Competition or nah?

This isn’t the first time I have heard ideas for drastic societal change, but I am willing to say this article highlighted one of the most dramatic that I have ever seen. Simply the idea of creating a society where everyone lives equally seems insanely foreign to me. I have grown up my entire life on the basis of competition and trying to attain a better life than the next guy. One of my biggest motivations is that one day when I am successful, I can look back at all my competition growing up and reflect on how my hard work paid off.

 

In a society like the one described in the article, it is assumed that people would live hand in hand and not revert back to the ways of today’s competitive society. Although this idea may be a potential reality in the future, I don’t see anything close to it happening in my lifetime. In the world we live in today, competition is what spurs development and technological growth. Without the constant threat of others getting further ahead, I feel that businesses would stop investing their time and money in engineering new technological advancements.

I feel there is a much better way to restructure society so that the environmental toll is kept under control and the number of green technology increases, but creating a completely socialistic society doesn’t seem like a reasonable or even smart idea. I feel like large-scale efforts to clean up the environment and reduce fossil fuels should be taken. I also feel that poverty and homelessness could almost be entirely eradicated with large-scale measures, of which making everyone equal not being one.

 

Maybe it’s just my competitive ways, but I don’t want to live in a society where the people who don’t work hard and don’t show drive receive the same results as those who do.

Sharing is Caring

Common understanding is that growth is a positive and attainable goal, which can be measured.  For a world to thrive and succeed, it must seek the best for its people.  A move which is often interpreted to mean new industrial developments, vast resources, and adaptable technologies.  The concept presented in “Degrowth” is portrayed in a manner which alludes “degrowth” is in fact the real positive and attainable goal our world should be seeking.  In the sense that “degrowth” in fact provides a net positive impact to the world, unlike the method of “growth” which is, “uneconomic and unjust”…”because the benefits accrue to those who hold power and the costs to those who are marginalized.”

The idea presented declares growth to be ecologically unsustainable and claims that above a certain level, growth does not increase happiness.  This in turn exposes “Degrowth”  to be an anti-capitalist manifesto.  Similar to White’s position that Christianity is the root of our world’s current ecological crisis.  “Degrowth” takes a position that Capitalism is the primary cause for our world’s ecological crisis due to our engrained need for growth, and the Earth’s inherent limit of resources.  Capitalism is truly the root of all evil.

Overall, I have doubts that the argument for degrowth could be successfully carried out.  The idea is in a simplistic form similar to the conceptual framework of Socialism.  It simply lacks the official title of such.  Nonetheless, I do not believe humanity has the ability to reach full equality.  The idea is antiquated and the desire to compete is widely accepted to be part of human nature.  Self-limitation can be taught and enforced, but the empathy for others and recognition for the need would be the most difficult task to achieve for the entirety of society.  Sharing is caring, but the world is a tuned to siblings, and sharing is not always easy.

 

It Sure Seems Great in Theory

Is degrowth the only way to save our planet from the effects of climate change? I don’t know. Would it help negate the consequences of our materialistic world? Absolutely. But is it practical? I just don’t see it. I personally love the idea of degrowth in theory, but when thinking about it further, when realizing all the benefits of this “growth centered society” and all its capitalist  comforts would essentially be lost in a degrowth society, my brain gives me pause. Specialization and division of labor is a cornerstone belief of all heavily industrialized societies, like the one we live in in this country. I love the fact that someone else has specialized in agriculture and food preparation so I don’t have to. Going back to a self sustainable economy is an admirable goal to have, but spreading it to the general population will be more easily said than done.

The main problem I see with the degrowth movement is in its implication. In order to truly convince citizens that this is the way to save our future, small steps into these “grassroots nowtopias” the authors of this week’s reading describe will have to be taken, and at the rate the climate is changing, I do not know if we have time for the small steps to be taken. However, that same thing could be said about any movement looking to make radical change. I just know persuading our culture to give up so many of the comforts and conveniences of modern capitalist life will not be a painless endeavor. This is especially the case with a lot of the political ideals proposed by the degrowth movement, such as a wage ceiling, or a living wage. Humans as a whole do not like change, and a movement to such “radical” beliefs by our standards may not go over well, especially among those who are “successful” by the capitalist standards described in the reading.

I’m not sure if the world is ready for the commencement of a degrowth society, but for the sake of our future, I hope we are. Or at the very least, leaders of the movement can implicate it in a digestible way for the general human population.  I fear though, like with every utopian society, it sounds better in practice than it will actually transpire in reality.

Image result for degrowth

 

The Economy is on Fire! Stop, Drop, and Roll- Let’s Put it Out.

Gorz’s theory on degrowth and consumption reminded me of the throwaway culture presented in last week’s reading. This is a major concern as our capitalistic society rarely considers the idea of consuming less. The movements supported in the early 2000s, specifically in France were very fascinating to learn about because they exhibit the growth of an early idea. I wonder what particular combination of things lead France to be the center for this birth of political ecology and environmental justice. The term degrowth hasn’t typically been used by others who surround me. In fact, I believe this is the first time I have heard it. However, I do believe that it conveys an important point in environmental sustainability. For instance, there needs to be a larger emphasis on reducing one’s electricity use rather than solely trying to replace fossil fuels with other energy sources (solar, wind, etc.).

In today’s society, particularly America, we base our values of success, happiness, and worth in the form of materialistic goods. The bigger the house, the more successful… Right? This mindset has promoted the growth of our economy and helped us develop at a rapid rate. Degrowth directly contradicts with the motives of growing an economy. So, what would this look like if we suddenly got the majority of our world to embrace the ideals of degrowth? Degrowth criticises growth and capitalism. An economy thrives on consumption and a growing presence of services and companies. Is this simply an ingrained part of human nature? It is noted that negative GDP growth will be a likely outcome if degrowth occurs. Rather, I think that there needs to be a shift in the dispersion of wealth throughout various sectors of industry and geographic regions. This political ideology would shrink the “dirty industries or the financial sector” while promoting health, education, and sustainable practices.

 

The emphasis on critiquing the word “development” seems interesting as I have previously never considered it as a negative word. On the other hand, I would understand if they were concerned with words such as overdeveloped. At the same time, it makes sense as to refrain from confusing anyone attempting to follow the degrowth ideals.

The overarching limits of growth to the entirety of our society seem rooted in a desire for simpler living and happiness. One statement, “growth can never satisfy positional competition; it can only make it worse” struck me as being a cry for fairness and equality. Growth tends to lift someone or something up while leaving others behind. In many facets of life, too much of anything can create a negative impact. At this point in time, I think that degrowth might be human kinds only chance at saving our environment and socially changing to create more equal communities.

Earth Yelp Review: 2/5 Stars

“Unsafe water results in many deaths and the spread water-related diseases… Underground water sources in many places are threatened by the pollution produced in certain mining, farming, and industrial activities.”

-Pope Francis

Great scenery and gorgeous wildlife, but poor management. That is what a Yelp review for Earth would read like. If the Earth was a restaurant, it would be immediately shut down by the local health department for severe health and safety infractions relating to unclean water on top of many other things. The managers of the place, the people of Earth, have neglected the establishment to the point of near-irreparability. As Lynn White beautifully stated, “surely no creature other than man has ever managed to foul its nest in such a short order.” We tend to believe that we are masters of nature and try to reign in its riches for our benefits. Yet, it is surely the actions of humans that have accelerated the end of our tenure of our planet.

 

I agree with White’s sentiment that humans have successfully used technology to further our ecological crisis. However, I am hesitant to blame technological and scientific progress as the sole culprits for the problem. I wish to point out that it is what we do with those advancements that contribute to the issue. For instance, the cattle industry has provided us with more beef products than ever before at the cost of huge energy input and greenhouse gas emissions. On the flipside, advances in renewable energy such as solar and wind energy have reduced our reliance on fossil fuels. Thus, rather than pass the blame onto the products of human ingenuity, we need to hold ourselves accountable and focus on new solutions.

 

Of course, White’s rhetoric does have merits on how we should approach the problem. I take his statement of finding a “new religion or rethink our old one” as saying that we need to rethink our societal values on waste and conservation before relying on new technology to bail us out. According to the BBC article, How many Earth do we need?, if the world lived like the average American, we would need roughly 4 Earths worth of resources to sustain ourselves. The “religion” we need is a stronger awareness for the planet and more importantly acting to preserve it.

 

As Pope Francis has stated, “We all know that it is not possible to sustain the present level of consumption in developed countries and society, where the habit of wasting and discarding has reached unprecedented levels.” I believe that further support for ecologically mindful technology such as renewable energy and sustainable manufacturing along with being mindful of how much waste we produce will help us save the planet. After all, the “species heading towards extinction” might include us too. In order to have a 5-star planet, we need to give 5-star quality effort in maintaining it.

Go East, Young Man, Go East!

Current ideal often encourages anything which is new or perceived as an advancement.  Little homage, however is shown to previous designs, and rarely are unintended consequences considered.  This ideal influences humanity to diverge from a respect for nature.  As White discusses in The Historical Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis, a greater awareness and respect may have been more prevalent if humanity felt there was a human-like presence in every object in nature, which comprises our world.  The idea of Paganism is therefore able to establish a sense of camaraderie through animism, with ideally a lesser tendency to exploit those similar to our own kind.  In theory, I find this concept of religion shaping our view of the world, and specifically nature, fascinating.  In reality, I have little faith that religion is the answer.  Religion is only as strong as it’s following.  In truth, I believe we may find our answers in more than one stronghold.   

I believe the act of growing up in nature teaches one more respect for the world that is around them.  Not in the literal sense of run with the wolves, but rather growing up perhaps in Pacific Northwest America, where there are vast forests and abundant primarily, sustainable agricultural communities.  After all, one’s surroundings shape them as they grow, be that concrete jungles or vast forests within reach of their backyards.  Humanity thrives from interaction, and relates based on experience.  When one grows up physically closer to nature the may feel closer to nature.

Reading the two works together felt like a unique opportunity.  White wrote The Historical Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis in 1967, decades before Pope Francis was elected, and began to introduce new ideals for modern Christianity.  Nevertheless, White offers Saint Francis as the “patron saint for ecologists”.  I can only hope this means humanity is capable of continuing to heal our world through our faith in one another and a greater admiration for the world which supports us all.

In 1865, in an editorial in the New York Tribune, Horace Greeley wrote, “Go West, young man, and grow up with the country.”  Today, America has reached tremendous advances with technology and expanded across the states.  Regardless of order, the world has expanded as well.  The current demand for resources outweighs the availability, and the lack of understanding and respect for the world which supports us will continue to drive humanity to a premature death.  To change our ways, humanity must realign its values to persevere. Additionally, the development of technology for the use of supporting the earth—including all its inhabitants—must be established.  Now out with the old ideal.  Go East, young man, and carry a new view for America.  For our world.

You can’t have disrespect without disregard

As humans learn more about the world around us, the more we abuse and exploit it; that much is evident. However, it seems to stem from a lack of respect. This lack of respect came unintentionally because we grew in our understanding of nature. Back when natural phenomena were confusing and scary, that fear incited an essence of awe and reverence. When the veil of mystery was finally lifted though the use of science and technology as outlined by Lynn White, then the wonderment of the unknown was tarnished, and as a result we no longer held nature to any high regard.

Religious teachings have been applied in the past to explain not well understood processes of this world. But as the processes began to be explained by science and technology rather than religion, then the respect for religious lessons and morals went away along with religious reason. White’s explanation of how religion was used as justification for man’s dominance over nature in every which serves as further support for those looking to discredit religious views in place today. It seems to be an ironic and vicious cycle without end: we further technology that pulls us further from faith while using a “God-given” right to justify us doing so.

Worse still, we accept this as a “a normal pattern of action” according to White. And then we have the audacity to take it upon ourselves to fix it and consider ourselves saviors of a world in ruin while completely disregarding the core reasons we got into the predicament in the first place. We go so far as to admit that our previous actions ruined our environment, but we never trace back to shed light on the reason for our actions. From what I have read, I believe humans have a need not just a need to dominate over our surroundings, but to obstinately and insatiably do so as well.

IF THE WORLD WAS “MADE FOR MAN” HE REALLY SHOULD TRY BETTER TO TAKE CARE OF IT

Lynn White’s The Historical Roots of our Ecologic Crisis gives an opinionated approach to a common question which is what is the root cause of all this environmental destruction? White proposes that it is the Christian/Western mentality that the world was made for man and he is the so called “master” of it. This is a good guess, as it creates a lack of responsibility which leads to decisions being made without thinking of the environmental consequences. As shown in the Pope’s Encyclical Letter, there are many environmental consequences that are being felt all over the world and humans are at the root cause. This is unfortunate because at this point it is hard to fix all of the problems and so people spend time pointing fingers and blaming different parties for the reality we are all facing. The Western mentality may be that the world was made for man, but as shown by the Pope’s Letter, that mentality may be changing. Eventually, things need to be changed and as White states when he says, “we must rethink and re-feel our nature and destiny,” it is not just technological advances and science breakthroughs that will reverse these harmful consequences, it is also an attitude and perspective change. It needs to be switched to “Man may be the master of the world, but he still needs to take care of it.”

Paganism Could Be the Way to Go

As humans, we have always considered ourselves above nature – not a part of it. When we started designating “nature” as a separate entity is when we lost our respect for it. Every other animal is considered part of nature – since we do we get to count ourselves out? Is it when we found out we can design our own technology to shape it? I was really intrigued by the path that Lynn White took in “The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis,” and even more so when I realized it was written in the 60’s. This author was way ahead of his time. My favorite quote of his in the article is, “its [technology over nature] acceptance as a normal pattern of action may mark the greatest event in human history since the invention of agriculture, and perhaps in nonhuman terrestrial history as well.” If we are to progress environmentally in any way, he is encouraging us to have to change our point of view – and he recognizes that it most likely will have to be religiously.

White goes into immense detail on how humans have transitioned from a pagan belief that nature is to be respected, to a Christian belief that nature is to be used and is only there for them. The Greek and Roman myths have always intrigued me, and I immediately knew what he was going to talk about. Humans used to worship nature and look at every living thing like it had a soul and was its own spirit, and we had to respect it. If we didn’t, the gods would curse us or cast us out. It was a fantastic comparison and backed up his point nicely.

The article written by the Pope goes well with White’s article, especially since White encouraged the general population to turn to the Pope and change how we think religiously. My favorite line from the Pope was “We seem to think that we can substitute an irreplaceable and irretrievable beauty with something which we have created ourselves.” It rings very true and summarizes what White was trying to say in his writing. Both men back each other up in their beliefs, and I’m glad we read both together.

Selfish, or Simply Short-Sighted?

It’s reasonable to assess that recent worsening symptoms of global warming have introduced greater awareness of climate change around the world. From the wildfires that spanned from New Mexico to Washington, or the hurricanes that pummeled coastal cities all over the world, more people are starting to recognize the real problem arising. However, the question arises of whether simple awareness is enough to raise change. As Lynn White Jr. points out in “The Historical Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis,” the solution to this calamity may not lie in scientific or technological improvements—in fact, those specific measures may produce backlashes more serious than those they are designed to remedy. After all, a significant number of scientific studies have been done that point to the fact that most global warming in recent decades is due to the great concentration of greenhouse gases that have been released mainly as a result of human activity. That problem is made worse by society’s intensive use of fossil fuels, which lies at the heart of the worldwide energy system. While scientific and technological advancements have made the world what it is today, the ecologic effects of those advancements must be considered in reference to the future of this era.

In Pope Francis’s encyclical, he points out that the speed with which change has occurred in the human era is incredibly greater than the naturally slow pace of biological evolution. It is reasonable to assume that a reason for this is due to the accelerated industrial advancements that have been made in recent centuries. When did man become the dominant and invasive species that it is? What made humans believe that they were so much more important than all other living beings on this Earth? I think that this mindset comes partially out of the egotism of the human race, and the idea that nature is simply for us to use for our most selfish whim. It’s either that, or that humans are just short-sighted in nature, meaning that they see and care about only what may happen in their lifetime or their children’s, and don’t consider the lasting effects that their choices make on this planet. Lynn White brought up the connections that religion have to nature, which was interesting because Christianity has in the past conceived nature primarily as a symbolic system through which God speaks to man. However, when we take a step back and consider that the idea that nature has no reason for existence save to serve man is an incredibly selfish way of perceiving the world, it will perhaps influence humans to work with nature rather than against it. It is bigger than all of us and will eventually destroy all of us if we don’t help it. To do this we don’t necessarily need to work hand in hand with the birds or the wolves in order to make a change, but we need to drop the selfish and short-sighted mindset some of us have of the Earth and exchange it for an appreciation of nature and what it consists of.

Awareness is there, action is required

For a global society that largely recognizes climate change and the destruction of nature caused by human interference as a serious problem, it is astonishing that more is not done to prevent further harm and clean up existing climate issues. In fact, according to an article by Business Insider, The 10 most critical problems in the world, according to millennials, two of the top 10 issues were about mankind’s effect on the natural world: water scarcity and climate change. However, despite human’s awareness of these serious matters, no long-term measures seem to last more than a few years before they are overturned.

 

Looking at the documents we were tasked with reading, the focus seemed to highlight on raising awareness as the best way to bring on change. In fact, in bullet 30 of the Pope’s Encyclical, the author writes: “the problem with water is partly an educational and cultural issue since there is little awareness […].” I would disagree with this statement. Take the 60s and 70s in the US for example. As is now common knowledge, this period of US history was marked by an incredible drive for climate justice and climate awareness. Demonstrations were held and people protested. From this era, many great wilderness areas became protected and new measures were instituted into law to help protect the environment. However as this era of peace and love ended, so did the attention and measures to fight climate change.

 

We now live in a society (mainly 1st world) in which a vast majority of people are aware in some way of climate change and the need for immediate action. Yet, despite all the awareness, we still are made to read documents telling us that the answer is more awareness. I completely disagree. I feel that the time for raising awareness already occurred in the last 40-50 years and that what we need as a global society is deliberate and long-term legal action. We need to stop allowing large corporations to emit the amount of fossil fuels that they do. We need to increase the number of measures that protect our wildlife and wilderness areas. We need to set up new regulations for waste disposal and water usage.

 

Climate change is an issue that makes me pretty irritated with the human race. Mankind knows of this incredibly pressing issue, yet decides to sit on it and preach about awareness. The awareness is there, now action is required.

It’s not my fault I litter. Blame God!

“Christianity bears a huge burden of guilt.” – Lynn White

Lynn White states throughout his essay that blaming technological growth or using Band-Aid policies alone won’t stop our current ecological crisis, but he does a pretty good job at throwing Christianity under the bus for an acceptable solution anyway. Not only is this way of thinking unproductive, but it really disregards all of the good environmental missions Christian groups or anyone else with the same Judeo-Christian values take part in on a daily basis. Have people, including Christians, hurt the Earth more ways than we can keep track of? Of Course! To say that is simply a product of Christianity or even scientific advancement, however, is very lazy. I would guarantee a pagan dominate modern civilization would exploit the Earth’s riches just as much as we do now for its own personal benefit and security. My reasoning has nothing to do with ideologies either. No matter the belief system, humans will do whatever it takes to ensure their well-being. That’s what makes us apart of nature; our never-ending drive for survival and success. I’m not saying humans are completely innocent of their actions like a litter of golden retriever puppies, but people certainly have an edge in acting as conservationists. Does any other animal on the planet go out of its way to aid an ecosystem on the other side of the planet simply because it’s the right thing to do? Humans can cause a whole lot of damage, but their ability to consciously act in good stewardship without any personal gain is unparalleled. At the end of the day, I believe that, like all species on this planet, humans will do whatever is necessary to keep their ecosystem intact. In my opinion, that natural instinct is there, but pointing fingers and blaming faiths will only slow down the process. I’ve never read the Bible front to back before, but I’m pretty sure God isn’t to blame for that stray candy bar wrapper wondering the grocery store parking lot. With that being said, I certainly don’t have an alternative solution or answer to the world’s environmental mess. I just know that nature will run its course, even if people continue to back seat drive.