Positive images are important as guides towards sustainable and just futures as well as being useful in helping us face what is not working in our communities and institutions today. The dominant forces urge us not to be visionary, but to simply, easily, effortlessly accept how society is now rather than what it could be. I argue that it is important that, rather than simply accept the foreboding images, we actively pursue creating positive images of alternative futures. As Meadows, Meadows and Randers (1991: 225) argue, “a sustainable world can never come into being if it cannot be envisioned. Positive images of sustainable futures, visions, are potential catalysts and guides in making change happen, by providing futures worth working for.
Elise Boulding tell us (1988: 90) that “imagining future sustainability different from the present is one our greatest problems as a society”. We have lost our ability to envision anything different from the present. The corporatised media, governments, corporate business, the design industry, many futures oriented professionals and scientist have converged and conflated “the future” into a more or less singular image of a nature-less future – one that is lacking both ecological and human diversity. While negative pronouncements are necessary, they are simply not sufficient to make positive change happen.
Ecologist Stephen R. Carpenter (2002:2079) suggests that the “unrelenting negativity has an effect on listeners that may be different from our intent. Constructive solutions that evoke optimism may come closer to our goals”. I will explore how negative imagery may be interfering with our ability to create visions that could evoke optimism. And to explore how we can assert space for diverse images of the future based on sustainable and just communities, both human and nonhuman, that will guide meaningful efforts directed towards sustainability.
Dr. Karen Hurley is presently a sessional instructor in the School of Environmental Studies and recently completed her doctoral topic is entitled “Daring to envision sustainable futures: an exploration in ecological futures image making” and is about how filmmaking, and specifically films about the future, can contribute to creating sustainable and just communities. Karen has also worked as an environmental planner for many years. And in 1994 she opened a vegetarian, organic restaurant called Sweet Pea Café. Karen is one of the founding board members of Haliburton Community Organic Farm, and is on the Executive Board of the World Futures Studies Federation.