There is a brand of literature called the “utopian”. It is where people imagine an ideal place and describe what it is like to live there. This is used to comment on the currently poor way that people live.
This type of literatures takes its name from the first modern example – Thomas More’s Utopia. (The name is a pun in Greek: the “topia” part means place, and the “U” part means both ‘no’ and ‘good’. So the idea is that it is about a good place which doesn’t exist.).
At a stretch I guess ‘utopian’ could apply to the creation stories of different religions which usually give instructions about how we should live. Some science fiction can also fall into the category of utopian.
The different utopias are usually set in the distant past or far future. Some, however (like William Morris’s) are set in the near future – to emphasis that they are achievable. This is similar to Ted Trainer showing how existing suburbs can be easily converted to large sustainable suburbs without huge change).
Usually, in the good place described people live in harmony with both nature and other people.
“Utopian” can be used as a criticism – meaning hopelessly idealistic.
Today I think our global situation is such that what used to be seen as utopian is now our only option. If we don’t find how to live sustainably on our planet we won’t be living on it. And this means finding ways to get along with other peoples and countries who we disagree absolutely with. Our situation it seems to me really is global.
Do I think there is one right way to achieve this? No. But I think there are clear directions we can move in.
The biggest thing that those of us in suburbia can do is: if at all possible get by without a car. If we can’t do this (I don’t think I could if I had children) there are other options that can be easy (buying energy saving light globes) to more challenging (invite friends round and share a meal instead of going out to a restaurant).
To put the responsibility for changing the world on the shoulders of individual is unfair. No one of us will change the world on our own. This is where we need to join groups that we like or perhaps introduce new things to groups we are already part of. There are a huge number of groups working for sustainability and justice. There is much we can do in our existing groups (churches often have links with other churches overseas, recycling at the office . . . ).
I think my part is creating the utopia that we need to survive is focused on us and our relationships. If the sustainable way of living on our planet means as much stress and dis-ease as we currently have then it will be of doubtful benefit.
What can we do as individuals. I think we can form a vision of our desired future and then take what steps we can to bring it about. These can be simple things: walking where possible, talking to friends instead of watching TV shows we don’t particularly enjoy, buying more environmentally friendly products, shopping at the farmer’s market when one is available.
I would like to hear what you think. Do you think I am too pessimistic? Too utopian? What is your vision for a desirable future (one that you would be happy for you and your children to live in).
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