A better Anthropocene
“The human race is challenged more than ever before to demonstrate our mastery, not over nature but of ourselves.”
Our internationally connected world is changing quicker than we might ever have imagined. For much of 2019, the lungs of the Earth — the Amazon rainforest — has been burningwhile only months afterwards, our sunburnt county was doing the same. This season a heatwave swept over the Arctic since Siberia’s tundra was set ablaze by wildfire. This really is the last place in the world which needs to be on fire, yet greater than the metaphor for global warming, it starkly displays the urgency of this situation that’s climate change.
From the depths of the Arctic ocean, temperatures are warming twice as fast as the remainder of the planet. Indigenous coastal communities are feeling not having ice as lifestyle as they know it’s destabilising fast. On the opposite side of the planet, on the Peninsula of India, the majestic yet formerly hardy and wise Indian Cheetah, known for its stellar survival skills has died out.
These events are far from being isolated. Every of those changes has a flow-on effect that affects the global climate and has consequences for every one of us. The blue planet is turning shades of red, maybe not (yet) literally, but metaphorically. Since the greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere increase, heat from our sun intensifies and can be trapped as a thermal blanket, gradually suffocating life and cutting off our oxygen. People have experienced an astonishing and black effect on this world we call home. We make up only 0.01 per cent of all life on Earth, however since the start of the agricultural and industrial revolutions have been able to cause the reduction of 83 percent of mammals, causing, according to scientists, the sixth mass extinction of existence.
Our impact on this planet was so great it is understood to have pushed us into a new geological age: the Anthropocene, a new dawn born by human influence. The term, coined by Nobel laureate Paul Crutzen, came about in a scientific meeting in Mexico in February 2000, following a demonstration Crutzen attended where a group of scientists had been drumming about the Holocene, the present epoch which started approximately 11,700 decades ago, following the start of the last Ice Age. We are not in the Holocene any more” This wasn’t a prepared speech, so in the midst of his outburst Crutzen threw out the term”Anthropocene”, within an age influenced by human (anthropogenic) activity. The term stems in the Greek Greek anthropos meaning”human” and -cene (or even kainos in Ancient Greek).
Crutzen was convinced that we had entered a new age on the geological time scale — a system that helps us understand the phases in Earth’s history. Later that year, Crutzen, along with ecologist Eugene F. Stoerme, wrote an article for the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme Global Change Newsletter 41 that claimed, rather convincingly, that we are indeed living in a new human-influenced geological epoch.
As we stand in the crossroads of human civilisation, about the bounds of an epoch that we’ve created, the social and ecological philosophical questions we pose today could dictate the future of our planet. If we keep on the present trajectory, we are heading for dystopia: an uncontrollably chaotic world where ecosystems face complete collapse and human anguish extends beyond that which is physically tolerable. The rich will become richer, however, the bad will become so inexplicably destitute as our natural resources will struggle to support basic life strategies.
Do we accept such an ominous outlook, or if we strive for a much better Anthropocene?
Rather than desperately surrendering into a gloomy fate like the doleful Indian Cheetah, we can assert that society has a responsibility to attempt to face the social and environmental challenges caused by the Anthropocene by transcending the very causes of these changes. The Anthropocene is underlined by anthropogenic (human-influenced) climate change. We have made it. We can make it simpler. We can still aim for utopia. Even if we never reach it, our journey along the way would shake things up.
Some scientists assert that we might have already reached a tipping point. The unprecedented changes such as the Arctic ice melt and the Amazon forest fires are reminiscent of this. The point is, however, that we can’t continue doing things the way we always have and end up with a much better future. ‘Sustainable development’ has just provided us a patchwork of solutions, chiefly designed to uphold business-asusual — the type of business that’s led us into a climate crisis in the first place. Ideas like sustainable development have been helpful in tinting the global narrative green, but as long as the western proposal has existed, climate change and social injustice have intensified. What does this tell us?
The basic, undealt issue is link : to each other, in our communities, and to our environment. A better Anthropocene is going to be enriched with social and environmental justice. It’ll ensure ecosystem health in order that we may reside inside the delicate planetary boundaries.
At a better Anthropocene, we’ll approach things differently. We will think differently. We’ll act differently. Rather than taking an anthropocentric perspective of our own life on this Earth, we’ll be more biocentric in the way we live and interact with one another and nature. We will cultivate a more treasured relationship with the natural environment. Governments may even customarily grant rights to nature as both a legal and ethical imperative to respecting the limits of that relationship. These all have in common is that a vision for collective social and ecological health. For Native peoples, this nature-human link is innate. By taking note of those alternative methods of thinking and doing, we can see that pockets of futures have started to emerge, as we struggle and stumble our way through this next great age of our world.
Let us take a better look in Buen Vivir, as an example, where link to one another and to our environment is the fundamental tenet of how to live life. Buen Vivir is interpreted as the Great Life. Unlike western theories of placing primacy on individual needs and individual health, Buen Vivir values both collective human and environmental needs alike, leading to higher levels of environmental and social wellbeing. Thinking of ourselves as a part of character, instead of different from it, influences the way we act and act and will help recover the delicate equilibrium between nature and society. It changes how we have and how we approach our relationships. We may have reached a tipping point with irreversible consequences, but we could still look to balance the scales of environmental and social justice.
This isn’t an easy move, but a necessary one, and instead of looking at the situation by an overwhelming macro-political perspective, there is a lot to learn from different cultures and communities and their ways of studying nature. Link is the keyword. Link to each other and connection to our Earth. During solidarity, community, and ecological justice we can help each other, and our entire world to flourish.
Puerto Rican author and historian Aurora Levins Morales admits,”Solidarity stems from… the recognition that, like it or not, our liberation is bound up with that of another being on the planet, and that politically, spiritually, in our heart of hearts we all know anything else is unaffordable.” Connection. And, if there is 1 thing we have discovered in 2020, it’s that we can’t ignore the way in which our fate is intertwined with each other and the planet that sustains us. We may not be able to stop a shifting world, however we could make our experience of it better.
To recognise that the anthropogenic affects we’ve imposed on our planet is to confront the reality that we are discriminated with the health of our Earth, we must construct a better civilization of nature that includes people, not at the center, but at the cycle of life. To make these modifications is to strive for a utopian future. I proceed two steps nearer; it moves two steps further away. As much as I can walk, I may never attain it. So, what’s the point of utopia? It’s with this momentum that we can produce a better Anthropocene.