Inverting Futures

As a followup to my ASCA Workshop paper, here comes another abstract, this time for the ACGS Inverting Globalisation conference in October. It is intended for the Session II on “Unsustainability, Precarity, Ecology”:

Judy Natal, "Future Perfect", 2011.

Judy Natal, “Future Perfect”, 2011.

Inverting Futures: envisioning the present in post-peak globalisation narratives

Stock markets, coral ecosystems, energy and food supplies, methane deposits: a converging, mutually reinforcing vortex of climate vulnerability propels us into radical uncertainty. Theories of peak oil, peak growth and peak capital are developed as possible challenges awaiting the global civilisation in the coming decades. Facts are extrapolated to advance various predictions about what will follow: apocalyptic collapse by inaction, soft landing to ecotopia, downfall of industrialism by violence, dematerialised and frictionless techno-capitalism, combined and uneven postcapitalist transition, and many other (non-fictional) scenarios are all part of this constellation.

Taken as a whole, these speculations constitute our contemporary political imaginary about how (not) to survive on a precarious planet. In fact, more than revealing the future, they inform us about inherited attitudes, assumptions and affinities that are present in our political and cultural landscape. They are distributed along the spectra of various binaries, such as crash/rebirth, reform/revolution, civilisation/barbarism, optimism/pessimism, humanism/naturalism.

How to navigate through these narratives of post-peak globalisation? The assessment of their accuracy (or absurdity) is not the concern of this paper. Instead of looking into the proverbial crystal ball to prophesy the way ahead, this study intends to invert the perspective and study the present from the vantage point of these forecasts. The purpose of this analysis will be to dissect the collective political and emotional states (denial, apathy, anger, motivation, etc.) that are, in all probability, the sole factors that will determine how the future unfolds.


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