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Critical energy utopias and futures consciousness

D.L. Wuebben, J.M. Cuevas

23rd Futures Conference, Turku (Finlandia). 14-16 junio 2023


This paper examines how futures consciousness may be impacted by the literary genre I call “critical energy utopias.” Like climate fiction (cli-fi) and solar punk, critical utopias can help narrate the transformations of societies threatened by political persecution and ecological collapse. For example, Ursula Le Guin’s “The New Atlantis” (1975) and selections from Kim Stanley Robinson’s Ministry for the Future (2021) reflect collective visions for cleaner energy sources and more equitable societies; they also provide context for the energy transitions underway and their impact on local landscapes. How might these fictions provide readers, especially young people, with frames and nudges for real life changes?

To answer these questions, students in two university courses took a Futures Consciousness Test supplemented with questions that critically analyzed their individual relationships with energy. Then, the students read samples of energy utopias and non-fiction science and policy. Instead of celebrating or shaming a particular behavior or lifestyle (e.g. veganism, recycling, driving an SUV, etc.) students critically reflected on hypothetical and actual energy choices. Can they envision a future in which individuals voluntarily give up control over home heating and cooling, air travel, meat consumption, and designer clothes? If not, then how can we, as energy citizens, manifest different forms and possibilities for our energy futures? The post-test results suggest how to better teach and develop energy literacy in relation to future consciousness and how the links between current and future energy consumption may help enact a fair, fast, and just energy transition.

Resumen divulgativo:

Este artículo presenta los resultados de un estudio de carácter cualitativo y cuantitativo sobre el modo en que la lectura y el debate de temas relacionados con las utopías energéticas críticas influyen en la alfabetización energética y la conciencia de futuro de los estudiantes universitarios.

Palabras clave: climate change, futures consciousness, climate fiction

Fecha de publicación: junio 2023.

Wuebben, D.L., Cuevas, J.M., Critical energy utopias and futures consciousness, 23rd Futures Conference, Turku (Finlandia). 14-16 junio 2023.

    Líneas de investigación:
  • Análisis de políticas energéticas sostenibles
  • Gestión de las transiciones hacia la sostenibilidad (ODS) y modelos de negocio disruptivos


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