—in one’s pocket, a kind of psychological escape valve from hard nihilism. To have an idea of where to go, and whom to help, if all is nearly lost.”

We seem recently to have entered into a phase of climate-change soft nihilism: a kind of resigned fatalism, which cuts against our vehement exhortations to act with the welfare of future generations in mind. […]

“The world today believes that everything is merchandise, and it projects upon those goods the full range of its experience.” […]

[Krenak’s] short book takes direct aim at the deepest roots of the climate crisis: Western culture’s crippling energy dependency, born of our greed for consumer products, travel, and entertainment—the intractable nature of which is the reason he is so pessimistic. […]

First, we must try to find “a point of contact between these two worlds.” In one world, a river is necessary for life; in the other, people “consume rivers as mere resources.”