CLIMATE FUTURISM | RETOPIA SERIES
Introducing Retopia: The Best World Possible in the Worst of Times
Mankind missed the opportunity to change the course of human history for the better. Asleep at the wheel, we sped past the off ramps that would have led to utopia. So where does that leave us? Speeding towards a dystopic cliff? Madly building a new off ramp before it’s too late?
The what-ifs are useless: we can mourn our dreams of utopia for a full five minutes, but then we have to put on our big girl panties and get to work. We have to focus on “retopia” — creating the best world that can exist in these wild and woolly times.
What is retopia?
Retopia is the best life we can create in the world we have. It is the future we can reach if we work with — not against — the planet. Life in the Retopian age is not utopian, but it’s the best we can have as we heal the planet and learn to live well against a backdrop of extreme weather, rising seas and natural systems yet to adapt to the new climate. Retopia is a good future during bad times. Retopia is not just about humans, it’s about the whole planet, including its soils, oceans and wild lands, its animals, insects and unseen life forms.
Retopia is what we get if we rise up and refuse to accept the dystopian futures on offer. Yet it’s got a solid dose of realism that acknowledges that, tragically, mankind will be slow to change and has already set off a chain of events that will shape the decades to come.
Retopia means embracing the challenge of rewiring our global systems to work towards the repair and renewal of this beautiful planet.
Retopia is life with regeneration, replanting, reengineering how we fuel ourselves, our economy and our ecology.
Yet retopia requires redefining the good life, because we’ll be living against a backdrop of a climate crisis that will accelerate for some time, even after we begin to slow emissions. This future will be harder as we adapt to all of the implications of climate change while at the same time pull out all stops to mitigate it —even though we are aware “all stops” will be stymied by corporate greed and political will. The good news about retopia is that it’s not the hopeless sackcloth and starvation future that dystopian movies revel in.
From the perspective of 2020 — an era of unprecedented wealth at an unacceptable cost — it’s hard to imagine a future that isn’t bleak. We’re no longer denying that climate change is happening: so much is happening that our 24-hour news cycle ignores anything but the most dramatic disasters in our own backyard. In an age of global news, it’s simply too overwhelming to track all that is going wrong in our ecosystems. Yet we cling to today’s standard of living, fearing that helping the planet means sacrificing much of what we enjoy. We know what is going on and we know things have to change, but without a positive and compelling vision of what this life can be like, most people will resist taking action.
If retopia is the future we want, how do we get there? In summary: stop stupid before stupid stops us.
So what does the good life look like when we no longer have to destroy the planet to enrich ourselves? How are our homes, our diets, our jobs and our everyday lives different from today in this future? That’s what I’ll be exploring over this series, looking at life in retopia, the technology and trends available and emerging, and how we are still human in a changing world.
If retopia is the future we want, how do we get there? We’ve already seen that doing nothing is leading to disaster, but where do we start?
Choosing to shoot for a retopian future means immediately stopping the just-plain-stupids (think single-use plastics), slowing and transitioning away from the stupid-but-so-cheap-it’s-hard-to-say-nos (such as fracked gas, high fructose corn syrup, factory beef), and throwing a moonshot style effort at the not-completely-stupids-as-it’s-truly-tough-to-find-alternatives (jet fuel). In summary: stop stupid before stupid stops us.
And as we reel the cause of the climate crisis back in, we also must accelerate the cures that we know of. Both a rapid and massive deployment of carbon-avoiding technologies in concert with a ramp up of carbon-absorbing technologies — both natural and industrial — are needed. It’s not brain surgery, but most importantly, it’s not elective surgery: without taking action today, action tomorrow becomes even harder.
Stay tuned for Part Three. You may also enjoy:
Acceleration: How the Climate Crisis and its Solutions Will Speed Up
Will corporate one-upmanship save us from the climate crisis?
The Unraveling: Five Predictions for the Decade the Climate Comes Undone
The 2020s will be the decade where things really come undone.