Explaining Possitopia

In my talk GLOBAL WYRDING & DEEP ADAPTATION I played with the idea that there is a wider spectrum of adaptive options for organizing ourselves than what can be gleaned from the two most popular tropes of futural development: techno-utopia and retro-primitivism . Instead I argued for a deeper pragmatism that salvages from the past and present to construct a negotiated future, in specific ways.

In the post linked below, Bridget McKenzie offers another correction to would-be futurists via a “possitopian” approach that refuses to privilege either utopian or dystopian imaginaries. Instead, McKenzie urges, we remain open to the myriad of possibilities where both positive and negative outcomes and situations combine and co-exist to shape the unknown immediate future.

“Being Possitopian means both facing the worst and imagining the best, in ways that are both much more rational and critical, and much more creative and open-minded. And also, it means anticipating the future much more frequently, in many more situations and permutations, involving a greater diversity of people. Managing the risks of the planetary emergency is not about working out the best response to the most likely outcome, it is about determining the best response to the full distribution of possible outcomes.” — Bridget McKenzie

I think possitopian orientations are crucial for those of us who take up the project of salvaging the future, in that we must seek to cultivate flexible mindsets that refuse capture by any ideological or theological vision of what the future holds as social and ecological systems continue to break down and collapse. Being a possitopian entails attempts to remain radically open to opportunities for rapid transitions, as well as ideas and strategies that might seem strange or inappropriate given our previous (and often lazy) understanding of how we might collectively exist (which is to say beyond utopian and dystopian tropes).

Let us know what you think.

“The Possitopian approach to future thinking expands the cone of the possible future, draws on geophysical realities and data, and also applies imagination to help you imagine future scenarios which are potentially worse or better than you might allow yourself to think.”

“Possitopian thinking maybe offers a field rather than a path. It helps you resist predefined or hackneyed visions. We already know images of dystopia and utopian from movies and advertising. There may well be utopian and dystopian patterns which form out of cultural tropes (e.g. tech will save us) and psychological states.”

“Possitopian approaches don’t try to create a third trope but to overcome fixed, limited and binary ways of thinking. Many people might flip from dystopian to utopian visions – drawing on what culture has offered them – depending on their feelings at any moment. Possitopian practice allows us to imagine new possibilities by talking and weaving together rather than flipping helplessly.”

I’ve been talking about Possitopian approaches to the future for a few years now. However, it is sometimes misinterpreted, for example with people mispronouncing it ‘Positopia’, assuming it means positive thinking. It’s become one of our six principles of Climate Museum UK, but as our team of members grows, there’s a need for us all […]

Explaining Possitopia — The Learning Planet

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