Looking Backward from the Year 2099: Ecozoic Reflections on the Future

Abstract by Samuel Alexander

Story, myth, and narrative played a central role in Thomas Berry’s writings. He told new stories about the Universe and our place in it, stories not only about where we have been and where we seem to be going, but also stories about where we could go, if only we exercised our freedom in different ways. Inspired by Berry, in this paper I have dared to experiment with story, by attempting to look back on the 21st century from the vantage point of the year 2099. Motivated and informed by various themes in Earth Jurisprudence, the futuristic reflections detailed in this paper review how attitudes toward consumption and economic growth underwent a radical shift over the course of the 21st century and how this affected, through legal reform, the social, economic, and political order of late capitalism. Particular attention is given to the legal evolution of property rights and the cultural movements that made this evolution possible.

This is an ambitious and hopeful project. It aims to go “beyond critique” by describing an alternative legal and political order to late capitalism and by outlining the process of transition. Despite being conceived between the poles of pessimism and optimism, this story is nevertheless based upon a faith in the human spirit to meet the challenges of creating an Ecozoic era. Though I cannot be sure Berry would have agreed with all the conclusions drawn or speculations made, I believe he would have been sympathetic to this general undertaking.