By Ariane DesRosiers — Milton Academy
Climate disruption: it’s real, and we know it. Yet humans have a history of ignoring problems until the last possible moment, to the point when someone finally has to step up to the megaphone and say, enough.
When it comes to treating the planet sustainably though, the number of environmentally-conscious citizens is increasing every day, environmentally-focused organizations are gaining traction all around the world, and an increasing number of youth all around the world are receiving environmental education. Governments are finally taking responsibility for climate disruption and enacting concrete change.
This trend seems to be occurring everywhere, with one major exception: the United States. I think it’s fair to ask: what the heck is happening? Today is a tough time when it comes to American environmentalism. The EPA is falling apart from within, Trump’s views on global warming (“It’s a hoax!”) are spreading across the nation, and federal acts on global warming are being repealed every minute. The United States government, the people’s venue for creating big change, is more and more against the idea of the fundamental ideas of environmental protection and the sustainable management of resources. Despite the fact that 70% of Americans believe that climate change due to human activities is occurring, people with the most say, like President Trump, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, all have dealings with major fossil fuel companies (Worland, Justin. “Americans’ Denial of Climate Change Hits Record Low, Survey Finds”). How are we expected to fix our environmental issues when our elected representatives aren’t even representing our values?
Today, it all comes down to political activism. America’s future will depend on how hard the citizens of today fight for a sustainable country. However, while advocating for change to better manage our planet is crucial to fix our environmental issues, if we really want true sustainable and humane action, we need to consider the other side of the equation: ecocentrism.
Ecocentrism is “a philosophy or perspective that places intrinsic value on all living organisms and their natural environment, regardless of their perceived usefulness or importance to human beings” (Dictionary.com). Ecocentrism is loving the Earth simply because it is the Earth. Our home. Our planet. Our everything. (Note that ecocentrism is different from biocentrism, a concept that places intrinsic value on all things living, but not all things pertaining to the natural environment.)
As Jacques Cousteau famously said, “we will only protect what we love.” But the concept of “love,” factoring into something as scientific as global warming is often shunned. Climate change, portrayed to the world with statistics, numbers, and occasionally the image of a drowning polar bear, feels impersonal. As many excellent critiques have pointed out, the scientific tactic takes away from the urgency of the issue. And the unfortunate fact is, we may only have a few decades to stop irreversible climate change from destroying human civilization.
So how do we motivate people to fight for something? How do we bring the human species together to prioritize and fight for something when all of our political, religious, and racial tensions are in the way? The answer is simple and at the same time, infinitely complex. Love. We need humans to love the Earth — The Earth, with all of its trees, skies, rocks, oceans, fish, birds, ecosystems, and biomes. People need to realize that the entire planet is one giant cradle, careening through space with all of us on it. Now is not the time for us to look to the stars and say, “OK, time to move on.” It is not the time to leave behind the place that brought us to life. We owe a little something to this wonderful ball of fiery rock first.
It is true that, even if we pass a two degrees increase in global temperatures and major climate disruption becomes impossible to prevent, even if we scrub the Earth free of all its forests and pollute the oceans, and even if all us humans die, the Earth will continue to hurtle around the sun. Life will come back and it will adapt to new temperatures and new situations. Nature is relentless. However, at the same time, surpassing those critical two degrees will result in the sixth major extinction. We could lose 30-50% of the biodiversity on our planet by 2050 (“The Extinction Crisis.” Center for Biological Diversity, CBD). Entire species will die out. And it will be our fault.
If you’re reading this now and don’t feel a hint of remorse, I recommend that you look out your window. If you don’t have a suitable window, imagine the last time you were out by a tree on a sunny day. Do you remember the sunlight coming through its leaves, sparkling and reflecting off its beautiful veins and off the tree’s bark? Do you remember the vibrant colors? The feeling of the sun’s warmth on your skin?
There is a reason for why we feel and why we empathize. We have an urge to defend the security of the things we need. We need the Earth. We needs its shelter, its food, its ecosystems, its creatures, and we need these things intact. So if you don’t care about the sixth mass extinction, or the fact that millions of species will go extinct if we do not put up a fair enough fight, then consider the fate of humanity. We cannot invest time anywhere else right now but in the sustainable and humane treatment of the environment. If one thing can bring all the members of the human race together, it’s the planet.
So the next time you decide to throw something away, or buy something unnecessary, or get on the Internet, or vote, remember to value the Earth for all of its worth. Take up your human responsibility to fix our environmental issues and nurture our natural home back to its original health. Embrace ecocentrism.
Americans especially: feel the responsibility. We will only solve our environmental crises if we pick up the megaphone, start yelling, and then, most importantly, start doing something about it. So start today.
Worland, Justin. “Americans’ Denial of Climate Change Hits Record Low, Survey Finds.” Time, http://time.com/4073881/climate-change-survey-united-states/
“The Extinction Crisis.” Center for Biological Diversity, CBD, www.biologicaldiversity.org/programs/biodiversity/elements_of_biodiversity/extinction_crisis/.