Science fiction writers have accurately predicted future outcomes, as in Jules Verne’s 1869 novel about a submarine, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Arthur C. Clarke wrote 2001: A Space Odyssey, the 1968 science-fiction novel that was made into a film. Physicist and author Dr. Michio Kaku commented that it’s the most accurate portrayal of quantum mechanics and super string theory—the study of the smallest building blocks of matter, such as quarks, and possibly vibrating strings as the smallest of all. Dr. Kaku says the science fiction film Contact also is based on physics, except for the ending.
Science fiction writers portray what will happen if we continue to increase the gap between the rich and poor and destroy the environment. The best-selling film of its time, Avatar refers to an earth where there is no green left. Corporations turn to other planets to rob their resources with the same lack of regard for the damage they caused on Earth. In contrast, the indigenous Navi stay in harmony with nature and their planet, Pandora, stays beautiful. Shehroz recommends watching the movie WALL-E, in which “humans are shown as lazy, fat, techno-addicted beings who cannot move without the use of machines.” Gary Shteyngart’s 2012 novel, Super Sad True Love Story (2010), portrays the near future where the US is collapsing, media controls what people think, books are no longer in use, and there’s only one political party. Ronald Wright’s A Scientific Romance (1999) is another dystopian novel. A social scientist’s view of corporate domination and the future is written by Chris Hedges in his Empire of Illusion.
In The Handmaid’s Tale, Canadian Margaret Atwood’s futurist novel that was made into a film, most women can’t reproduce because of damage caused by environmental toxins. Atwood said she didn’t put anything in that book that hasn’t happened somewhere on the planet. She points to natural disasters including fires, floods, and hurricanes as evidence of global warming to illustrate that the world as we know it is gone.
In another dystopian novel, The Year of the Flood, Atwood writes about a future ecological religion called God’s Gardeners that blends religion and science. Their saints are environment leaders like Rachel Carlson, Al Gore, E.O. Wilson, St. Francis of Assisi, and Diane Fossey. The book tells the story of corporate greed and lack of ethics, with a walled area for the corporate elite and their families, and lawlessness outside the walls. Biotech and pharmaceutical companies ruled until a plague kills most people so the remaining few have to live off the land. Before the plague, Atwood’s corporate scientists created genetically altered animals and “perfect people.” What they thought was ideal was to create different skin colors, they don’t get old or have body hair, don’t need to wear clothes or eat food except leaves, purr like cats, and turn blue when in heat to “eliminate romantic pain.” Atwood’s novel describes how the characters manage to live by recycling everything.[i] If Atwood’s fears come true, technology will lead to ruin and a return to nature. Along this line, an Indonesian teen would like to “flatten the buildings and allow people to live wildly, with nature” (Kazu, m, 17).
“What are the odds of this world getting drastically better rather than worse?” asks Mouse, 16, f, California. Ecofiction imagines a brighter future.[ii] A progressive view of the future where people live collectively and environmentally is found in the 1975 utopian novel Ecotopia by Ernest Callenbach. More utopian novels are listed in the endnote.[iii] Futurist Alvin Toffler, author of The Third Wave and Future Shock, maintains that major change is driven by technological inventions: the plow for the Agricultural Era (which began 12,000 years ago), steam engines for the Industrial Era (1760s), and the computer for the Information Age (1950s), sometimes called Postmodernism. Change occurs faster and faster due to technological advances. Toffler predicts a major trend will be the creation of wealth in outer space with technology like global positioning satellites, and even more expansion of global information and commerce made possible by the Internet.
Physicist Fritjof Capra says the Age of Biology will follow the Information Age, as the environment is the dominant issue.[iv] “A 4°C warmer world can, and must be, avoided – we need to hold warming below 2°C,” warned World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim:[v] “Lack of action on climate change threatens to make the world our children inherit a completely different world than we are living in today. Climate change is one of the single biggest challenges facing development, and we need to assume the moral responsibility to take action on behalf of future generations, especially the poorest.”
[ii] Jim Dwyer. Where the Wild Books Are: A Field Guide to Ecofiction. University of Nevada Press, 2010
[iii] Jim Dwyer, cited above, lists young adult books which he says tends to be utopian or at least not discouraging. Mari Sandoz, Joseph Bruchac’s Dawn Land series, Watership Down, Jim Lynch’s The Highest Tide, Ice Trek and Flight of the Osprey by Ewan Clarkson, R.D Lawrence’s Cry Wild and The White Puma, Strong Feather by Richard Inglis Hopper, Star Trek 4, Lloyd Hill’s The Village of Bom Jesus, Seth Kanter’s Ordinary Wolves for older teens, Isabel Allendes’s City of Beasts, Michael Ende’s The Neverending Story, Jean Stafford’s The Mountain Lion, Rudolpho Anaya’s Bless Me Ultima, When Coyote Howls by Robert Gish.
Wikipedia provides an overview of utopian fiction, including feminist novels.