Lear and Plenty Coups: The Answers to Our Ecological Crisis

Allen Thompson’s article “Radical Hope for Living Well in a Warmer World”, explores the causes and possible solutions to our current ecological crisis. His main points rely heavily on Jonathan Lear’s opinions about consumerism and cultural change as well as his thoughts about Plenty Coups, the final chief of the Crow Nation he writes about in his book, The Radical Hope. Thompson utilizes these this information in order to further his claim about how the future needs to be supported by humans possessing resolve in living with lower standards of living to support the changes necessary to assist in solving our current ecological issues.

Lear places a lot of blame of the current damage on our ecosystem on the Industrial Revolution, and in turn, consumerism. The Industrial Revolution gave way to people expecting more from life and raising the standard of living through the advancement of technology which resulted in people’s need for more products increasing due to consumerism. This leads to Lear’s point that “Homo sapiens have been exploiting carbon-based form of energy throughout history, as relentlessly as existing technologies would permit” (Thompson 3) and have therefore largely increased the world’s carbon footprint over the years. An increased carbon-footprint has caused damage to the atmosphere that, without any solution, will cause irreversible damage. This can be solved however, by future generations creating new ways of creating clean sources of renewable energy. This new way of thinking is critical but will create cultural changes and new ways of thinking.

Lear also brings up Plenty Coups, who was the last chief of Crow Nation. He praises him for the leadership strategies he enacted through the Crow Tribe’s time of cultural devastation. The Crow tribe’s way of life became out of the question. These people were not only threatened by nearby tribes, but more severely, the European settlers. According to Lear, Plenty Coups illustrated a radical hope of overcoming these setbacks through encouraging his people to be more courageous and prideful to be who they were and to ultimately have hope to a better future.

Thompson combines both aforementioned ideas and concludes that we need to recognize the impending destruction that could be wrought on our environment in order to not end up devastated like the Crows. In order to do that, we need to develop a different mindset; one that does not rely so heavily on consumerism and more so on reducing our standards of living in order to make the reductions necessary to decrease our carbon-footprint. With both points in mind, Thompson hopes that humans can find the resolve they so desperately need to prevent further damage to the ecosystem and to themselves.

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