Juli Sikorska: Yeah I would like to pick up on all of the apoc­a­lypses that we have been talk­ing about, the dystopias. Because it’s some­thing that we encounter on the news all the time. The atom­ic threats, the killer virus­es, and all of the cli­mate change con­ver­sa­tion that we are hav­ing still these days. And we real­ly seem to indulge in dystopi­an think­ing. And we love it. And I real­ly won­der why that hap­pens. I don’t know how you feel about this, but it real­ly stress­es me out. And it kind of both­ers me that it’s still a lot of times eas­i­er to imag­ine the end of the world than how we could live on a sus­tain­able plan­et.

And so, I’ve been think­ing about this. And where I got my inspi­ra­tion was lis­ten­ing to a pod­cast called Imaginary Worlds. Does any­body else here know it? Okay, a few, a few. It’s a real­ly won­der­ful pod­cast. It talks about how sci­ence fic­tion has cre­at­ed heroes and put them in entire­ly new imag­i­nary worlds around sci­ence and tech­nol­o­gy. And that if you show peo­ple those inspir­ing worlds, they will find ways to build the things that they saw.

Like for exam­ple, who of you has seen Star Trek, Captain Kirk using the com­mu­ni­ca­tor. Which looks like a very ear­ly cell phone to me. Or Minority Report, with touch inter­faces, ges­ture inter­faces, that we are in the mid­dle of the build­ing right now.

So, what sci­ence fic­tion did here is that on top of the sci­ence and the worlds they cre­ate around it, they put this lay­er of human expe­ri­ence of how will we live with those tech­nolo­gies that they imag­ined in the futures, how do peo­ple inter­act with those tech­nolo­gies, and, how do they inter­act with each oth­er in the new worlds that we cre­at­ed.

So I thought, if we can cre­ate such inspir­ing sto­ries for life in space, what if we also cre­ate inspir­ing sto­ries for liv­ing on a healthy plan­et.

Photo from low to the ground, showing dry cracked dirt with a city skyline visible in the distance

So, what is wrong with the way that we talk about cli­mate change today still way too many times? For one, it often so looks like this. A pile of dirt. If you Google cli­mate change” this is not the only pic­ture like this. Right. There are no humans in there.

Screenful of images showing cracked dirt, burning trees, or a contrast of desert scenes with bright green fields

If you Google cli­mate change, this is the entire front page of image search, still, these days. We still talk in sci­ence and num­bers. We tend to pick up cli­mate jar­gon as peo­ple start engag­ing with this. And we don’t real­ly show the human expe­ri­ence enough yet.

It’s still real­ly far away. Far away in time as you know, New York being flood­ed in 2140. Or a real­ly far away loca­tion, where we still talk about those glob­al changes but not about the local ones, espe­cial­ly being in cities that have not been vis­i­bly affect­ed by it as much. Cities away from coasts, like us being here in Milan.

And the third thing that still real­ly sur­pris­es me so much are all of the dystopi­an apoc­a­lypse sce­nar­ios. And I’ve been work­ing with expe­ri­ence design mak­ers and escape room mak­ers, and just yes­ter­day I read a few names for an escape room about cli­mate change. And they were look­ing for a name: No Tomorrow. We’re All Fucked. Ecopanic. Last Call. Here’s How We All Died.

Yeah, some sto­ries are just…slightly neg­a­tive, some are just plain dystopi­an. And how do those sto­ries make you feel? Because to me it’s real­ly anx­i­ety, it’s stress, it’s guilt, and it feels like I have no agency what­so­ev­er.

So. What I think that we need to do next is that we real­ly need to inspire. And that we also need more cli­mate fic­tion. And here are just three quick things that I think we can do bet­ter as we design fic­tions. And we’ve already seen won­der­ful exam­ples so I’m just real­ly pick­ing up on those and just sum­ma­riz­ing it real­ly quick­ly.

One, let’s show human expe­ri­ence. This is some­thing that we as design­ers already are real­ly good at. So show­ing all of the changes to human life. How is it already affect­ing us on a dai­ly basis. On the sys­temic lev­el like how does it affect the econ­o­my but also what does it do to my finances. How does it affect my job? What will I be doing for a job? How do I get there? How do I get back home? What do I do on Sunday after­noons? All of those lit­tle mun­dane things.

The next… This is also what it could look like, so Climate Visuals is a real­ly good data­base of images that are already show­ing the effects on humans of cli­mate change, which I high­ly rec­om­mend.

Then next, bring­ing it close. Bring it close in time. So how can we show the effects that will hap­pen with­in the next ten years. So you’re also say­ing as 2030 is when we are sup­posed to have cut down our cli­mate emis­sions, but also bring­ing it to the places where we live. So I’m from Munich and I was look­ing at how does Munich expe­ri­ence cli­mate change. And we have quite intense heat waves in the last few years. And like many cities, we also have urban heat islands, which are just areas in town that are warmer than sur­round­ing areas. And so I thought, what if in 2030 you would have an app that would let you nav­i­gate through the dif­fer­ent micro­cli­mates of the city to for­age for wild mush­rooms.

And then num­ber three is mak­ing it opti­mistic. Not utopi­an. So real­ly I’m talk­ing about being an opti­mistic real­ist about all of the pro­topias that we heard about. And just show­ing many alter­na­tive visions to the world the way it is now. There are real­ly great exam­ples out there. One that I want to men­tion is solarpunk, which is a grow­ing genre of spec­u­la­tive art and fic­tion writ­ing that is focus­ing on only show­ing pos­i­tive depic­tions of life with cli­mate change.

I think that the main point of the val­ue that we can pro­vide is to show what the world can look like, and what we all can do, and how we can future togeth­er to get there. And because its cli­mate fic­tion, I do think that we cre­ate a lot of fic­tions every sin­gle day as design­ers, and as peo­ple who tell sto­ries. And so I’m chal­leng­ing myself, and I hope that you can chal­lenge your­self too, that next time that you are talk­ing about the future and the cli­mate, that you just think about these three things and that we can build the world we want to live in. Thank you.

Further Reference

Session page


Help Support Open Transcripts

If you found this useful or interesting, please consider supporting the project monthly at Patreon or once via Cash App, or even just sharing the link. Thanks.