The Promises of Hopelessness...?

At our Third Thursday gathering last May, EcoCultureLab launched its Ecotopia Burlington initiative with a playful and creative visioning of what we would like the city and region to look like in 50 years. This was a hopeful gambit. Tomorrow, on the eve of the Global Climate Strike (Sept. 20-27), we will focus instead on the promises of hopelessness — that is, on the virtues of accepting that things may well be going downhill for the foreseeable future. Numerous variations of this more 'doomy' environmentalist narrative have circulated for years now: from talk of 'coming global changes' and 'crashes' to the Dark Mountain project and manifesto, the Deep Adaptation Forum, and various World Scientists' Warnings to Humanity. In this Third Thursday conversation, we will watch a few videos to familiarize ourselves with these lines of thinking and feeling (if we need to) and then ask some questions about them and our relationship to them.

  • Is it important, as Jonathan Franzen and others have recently argued, to "stop pretending" that the "climate apocalypse" can be averted? What if we accepted that it cannot: is this a psychologically debilitating and disempowering move, or might it give us the resolve we need to address the "apocalypse" more realistically and effectively? (The ancient Stoics and Buddhists argued that we should embrace death in order to live better; is there a way of embracing the "end of civilization" in order to build a new one in its place?)

  • Or are these the wrong strategies for change? What are the psychological and emotional costs, and/or benefits, of taking "doom" on board as our ever-possible companion?

  • What other perspectives can be brought to the task of determining where we are emotionally (and where should be) in relation to the climate crisis? Are there perspectives and voices missing from these scenarios?

Come to Burlington's Generator Flexspace, 40 Sears Lane, at 7 p.m. tomorrow, Thursday September 19, to participate in this community conversation.