Fiction and Action

Fiction and Action

In objecting Plato’s disapproving the value of fiction (poetry at the time), Aristotle argues that reading fiction develops and exercises our understanding of the world as fiction explores the possibility of a particular situation. In environmental science fiction, various possibilities of future are explored with imagination and speculation. Compared with, say, a policy proposal or a scientific paper in technical prose, fiction can be an apparatus in which both environmental issues and environmental initiatives are treated more tangibly so that people can relate to and emphasize with them.

However, just like Plato worried that some poetry, by lamenting over sorrows, would contaminate people’s souls and make them cowards in battle, we may also worry that some fiction would discourage people from actively building a better future.

Apocalyptic fiction and optimistic fiction have dissimilar influences on the current environmental enterprise. The prevailing apocalyptic pictures in the past decades, including the Matrix, The Day After Tomorrow, Wall·E, Resident Evil, Divergent, Interstellar and so on, were more of a reflection of the serious conflicts in capitalism and fear over the consequences of industrialization than of an exploration of future. They may serve as critiques of the “business-as-usual” approach and radical rationalization, but they fail to render positive acts of visioning. By suggesting a negative prospect of environmental future, these fictions may be useful as alerts to the consequences of “business-as-usual” and Anthropocentric exploitation, but, in the prospect of destruction, the spectators are sterilized from action as they cannot identify their own positions and potentials in it.

Apocalyptical fiction is therefore the negation of a tangible future. Optimistic fiction, however, constructs satisfactory products of change. It is only in such visions that people can identify their own positions and, therefore, participate to negotiate the process toward the vision.

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