The end of the world

Every year I look forward to gathering with friends for a book swap, where we trade books we've read and enjoyed. One friend brought M. T. Anderson's 2002 novel Feed, which she praised as a highly engaging story set in a dystopian future, "written before dystopia was cool." Dystopia is definitely the place to be right now: most of the books my sixth-grader brings home are set in some grim, totalitarian wasteland. I wonder what this trend means for our work encouraging young people to take ethical action. On the one hand, these books and films usually feature brave and resourceful young men and women who take on the powers that be. On the other hand, they express a profound sense of powerlessness in the face of climate change, government corruption, corporate manipulation, and mass shootings. In an interview with Wired last year, the social critic Naomi Klein argues that dystopian films and novels undermine activism because they take for granted that humans will destroy the earth and one another. "The hardest part of my work," she says, [is] actually convincing people that we’re capable of something other than this brutal response to disaster."

 

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