All posts by houdeshv

The Need for Cultural Change

Thompson makes a very relevant point in his piece, “Radical Hope for Living Well in a Warmer World.” In order to truly live in a world that has had climate change forced upon it, we must make widespread cultural changes. In one swift thought, “impending environmental changes may spell the end for significant parts of our cultural perspective, including ways we are accustomed to conceiving of and valuing the natural environment and our received notions of responsibility” (Thompson, 6). While reading this piece, I was continually reminded of our previous readings. The above quotation feels as though it could have come from White or Yusoff. We must change the way we perceive nature, in Yusoff’s case this would involve rethinking how we articulate and write about the past and the natural environment, and in White’s case it involves revising this notion that we have dominion over the Earth. Thompson even echoes this thought when discussing Jamieson’s depictions of “human domination” over nature.

Throughout my understanding of the reading, I found myself agreeing with Thompson, that we cannot just rely on the possibility of technological innovation to get us out of this mess (or more accurately, prolong the inevitable), that we must actually change how we behave in relation to the Earth and the resources it provides. We must adapt to this new reality and face the consequences of our actions, not ignore our problems by coming up with band aid solutions. Thompson sates what many of us who know this reality face: “it seems that enough people simply will not voluntarily make the kind of changes in lifestyle or social organization required to effect significant mitigation” (Thomson, 9). “Yet we must not give up resistance and the struggle for change.” This is the basis of the idea of radical hope.

On page 10, Thomson discusses how easy it is to see someone else living outside of the necessary means, but it is much harder to admit that we personally live with the norm of excess consumption. A commitment to living without excess consumption and materiality necessitates radical hope and commitment. Popular culture is under the impression that we don’t have to live with less, yet every future generation will have to if we remain on the same track. Thomson relates heavily to the previous readings in his discourse of the necessary use of the Earth’s resources – that we are entirely reliant on the Earth for our livelihoods. He goes on to discuss the concept of how humans value nature, which I find connects to the concept of biophilia: the “idea that humans possess an innate tendency to seek connections with nature and other forms of life” (source). If we want to be able to continue to seek out connections with nature, we must alter our cultural expectations and behaviors so that this may remain a reality.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Why Have “We” Written This Narrative into Geology and Greater Society?

In “A Billion Black Anthropocenes or None,” Yusoff details the marginalization of POC through their depictions and relations to materials, much as how “we” have treated the resources of the natural Earth. I liked Yusoff’s framing of “we” in this text. In one passage, Yusoff states, “This unmaking of subjects constitutes a warp of dispossession in the progressive narrative of collective accumulation or geologic commons in which “we” all share” (Yusoff, 16). The author makes it clear that “we” is not an all-inclusive term. POC have continuously and aggressively been excluded from this collective “we” and have instead been labelled as nonbeings, or inhuman. POC have had no input into the exploitation and dehumanization of their lands and lives.

Yusoff goes on to state, “Rendering subjects as inhuman matter, not as persons, thereby facilitated and incorporated the historical fact of extraction of personhood as a quality of geology at its inception” (Yusoff, 17). POC have been seen, and quite frankly continue to be seen, as simply resources of the Earth for White Men to extract and use at their will to further their “innovation”. But this innovation has come with this price of corrupting not only the cultures of many groups, but also their land, or as “we” see it, territory to be expanded and pillaged. In the field of Geology, and in my opinion many others, Black and Brown People are referenced as simply property to be used to further ideation. They are used as simple tropes, tokens, or cherry-picked evidence of innocence or inspiration. In the words of Yusoff, “Why is it that the language of geology allows for the exchange of a person as a material object of property and properties” (Yusoff, 18). This line of questioning parallels the greater discussions surrounding why societal institutions have been built in such a way as to allow for racism to become institutionalized and permeable throughout society.

Yusoff makes a clear point that in order to truly examine this Anthropocene, we need to understand Geology’s origins and what made such exchanges of property that resulted the geological and societal crises possible. This needs to be uncovered while maintaining the thought that society today has constantly been profiting off the backs of POC communities – resulting in both innovations, and the degradation of the environment. Without the labor and resources of POC, our current era would not have come into being, yet time and time again they are treated as inhuman.

Photo by Bruna Fiscuk on Unsplash

The Dominant Worldviews of Christianity

While reading the writings of both Lynn White Jr. and the Pope, I could not help but be continuously reminded of the dominant worldviews each individual held, and how these views ultimately lead to what they have described as “ecological crisis.”

The Pope states, “The harmony between the Creator, humanity and creation as a whole was disrupted by our presuming to take the place of God and refusing to acknowledge our creaturely limitations. This in turn distorted our mandate to “have dominion” over the earth” (Francis, 48). The Pope’s encyclical letter makes it clear that the Earth does not solely belong to us, but every living creature inhabiting the planet. Humans have misinterpreted their dominion over Earth to mean much more than God has given us, in addition to acting selfishly with the gains we reap from tilling the Earth. The passages provided by both the Pope and White reminded me of the worldviews summarized by Dunlap: the Dominant Western Worldview, the Human Exceptionalism Paradigm, and the New Ecological Paradigm. White and the Pope suggest that most readers have interpreted the bible in a way that reinforces the Human Exceptionalism Paradigm. This model denotes humans being distinct and above all other creatures, as well as driving technology and being the master of the Earth.

This is where White’s discourse branches, as he does not believe Christianity’s teachings yield anything more than the thoughts of enslaving nature for our own personal gain (White, 1207). White emphasizes that in order to stop ecological collapse, we must reject Christian thought and arrogance, while the Pope details the “correct” interpretation of Christian texts. From the Pope’s words it is easy to gather that God intended for the New Ecological Paradigm to become dominant thought; that while humans are exceptional, they remain only one of many and are surrounded within the web of nature, creating unintended consequences while remaining dependent on the Earth for all resources. Further and from the Pope’s writings, is that in order to create solutions to solve the ecological crisis, all branches of human connection must be included.  Too often we seek out solutions that benefit our group, while leaving out others. In order to create lasting positive change, we must view the Earth as residents and not owners.  

Photo by Will Cornfield on Unsplash