Youth, Frankenstein's Monster, and the Future - GTEC Green Technology Education Centre

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Those of us over fifty might have a lot of concern about the Climate Crisis, but we have those concerns mainly for our children and grandchildren. No doubt we will encounter “interesting times”, as the Chinese saying implies, however, we won’t deal with it long, nor will we have to figure out how to survive if drastic actions are not taken and taken soon.

In this issue of the Reader, we hear from some of the brightest lights of the future generations as they consider and discuss the situation in which they find themselves. Plato wrote in The Republic, “our need will be the real creator” or, as later interpreted, “necessity is the mother of invention.” First, creativity, then, solutions and clever workings.

Back in the olden days, when I was under fifty, I taught a university level feminist literature course. Many women were admirable in their efforts to write but one of the ones I most loved was Mary Shelley.

Mary Shelley was born to famous parents, the philosopher, William Godwin and the author of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, Mary Wollstonecraft who died several days after her daughter, Mary, was born. The death of her mother seemed to haunt the young woman all of her life. Her father remarried a neighbour and widow who had a daughter of her own and was not on the same wave-length as Mary.

All of this might explain why, at 16 years old, Mary left home for France with her father’s mentee, the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley – who incidentally was married with one child and another one on the way. Oh, and they took along the neighbour lady’s daughter as well. Oh, and also they had Shelley’s now ex-wife come visit them in Europe for a bit. All very Romantic and personal freedom loving.

Shelley seemed rather irresponsible. He disappeared a lot while Mary went on to have three children die and only one live. The neighbour lady’s daughter got into trouble with another early Romantic poet and a good friend of Percy’s, Lord Byron, a notorious fan of Don Juan, and not to be trusted with a naive young girl wafting about his Swiss villa completely on her own.

But here is what was amazing about this young woman, Mary Shelley. Amidst and despite all these shenanigans, she wrote Frankenstein or Prometheus Unbound at the age of 19 and in doing so, she established a totally new and different literary genre: Science Fiction. The Victorians had the genre of Horror. They loved Horror. But not until Mary Shelley, did they have Science Fiction. This young woman anticipated the scientific revolution of the Twentieth Century and captured the essence of the search of science as it emerged from alchemy: the desire of man for immortality and the hubris of that endeavour. In every Science Fiction book the formula is always the search for survival and the hubris of man – or of certain men (to be fair).

Mary Shelley can be appreciated as a young genius because what she wrote had never been done before and because it was insightful, accurate, and very powerful. That is why I know those who follow us will be ever so much better than we have been – certainly better than the Victorians and the Romantics were. And while it was Wordsworth who wrote, “We murder to dissect” in the Twentieth Century it was Theodore Roethke, a North West poet, who wrote: “Light takes the tree, we know not how/We learn by going where we ought to go.”

Perhaps it is not too late?

Please read – and watch and listen to – the Future.

Mary Kean is a widely published poet and writer. She edited The Journal of Collaborative Therapies and was a Couple and Family Therapist for over 20 years. The Climate Crisis has been a concern of hers since she read Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. Her work as editor of the GTEC Reader is on behalf of her grandchildren.