This past week we discussed utopias and dystopias all too briefly in class. In popular meaning, the word “utopia” most often evokes an understandably unrealistic or unreachable place. Yet in scholarly work, it evokes the ever-present ideal—a vision that moves us as much as anything else, and therefore is very much part of reality.
We discussed at length an article by Breakthrough Institute’s Ted Nordhaus and Alex Trembath—titled “Is Climate Change like Diabetes or an Asteroid?”—that proved an interesting way to make sense of our larger question on utopias/dystopias. If dystopias and utopias are always implied together, the climate emergency discourse referred to by the asteroid metaphor mobilizes in us an emergency response (something that Nordhaus and Trembath critique well). The diabetes metaphor they foil, by contrast, mobilizes an endurance over long-term, yet not without its own utopic framing; in this case, “a higher-tech world…less populous…less unequal…more urbanized.” While these may read like universally obvious wishes, they’re not; and thus, they represent one utopia accompanying a particular dystopic argument.
I’ve been thinking about health metaphors in environmental discourse since at least 2016, when I drafted my first concentration in ENVS 220 around that very topic. It’s been relaxing to see how my work has progressed, and while I’m a far way off from offering a compelling theoretical/in-depth piece, I find myself designing this topic in a next iteration via this thesis research project.
The other focus this week was bringing our “-isms map” assignments (mine is the featured image on this page now, though it will likely move in future) into simpler visual format. This, like everything is now in our process, is allowed to be in flux and not finalized—but I’m happy with how my first draft has turned out.
This short-format theoretical map of my project will accompany an outline I turn in next week. Stay tuned for that…