“We are all but recent leaves on the same old tree of life and if this life has adapted itself to new functions and conditions, it uses the same old basic principles over and over again. There is no real difference between the grass and the man who mows it.” Albert Szent-György
In his 2007 bestseller “The World Without Us,” Alan Weisman expands on a thought experiment published in a 2005 issue of Discover magazine: What if we considered the human impact on the planet by removing the humans?
That I was paying Facebook a modest sum of cash in exchange for increased exposure, I anticipated raucous participation from the comments section. Just preaching to the choir gets boring. My keyword-laden commentary, including “liberal bubble,” should be an easy target.
The scientific debate whether we call our geologic epoch the Anthropocene is yet to be settled.
What is less debatable is the planetary-scale impact of human activity. As we posit throughout PlanetWatch, we live in the Age of Man. Our presence is felt in every corner of the Earth. Dominion over the Earth, what was once we imagined, an ageless myth, is our reality. We reap the benefits for a time.
Writing to a class of international students “Climate Change Mitigation in the Developing World” about “climate policy where I live”
It is, of course, hard news from the United States with Donald Trump signing his “energy independence” executive order. Among other things, the order calls for a “rewrite” of former president Obama’s Clean Power Plan (CPP). The CPP is (was) the cornerstone of the U.S. INDC commitment to the Paris Agreement.
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
– Wendell Berry
That is a debate best left to those smarter than I.
I suspect attempting the self-reflection of our place in the order of things, for which we are given only a momentary glimpse, is fraught with bias. Even if well-intentioned.
All men are liable to error; and most men are, in many points, by passion or interest, under temptation to it.
John Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding
On the one hand, caution and skepticism are warranted before we assume we are or can impact Earth on a geological time scale. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, to paraphrase Carl Sagan.
Claiming we live in the “Age of Man” may seem antithetical to the beliefs of most spiritual traditions. But many offer a sacred reverence for nature and a sense of place.
If that is the task, then urgency-of-purpose must balance caution of action. Whether we like it or not, we must literally shape a new world. We are shaping a new world. It’s too late to back out now.
The longer we allow short-term accounting, manufacturing of doubt, and willful ignorance to dominate the narrative, the more time is lost. Caution thrown to the wind. Left only for future generations to ask why?
And then there’s figuring out what’s for dinner tonight.