Dystopia or utopia? The world in a hundred years.

Illustrations Corinna Harss/ text Rike Pätzold

Two scenarios – a utopia and a dystopia. The variable is connectedness or “earthliness”, as Bruno Latour calls it very nicely in his terrestrial manifesto.

Dystopia – low connectivity

 

We survived. We still survive because, you can’t call it living. Sometime a few decades ago and after futile efforts to change the course, the climate and its accompanying phenomena – the weather – became so hostile to life that chaos broke out.

Crowds of people set themselves in motion in search of places that would allow them to live – due to the rise of the sea level and the simultaneous disappearance of the water they had no other choice.

One pandemic followed the next, there was a cascade of extinction of animals and plants. Water wars, soil wars, oil wars, hunger and thirst did the rest.

Those who were left retreated back inside, because it was no longer bearable outside. When the Gulf Stream dried up, Central and Northern Europe was among the first areas that became virtually uninhabitable for people. In other respects too, the Earth became increasingly hostile to life, and people began to fight not only each other, but also them – the Earth. The environment, nature, they said, had turned against them and now had to be conquered. Let us see, they said, who is the Master here.

Resource extraction was intensified in the years that followed, drilling, prospecting, fracturing, trapping, hunting, mining, and so on. At the same time, there was investment in research. More energy efficiency, more performance, more optimization. Synthesis of food, extraction of nutrients from all that the planet (still) gave.

And we have won. We are now living, as one of the few surviving species on the planet.

But the struggle did not stop.

Ever new epidemics, new bacteria, new viruses, new parasites make it impossible for us to move freely. We live inside, most interaction between people takes place virtually: Work, shopping, entertainment, relationships, sex. Everything and everyone is monitored, the still functioning rest of the ecosystem has to be kept under control. Each individual is only allowed to consume a certain number of calories per day, the carbon footprint is constantly monitored. If it is exceeded, points are deducted immediately. The total post-collapse eco-dictatorship.

Utopia – high connectedness

We live on the ruins of the old world. That world where our fathers and forefathers have not yet understood how everything is connected to everything else. Cybernetics, complexity and chaos theory are now taught to even the smallest children.

We have not been drilling for oil and gas for a long time, we get our energy from wind, sun and water. Organized in communities, we convert what we have into electricity, in our case wind and water. Of course sea water, fresh water is much too precious. All used water is filtered by plants and algae and reused.

In my childhood I had to help collecting garbage every day, especially recyclable garbage. It was no longer called garbage collector, but resource collector and for every kilo of recyclable garbage my family was paid. At first we were often robbed, but when the payment was no longer in cash but through the Blockchain, it was no longer a problem. Our life improved more and more. At some point we moved – together with others, some of whom still live in our community today – into empty high-rise buildings. The city, once so busy with men and women in suits and costumes, was almost ghostly at that time. Most of them worked from home anyway, and a lot of money could not be made anyway.

That’s not what it was all about any more. The super rich elites had long since retreated to their space station and left the rest of us to die on the exploited Earth. But they had not expected us.

Without their incantations of salvation in eternal consumption, acceleration, yield, profit, performance and constant self-optimization, other things suddenly became important.

After an initial phase of self-pity and despair, hope eventually returned. Self responsibility, humility, helpfulness, dignity – the language changed.

And there was suddenly the deep realization that it would not work without each other. That we are part of nature. Earthy among earthy. Environment is not environment but co-world. We began to organize ourselves. To clean up. To clean up. To help each other, to network.

We now populate the old structures and fill them with new life. There are no nations any more, only interlinked city states, a mycelium of cooperating and collaborative units. Cooperate or die.

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