In the Shadow of Death

Loss, hope and radical environmental activism in the Anthropocene


  • Heather Alberro Nottingham Trent University



Post-humanism, radical environmental activism, Anthropocene, ecotopia, hope


This article posits that the myriad socio-ecological crises that mark the Anthropocene have generated a novel form of green utopianism or ‘ecotopianism’ in the form of contemporary radical environmental activists (REAs). Drawing on posthuman and green utopian theoretical tributaries, the article seeks to critically assess how the intrusion of crisis into the present influences REAs’ modality of ecotopianism, in particular their relations to central utopian concepts of ‘hope’ and ‘futurity’. REAs are embroiled in a fervent refusal of the ‘present’ of climate and ecological decline, frequently emphasizing the need to create micro-exemplars within the ‘here and now’ and evincing scepticism towards closure around particular notions of ‘the better’. REAs’ singular mode of ‘hopeless activism’ is not devoid of hope but rather disavows hope in its abstract and future-oriented modality, instead emphasizing a ‘critical modality’ of hope. The latter, stemming from REAs’ post-anthropocentric worldviews and deep kinship bonds with the nonhuman world, is fuelled by grief over the extant widespread loss of cherished Earth kin and moulded by a desire to create a ‘not-yet’ devoid of the widespread absence of Earth others. The article concludes with reflections on the nature of hope, loss of life and the utopian imaginary amid times pervaded by crisis, and on the potential for co-constructing more liveable worlds with Earth others. 


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A train moves away in a grim, dark-orange polluted landscape