It’s hard to manage all the doomsday scenarios that hurl their way toward us on a daily basis; political nightmares around the globe, for example, and the dire predictions scientists make about the fate of our planet if we don’t act.
These and other matters are virtually screamed about in traditional and digital media around the world, all saying that this disaster or that unhinged president have imperilled us to a point of no return. But have they, really? Have we finally reached the point of no return?
A brief scan of our history reveals that man’s avaricious appetites for land and money, and control of all wild things date back to the Bible. In Genesis, we are exhorted to “replenish the earth and subdue it.”
It goes on to command that man “take dominion” over all creatures,m and the earth itself. When white settlers arrived in Australia and North America, that’s precisely what they did, steamrolling everything and everyone in their path, including the Indigenous peoples.
But if settlers had paid attention to how Indigenous people lived, rather than forcing them to sign treaties and herding them onto reservations, white settlers could have learned a few things.
Native people followed a natural cycle of farming that included setting fire to the land, to promote certain species and plants, while discouraging others.
Indigenous people followed this cycle of farming for thousands of years, but it was not a method adopted by white settlers; they rejected it out of hand and imposed their own systems.
If we had, however, paid attention to Indigenous history and learned from it, perhaps we wouldn’t be in the environmental mess we find ourselves in today across the world. They had struck a balance with nature, one in which their people thrived without laying waste to the land.
It’s not possible to return to precolonial days; that is only a fantasy eco-terrorists cling to. But our society and culture must ask itself some fundamental questions, like whether we simply accept these dire consequences of a capitalist culture.
If we choose to not accept the most devastating outcomes of the capitalist structures we have built, perhaps we can use recent innovations in science and technology to help us find solutions.
But many of the world’s great thinkers believe we have passed that invisible line in the sand, the one at which there is no hope for a future past, perhaps, 2040 or 2060. T
he renowned neurologist Dr. Oliver Sacks, wrote in the New Yorker magazine, in its Feb. 11 edition in 2009, that “…If one feels, as I do now, that the very culture in which one was nourished, and to which one has given one’s support, is itself threatened…I have, as many of us must have, deep fears about the well-being and even survival of our world.”
Sacks goes on in his essay, entitled “The Machine Stops,” that he (and other great thinkers, like Pope Francis) feel “a deep consideration not only of human-induced climate change and widespread ecological disaster, but of the desperate state of the poor and the misuse of technology.”
If the world’s great philosophers, medical experts, scientists and researchers espouse profoundly gloomy predictions for the planet, it is difficult to avoid being overcome by despair and throw up one’s hands, metaphorically speaking. What can we do, as individuals, to forestall these disasters?
Can any individual’s measures – recycling paper, refusing to buy plastic straws, not using single-serve items for coffee and other products – can these measures genuinely help? We cannot know, because we cannot see into 2050 or 2060 and assess the state of the world.
All we can do is our part, and hope that no matter how small these measures seem to us as individuals, taken collectively they make an enormous difference to the fate of the planet. We must do it for all of us, for our children and grandchildren, so they might inherit an earth that is sustainable, plentiful and beautiful.