Recently I was lucky enough to interview Richard Louv about nature-deficit disorder. At the end of the interview, he turned the camera on me and asked some questions that really made me think about what the future might look like.
He started by asking me about the new kind of books kids my age are reading. They are called “dystopia” novels. They talk about the future and how awful the world becomes and how young people struggle to survive.
Richard asked me if I ever read or watch anything that shows a better future. A future where we can do more than just survive – we can also thrive. Surprisingly, I realized there isn’t a lot out there that talks about anything other than survival – at least for kids my age.
So what could writers write about that shows an alternative future? A future that’s not just about overcoming to survive but overcoming to actually create something better? As Richard reminded me, it’s not enough to just survive. I think we need more books and movies out there to kind of inspire us to make a positive future happen. But in some ways the dystopia books are good because they scare kids about what the world might look like and then scares them into doing something to make the future better. Maybe writers could also inspire them with images of a better future.
That still leaves the question of what that future might look like. Can’t we build our lives around nature and with nature rather than bulldozing nature?
How about creating a way of life that turns endangered plants or animals into a never-ending supply? Then maybe there would be hope instead of despair.
I can almost picture houses in the future built only out of windows. A place where parking lots are turned back into natural wilderness or made into green spaces or at least having green spaces inside of them. Schools where you learn outside and with the roofs that are gardens and with rainwater collected to flush toilets. Places where people can grow their own food. A place where happiness is more important than money. Where everyone has some access to some kind of nature. Where we all find a way to survive and still share and renew resources.
Why can’t we still have struggle and conflict but survive — because we learn from our mistakes? Many people dream of a better future but the images that writers or TV or movies show can help us dream, can help us have hope. But if we don’t ask for those images and don’t demand them, they won’t be given to us. Are they not being provided because bad stories are more entertaining?
Can’t we have bad stories with good endings? I think we can be entertained and still be hopeful. So let’s dream the dreams and try to make them come true.
Wouldn’t it be great to be inspired?
Note: Earlier this month, Miranda Andersen, age 13, and her mother, Patty Andersen, flew to San Diego from their home in a village near Vancouver, B.C.., to interview Richard Louv. Miranda is making a film about nature-deficit disorder, and in September, she’ll give a TEDx speech on nature-deficit disorder in Canada. After she interviewed Rich, he mentioned that a book editor had recently told him that novels about dystopia — a post-apocalyptic world stripped of nature — are the hot new trend in young adult fiction. Miranda said she likes those books. Later she sent C&NN a short essay and a YouTube link on that topic, which we’re pleased to share with you.