Stories not only account of people or events, recording or imagining, but they can witness and foretell.
One look at Netflix or cinema films listings tells us our current story obsession: dystopian near-future realities. They represent our present fears made real. These films show us what we consider to be our possible futures, and display our lack of agency to stop these futures becoming real.
In the 1980’s, living with the risk of possible cold-war nuclear destruction films came to the fore. The Day After (1983), and Threads (1984) explored the consequences of nuclear war. By dispelling the misconception that we could live on after even a limited nuclear exchange, they both foretold a possible future which we felt inevitable and changed how we as a society perceived possible futures. In their horror, they made nuclear war less likely. They described a possible future and laid bare the consequences if we didn’t change our ways. They led to nuclear weapons reductions and reduced tensions. They emotionally connected us to a new possible reality.
Similarly, films such as The Day After Tomorrow (2004) connected us to the possible dystopian future of a planet suffering rapid climate change. It has failed to change the Zeitgeist of public feeling to an extent where we demand change, but it has partially emotionally attached us to a possible future.
We need creative people to show us the way. We feel like we are falling down a fascist, racist, gender-bashing, environment-killing, economic dark rabbit hole.
The work starts with a vision, acknowledging just how bad things are, and quickly moves on to a final vision and the start of a plan to get there.
Humans: hugely adaptable, survivors and change-makers. COVID-19 showed us how a global emergency can be accepted and tackled in short-timescales. It also shows us, as climate activist Greta Thunberg stated, how little we have treated our environmental and ecological crisis as an emergency.
We can do this – and we need to see where we are now.