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FLEFF Intern Voices

The Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival from the interns' point of view

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Posted by Hannah Raskin at 6:30PM   |  4 comments
hana raskin

 In 1516, Thomas More wrote a book called "Utopia." In the book there is an island that is described as the absolute perfect place with: no private ownership, no locks on doors, free hospitals and communal meals. Of course many features of this imaginary society are a little outdated, like having two slaves per household or punishing premarital sex with compulsory celibacy, but the idea is the same.

But Thomas More meant to suggest that utopias only exist in fiction books. The word "utopia" comes from the Greek words ou 'no' and topos 'place.' So the word in-itself suggests that a utopia is unachievable. 

But let's not despair; while this utopia we are told to aim for, is actually a joke at our expense, microtopias (or small utopias) surround us. Microtopias are often temporary and dynamic, like art installations, but can also be more permanent without being forever. They bring people together in conversation, in laughter, in common purpose. Microtopias are about looking at our communities, building community by creating third spaces, and improving our immediate environment. Just because a Utopia doesn't exist, doesn't mean we can't work towards a more perfect society. 

I feel like often times we are so overwhelmed by feeling insignificant and as helpless as small fish in a big sea, that we fail to recognize the importance of the micro in influencing the macro. We want to enact big change, but sometimes we need to start local and start small. 

That being said, although sustainability is a global responsibility, microtopias play a pivotal role. Instead of waiting passively for national and global laws/regulations that will protect and conserve our resources for future generations, it's up to us to create sustainable microtopias.

According to environmentalist and author Bill Mckibben, "people everywhere are excited by the treasures of the whole planet, but we crave, too, the security of belonging in some place whose scale makes sense. Anyway, in the end, it's only those vital local communities that can generate the music, the recipes, the solutions that are worth sharing around the world."

Even though the ideal society exists "no place," microtopias are everywhere. Let's not underestimate the power of micro. 





You bring up a really interesting point when you comment on how More's utopian society is "outdated;" do you think that all microtopias are necessarily restricted by the time and circumstance of the era and society in which it is produced? Can microtopias transcend time?

Love the quote from Bill Mckibben, he's the best!

I like the inclusion of references to Thomas More and Bill McKibben in your posting. McKibben is an especially smart reference point for the idea of microtopias, given his penchant for celebrating local communities (in Vermont and beyond). At the same time, McKibben is a global activist, and one of the most effective political organizers around. Perhaps this illustrates your assertion that More is somewhat outdated. More's utopia was entirely imaginary, whereas McKibben inhabits the world of political action. Given the current state of things (environmental, economic, and political), we may no longer have the luxury of simply imagining our utopias-micro and otherwise.

exactly! There's nothing wrong with being a dreamer, but when we open our eyes those problems will still exist. Action is key.

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