Challenging dystopia

Over the last several days I have been thinking about the meaning of utopia and how it is applied as a term that describes an ideal world. I have been thinking about utopia in three broad areas:

  • Conflict
  • Waste
  • Corruption

To me utopia is an idealism. It is a vision of a world at some point in the future where conflict does not exist, where waste is minimal and corruption is kept to a minimum. It is polar opposite of a dystopian world where corruption is an acceptable by product of society, conflict is an accepted course of remediation and waste happens because if if does not then “progress” is not happening.

I accept that contrary to what many believe, there will always be conflict. The injustices of some past conflicts run too deep for resolution in anyone’s lifetime. In trying to make peace, one needs to be realistic about the prospects. It is not to say that many conflicts cannot be solved, because they can be – if Colombia can make peace with itself after a brutal and bloody civil war lasting nearly 50 years, perhaps the participants in other conflicts will eventually have second thoughts about war.

Too often proxy wars start between relatively small states fuelled by support from rival powers. This was seen in Afghanistan during the U.S.S.R. incursion in the 1980’s, in the Iran-Iraq war of the same period and is obvious in the more recent Syrian Civil War where the Assad regime has been propped up by Russia, whilst the West support rebels who want nothing less than regime change. No one wins in these wars except the armaments industry.

Much of the conflict that is happening at the moment exists out of fear, an emotion fuelled by media hyping up the dangers of the unknown and politicians using division tactics to get elected to pursue an agenda. Corporate media, such as Fox, but also others such as The Independent and The Daily Mail in the United Kingdom have long been guilty of such fear mongering. One only needs to look at the reaction every time there is a terrorist attack. All too often the Muslim community is made to look like it is complicit by its “silence”, when if any of these outlets actually bothered to do their job, they would see that the Muslim community abhors such behaviour as much as anyone else. When people stop buying into this fear mongering, there will be progress for the divisive agenda of the right will have failed.

There are steps that can be taken to counter this. Constantly reminding these agencies on their social media pages of the facts as opposed to “their facts” will annoy them, but persistence can pay off. Putting up links to stories with alternative views will remind their own audience that the story has at least two sides. Just meekly accepting facts uncritically is apathy.

There will always be resource consumption. There will always be waste generation. The idea that both can somehow be made to disappear is simply that, and one that is not likely to be advanced or developed much further. Waste minimisation becomes critical because the rate of resource consumption is simply not something that the planet can sustain without permanently and substantially degrading the natural environment. If one looks at the waste being produced in New Zealand per person, and compares it to other countries, a New Zealander has an ecological footprint almost as big as an American.

However there are things that can be done to reduce New Zealand’s waste production. The Minister for the Environment, Eugenie Sage has called for a review of New Zealand’s waste minimisation framework. Whilst good news, she has the means to go much further and enact comprehensive waste management reform. Technological advances mean that waste can now be burnt in high powered incinerators, that heat water to drive steam turbines and generate power. Although no such facility yet exists here, there has been talk among developers about the pros and cons of such a project.

There are steps that can be taken at local level such as setting up recycling programmes among businesses. Offices can be encouraged to have recycling bins for waste paper to go into, to invest in . Small N.G.O.’s and charities that cannot afford brand new equipment could make use of old cellphones, lap tops, televisions, printers, scanners, as well as chairs, desks, filing cabinets and so forth. Think global, act local, an activist once told me.


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