Every day are more studies and more voices sounding a warning about the dire state of the living world and the need for humans to dramatically alter the way we are drawing down the ecological capital of the planet.
In a nutshell, humans have not done anything really important to stave off the worst because the social structures for doing something just aren’t there. My colleagues who study climate-induced changes through the earth’s history are more than pretty worried. In fact, some are terrified.
In an interview with the environmental magazine Grist, biologist E.O. Wilson asserts that we are in “a state of cosmic or global denial.” He offers this pithy way to summarize our problem:
We are entering a new world, but we’re entering it as Paleolithic brains. Here’s my formula for Earth’s civilization: We are a Star Wars civilization. We have Stone Age emotions. We have medieval institutions — most notably, the churches. And we have god-like technology. And this god-like technology is dragging us forward in ways that are totally unpredictable.
Is there any hope? Wilson’s answer¨” I think maybe we are really and truly ready to start trying to solve problems for once in human history by using our forebrain.”
The first is that there are two parallel discourses going on: one is about planetary boundaries and nature, and the other is about is about economic growth, and they’re going in polar opposite directions. The second is that we have failed to link an ecological narrative with popular culture. The fact that most people in the country regard a trip to the shopping mall on a Saturday as a better day out than a trip to a nature reserve says quite a lot.
But the profoundest failure, he says, is our underlying disconnect from the Earth.
We work to take on these environmental challenges without having any kind of profound connection with nature. We’ve lost it talking in a mechanistic, policy-oriented way. We’ve tried to make it all about numbers, parts per million, complicated policy instruments, and as a result, we’ve lost something that’s essential. Most people couldn’t tell you the names of country flowers by the side of the road, the birds that are singing. It’s a disconnect in our world view – a failure in our philosophy.