A fictional short story about a new era of inter-being communication and earth healing from past human mistakes.
As a transdisciplinary scholar, I am always pushing myself to experiment with new ways of communicating and exploring ideas. This summer, I was invited with my long-term collaborator, Tomas Matza, associate professor of Anthropology at University of Pittsburgh, to contribute to a Post-Covid Fantasies blog series published by the journal American Ethnologist. The prompt was to “propose imagined or speculative future scenarios for how things could be better in a post-covid world than previously.”
Writing this fantasy illustrated to me the power of speculative fiction for confronting the complexity of the Anthropocene. Anthropocene problems – climate change, biodiversity loss, pandemics – are overwhelming. How are we possibly going to solve the myriad of challenges that we all face living on a crowded, hot planet? It’s hard enough these days just to go to the grocery store! But with speculative fiction – or imagining futures, we can transcend the practical affairs of “real life” and let our minds wander freely. We can explore unthinkable changes and fantastical scenarios.
For me one of the most surprising aspects of the pandemic experience was how it caused society to stop, at least for a while. The sudden downturn in consumerism, production, travel, and consequently large drops in carbon emissions, was remarkable and unprecedented (documented in the scientific literature here and here). It made me wonder…how will society change in the 21st century? How might people in the future look back at the world today and see it from a radically different perspective? What will trigger the changes that result in our society becoming sustainable? Rather than being through incremental policy work and gradual change, perhaps it will come in a most unexpected way – a giant jump forward – caused by interspecies mingling beyond our wildest dreams?
I hope you enjoy our fantasy, and the other contributions in this series. And I encourage you to write your own post-covid fantasy! What do you imagine for the future?
Nicole Heller is Curator of Anthropocene Studies at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Museum employees are encouraged to blog about their unique experiences working at the museum.