Storytelling in the Anthropocene: A critical consideration of the Anthropocene using socio-ecological theory and science fiction to scrutinise current and envision future stories of social justice and ecological sustainability
Abstract: We now have entered the Anthropocene. Humanity is the new geological force drastically changing the systems of the Earth. At least this is the story told by natural scientists. Social scientists are critical of this ‘natural’ narrative as it cannot deal with the social dimension of geological changes. This is problematic with regard to understanding the relation between social justice and ecological sustainability. Nor are modern social sciences appropriate to deal with questions in which the social and the natural are intertwined. Alternatives are there. New streams of socio-ecological theories have evolved over the last decades all with their own (hi)story of the Anthropocene. I scrutinise the relations among human biology, social injustice, environmental destruction, artefacts, and human consciousness in the ‘natural’, posthuman, and eco-Marxist narratives of the Anthropocene. I evaluate the different perspectives and their ability to contribute to social justice and ecological sustainability by making an explanatory critique. This enables me to make the normative judgement that eco-Marxism, due to its clear political program, focus on macro-structures and, to a certain extent, acknowledgement of human exceptionalism, might be most incisive for understanding the relation between social justice and ecological sustainability. I then delve deeper into plausible alternative societies with more justice and ecological sustainability by conducting an ecocriticism of science fiction utopias, using Ursula K. Le Guin’s novel The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia. Through a re-imagination of different societies (Urras and Anarres) I suggest that an ecological revolution (in Carolyn Merchant’s sense) has taken place on Anarres, and demonstrate how a certain worldview can contribute to social justice and ecological sustainability. Overall, this thesis explores the role and responsibility of social scientists in the Anthropocene with regard to social justice and ecological sustainability, and hope that through envisioning alternative societies we may take away some of the fear to step out of the modern story, which is likely to reinforce social injustice and environmental destruction.
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