Ecological Utopias

Guaymas, Mexico. Ernesto Valero Thomas (EVTh)
Guaymas, Mexico. Ernesto Valero Thomas (EVTh)

An ideology is a system of ideas that aspires not only to interpret the world but also to modify it. Thus, the Ecological Ideologies are the systems of ideas that interpret the interactions between human and non-human stressors and their environments with the aim of modifying that relationship. In order to provide the research with a more precise terminology I will borrow the concept called Ecological Utopias from Marius de Geus. The meaning of the word Utopia is literally “nowhere land”, a perfect society in “another place”, where justice prevails, the people are perfectly content, and where sadness, pain and violence have been abolished. Utopia is also depicted by counter-images of an alternative society, one that has achieved the perfect stability in all the spheres of human reality, including one that protects and respects nature.
Marius de Geus has studied the literature works written by different authors concerning a utopian political thought; he has analysed classical and modern political utopias which have influenced the current ecological ideas for a sustainable society (including its man-made landscapes). He states that the utopian thinker philosophizes, and in his or her mind attempts to distance itself from the present reality, and go where it can discover untried, unprecedented and better possibilities for the future.

Throughout centuries the western narrative of Utopia has been delineated by the works of people such as Plato, Thomas More, Francis Bacon, Henry Thoreau and Aldous Huxley (among many others). For de Geus the utopian tradition is the examination of useful ideas, enlightening images, challenging perspectives, “inspiration”: “Utopias have a fictitious character, and they contain representations or views that are not based on reality. They do not report on reality but are based on invented elements and are usually moulded in the form of a story. Utopias are characterized by the most detailed descriptions and a trust that the envisioned society will in fact be without problems: life moves along smoothly, without abuses or shortages. Another characteristic feature of utopia is that they are extremely critical in regards to the present society, and at least in words, contain “the blueprints” for a completely new state.”

Illustration for the 1516 first edition of Utopia, written by Thomas More
Illustration for the 1516 first edition of Utopia, written by Thomas More

If we follow the argument that utopias are the blueprints of a new environment, the visualisation of a sustainable future via Ecological Utopias could be fictional and difficult to assess; nevertheless the illustration of invented environments strengthen and stimulate the notion of an alternative development of man-made landscapes. Therefore I consider that the projection of ecological utopias is a useful tool of imagination that helps to envision the possibilities of a sustainable future, especially in the emerging landscapes of the 21st century. There is a strong correlation between a utopia and the power of the image:

“Utopias often have a strong visual power and, apart from making an appeal to the readers’ intellect, they specially speak to their imagination, as is explicitly depicted in Thomas More’s Utopia … the allure of utopias can best be explained by their “pictorial” character, the most fantastic and picturesque images being conjured up before the reader in a very ingenious manner. There is something magical in the ability to evoke colourful, exciting and meaningful images merely through words … Unlike conventional political theories, utopias are “film-make”: the ideas are transferred to us by sequences of images that have been deliberately assembled by the author.”

I would like to point out that the western narrative of Utopia is and have being conceived in a great majority by countries with very high standards of human development indicators. Considering that today most of the urban development takes place outside Western Europe and Anglo America it is pertinent to ask what kind of ecological utopias are being constructed in the rest of the world (Mexico for instance)


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