Our lives have changed this year, and the question remains whether and when we will be returning to how things were. Leaving aside conspiracy theories – attractive as they allow us to strip responsibility from ourselves – let us recall some of the points in the origination and history of mankind on planet Earth leading us to 2020.
In prehistoric times, human beings were helpless before the forces of nature and in fear of them. They hoped to propitiate them by various offerings and sacrifices. As science and society developed and the understanding of natural phenomena increased, fear of nature was replaced by respect. In the past 50 years, with the rapid technological development, humanity has become arrogant and inconsiderate towards nature, pursuing only its own interests to the detriment of other living things and the environment. Human activity has indubitably brought the planet into an age of runaway extinction of various plant and animal species, as well as climate changes threatening life on Earth. Why do we find it hard to embrace the principles of sustainable development, which would bring us back into harmony with nature in the fullness of time?
Eileen Crist, associate professor at the US university Virginia Tech, who has spent decades studying the links between human activity and the state of the environment, thinks that the answer lies in the widely held view that the human species is superior. Placing human life above the lives of other living beings prevents us from recognizing the value of all life. Rather than treating the planet and all its life forms with respect and consideration, we view it solely as a source of natural resources. The notion that the planet is no more than a resource intended for human consumption results in insufficient attention paid to environmental issues by the media and the public sphere. Largely unaware of the extent to which the environment is threatened, we don't respond to the circumstances brought about by our insatiable desire for comfort and profit. Dr Crist is also of the opinion that this view comes as a consequence of the belief that the human species is capable of rising up to any challenge. Such a belief encourages social apathy and political passivity.
As a result, we are not committed enough to reducing our negative impact on the environment and finding a model of sustainable development. By so doing, we are truly putting our descendants in harm's way.
Across the world, the scientific community and other involved individuals have for some time now been studying the anthropocentric worldview – which puts humanity at the centre of its considerations – and the link between anthropocentrism, capitalism, and climate change. By embracing ecocentrism, i.e. the role that humanity has in a wider community of living beings, perhaps we can strike that necessary balance which would ensure the survival of all life on the planet.
How is this related to the pandemic? I believe that planet Earth has found a way to defend itself and remind humans that they are not as omnipotent as they like to think. The year drawing to its close has set clear limits that we had to accept, like it or not. The coming year will not be easy either as, alongside the challenges lying ahead, we will have to tackle the profound effects that this year has had on our society and economy. The fact remains that without knowledge we cannot change the world, but it is also clear no changes can occur without individual involvement in the immediate environment. Our planet expects this of us.
Kurir.rs/ Photo: M. Lopičić