Eco-Apocalypse: Environmentalism, Political Alienation and Therapeutic Agency

Hammond, Phillip and Ortega Breton, Hugh orcid iconORCID: 0000-0001-6777-6522 (2015) Eco-Apocalypse: Environmentalism, Political Alienation and Therapeutic Agency. In: The Apocalypse in Film: Dystopias, Disasters, and Other Visions about the End of the World. Rowman & Littlefield, London, pp. 105-117. ISBN 978-1-4422-6027-6

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If apocalypse is an event the script of which is already written, in what sense do human beings participate in apocalypse? For some analysts, today’s representations of apocalypse are simply the latest version of a “pervasive sense of doom” which has characterized human civilization for millennia. For others, in the context of current environmental problems, a sense of impending disaster expresses a scientifically-supported assessment of today’s “risk society.” Giddens argues that “Doomsday is no longer a religious concept, a day of spiritual reckoning, but a possibility
imminent in our society and economy.”3 Our argument is that the current fascination with the end of the world is best understood neither as a near-timeless feature of human culture nor as a reasoned response to objective environmental problems. Rather, it is driven by unconscious fantasy; the symbolic expression of an alienation from political subjectivity, characteristic of a historically specific period in the life of post-Cold War societies. With the script of the real
apocalypse already written through scientific projections, how does environmental discourse and popular culture represent people? We will first consider recent critiques of the use of apocalypticism in environmental discourse; then examine elite uses of eco-apocalypse in political discourse; and finally discuss two films which envisage a world destroyed by catastrophic climate change: The Day After Tomorrow (USA, 2004) and The Age of Stupid (UK, 2009).

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