“And change is coming whether you like it or not.”
With these powerful words, Greta Thunberg concluded her speech at the UN climate action summit this past September.
We are facing one of the most urgent global challenges as humans; The consequences of a globalized hegemonic view of solving our so-called “economic problem,” which includes everything from surviving without destroying the ecosystems that surround us to indulging ourselves in a life of comfort and good health and succumbing to the lure of luxury.
A convergence of ideas drives the economic and political system that prevails today as a global hegemonic ideology. But the world is waking up, as Greta said, and we can evaluate the outcomes and consequences of the application of that ideological hegemony as we understand them with evidence and solid facts.
The first hegemony is a notion that humankind is superior to all other species. Western societies have been taught that humans are the most evolved species, and, therefore, that we have a privileged intelligence among others. A religious concept that compares human beings to the image of a superior being, reflected in Genesis 1:26/27 in the Old Testament has been prevalent in our understanding of life itself from a theological perspective: “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth. So, God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Gen 1:26-27).
The second hegemony is the notion of individual freedom. We created a system that unleashes the best and worst of our human passions and desires; A system that believes in self-regulation, or else relies on a corrupt way to control how we satisfy those passions and desires; A system in which the limit of our predatory behavior is determined by the amount of resources we can borrow, even if we are later unable to pay back the debt of the consequences of our unsustainable consumption habits.
The third hegemony is our flawed idea of ecosystems as we understand them to be “resources” for us to use whenever we want them and the false paradigm of an “endlessness world.” There is a mainstream view of understanding economics which has instilled in our minds the idea of modifying the ecosystems around us in order to satisfy our human needs and wants. That narrow view of defining life around us as “raw materials” and “resources to produce what the market demands to be produced” has been another cause of disrespecting, underestimating and undervaluing other forms of life and living systems. This attitude has caused the destruction of ecosystems globally.
Consequently, we are living now in what has been called by many the “Anthropocene” era. This is the era in which geological impacts and changes are produced by humans interacting with their environments. Although it is not currently a formal part of the Geologic Time Scale, it is referred to as the commencement of significant human impact on Earth’s geology and ecosystems[i] (Waters, C.N.; et al. 2016)
There is plenty of scientific evidence that supports the idea that the world’s ecosystems have dramatically changed in the last 100 years or less. Extinctions of species, CO2 emissions, greenhouse gases, global temperatures rising, ice caps melting, population growth, ocean acidification, coral bleaching, pollution of waters, plastic contamination, overfishing, and many other ecological measurable variables show an abnormal incremental pattern over the last century. All of these changes contribute to the rapid disturbance of a fine equilibrium that has historically been achieved due to ecological processes, environmental conditions, and bio-interactions. These changes may not allow many species, including humans, to adapt at the pace that is needed for survival in the future.
We should transition from an anthropocentric view of “development” towards a bio-centric, eco-centric and holistic perspective of progress and wellbeing. It is arrogant to keep thinking of human beings as the ultimate species on earth. The universe and other living species around us do not exist for our undeserved and trivial indulgences.
Change is Coming
“Change is coming whether you like it or not,” said Greta. And she is right.
Perhaps it is the consequences of the decisions we made as humankind in a flawed system. Consequences that range from political outrage, health-related crises, the threat towards general wellbeing, and the existential risk we face as humans caused by the changes we made to the global ecosystem.
Or perhaps she speaks of the change that will occur from the uplifting of a generation that is already empowered and aware. A generation that has the ability, incentive, and power to act and that is no longer waiting for an old elite to act.
The time is now to unite forces, ideas, efforts, minds, hands, and hearts towards maybe one of the most urgent threats that civilization has ever faced.
Using the same anthropocentric argument, we could appeal to the ability and intelligence of both younger and older generations to act towards redressing our impact thus far, reinstalling a new philosophical perspective of human beings, or at least using our animal instincts to survive as a species.
Education, in this context, is a huge and powerful weapon. However, education takes time and at this point, we have no time left. We must act with determination and urgency. Acting now is imperative regardless our political affiliations, religious beliefs, ethnic backgrounds, citizenship statuses or ages.
Because change has cometh, whether we like it or not.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by Impakter.com columnists are their own, not those of Impakter.com
Featured Image: Greta Thunberg with other climate activists outside the White House. — Photo Credit: Susan Walsh/AP
[i] Waters, C.N.; et al. (8 January 2016). “The Anthropocene is functionally and stratigraphically distinct from the Holocene”. Science. 351