Monday, 16 February 2009

Goodbye to Planet Earth

Now that “environmentalism” has become “mainstream” [‘Welcome to Planet Earth’ published in The Guardian, 14 February] its activists and the general public must fully embrace political debate.

In order to do so we must first come to terms with the scope and foundation of ecological thinking that is often subsumed beneath the hot air headlines. “Environmentalism”, a distinctly general and somewhat ‘twee’ designation, must become “Ecology”, emphasising the idea of collective residence and responsibility – originating from the Greek word oikos meaning ‘house’.

“Environmentalism” has enjoyed a surge in popularity in recent years and has found its way onto most western political agendas and firmly into the backs of people’s minds across the world (whether as a pertinent topic of discussion or, already, in the form of tangible changes in the natural environment).

However, the subject will continue to provide a misguided offensive in the fight against climate change and the depletion of finite resources if it continues to seek solutions based on human-centred perspectives. “Our futures” and “the branch upon which we sit” should no longer be considered in terms of Homo sapiens alone and must be extended or, rather, deepened to include the earth and its countless organisms, seen as a complex and interconnected whole.

The fact that many basic (energy) resources are under increasing threat is worrying for many people. Millions of us rely on them daily for survival. But to only see as far as the human cost of human action is to remain entrenched in a way of thinking that contributed to the crisis in the first place; namely, anthropocentrism.

It may seem like a flippant question to ask but it is one which may be worth considering: is a change in the world’s climate necessarily a bad thing? Whilst it is surely indicative of deeper problems harboured by the ecosystem, the climate has been shifting for millennia and the world’s flora and fauna have adapted to the changes. It is only when the biodiversity of the planet is affected that this change becomes problematic.

The cognitive and behavioural shift that is required for a non-anthropocentric worldview to prevail will be successfully brought under ever closer scrutiny as a result of continuing media coverage and the subsequent public awareness. But the more objective and the less dramatic this exposure is, the quicker we will be able to understand the world in its own, myriad terms. Environmentalism needs to be made publicly appealing but must not become diluted as a consequence.

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