Today we are faced with an existential crisis of a magnitude humanity has never experienced before.
The Anthropocene – a new geological epoch where Earth’s geology and ecosystems are increasingly influenced by humans instead of natural forces – is upon us. But what does that mean for the world as we have come to know and cherish it? If humans have become so formidable in their ability to impact their surroundings, does that make us all-powerful? Have we reached the pinnacle of evolution? If humans decide which organisms live and which organisms die, does that mean we have finally fulfilled the definition of a supreme being? Do we rule the Earth? Superficially, it may seem so. Upon closer inspection, the image is not so impressive.
While we play at being God, we are not only causing an immense amount of destruction and suffering, we are completely ignoring the value of life. Behind the precious pursuit of profit and “progress,” we are leaving behind a trail of pollution, extinction, desertification, and ruination. We do not rule the Earth, we destroy it. Oceans are acidifying, ice sheets are melting, species are dying, forests are disappearing, people are suffering, and we can barely agree amongst ourselves what our course of action should be. Our very own survival is at stake and we are acting at a painstakingly slow pace. Granted, there are a host of complex problems and various demands from all types of groups regarding the effects of environmental damage and climate change. Philosophical, ethical, political, economic, scientific, and social dimensions all come into play. However, there is no reason and no more time to get lost in the complexity and lose sight of practical, hopeful solutions. It is essential we do not sit still. Essential we do not push away our problems. We must confront them, seize opportunities for growth, and build a better world.
How do we improve ourselves and our planet? How do we make sure that our influence on the environment creates positive instead of negative impacts? The key is to start. To fight. To persevere. Maybe the answer is that there are many ways to build a better world, best used in combination and as thoroughly and compassionately as possible. Conserving land, planting trees, sharing knowledge, eating differently, being self-aware, acting kindly and compassionately.
Every action counts. The key is to realize our power. To use innovation and inspiration to develop solutions to climate change. To prioritize the right to life, safety, education, and peace.
Humanity has overcome bad odds and created something magnificent out of nothing many times before. Why shouldn’t we be able to build a better world from conditions of chaos and insecurity? From putting a human on the Moon to manipulating genetic code, we know how to create and innovate. Technology, creativity, knowledge – humanity does not lack those qualities.
What we need now is the will to act. The desire to change and the determination to reshape the future.
Maybe the key to building a better world is to fight the paralysis many of us feel when confronted with existential threats. The key may be to overcome our own fear. If humans can liberate themselves from doubt, pessimism, and fatalism, there is hope. Because if many small people in many small places do many small things, we genuinely can change the state of the world.
Even so, the truth is that humans are not all-powerful. We still have much to learn about the interconnections between Earth’s ecosystems, the extent of life present on this planet, and our own journey. Humans are not indestructible or superior. We depend on the same perfect and fragile harmony of environmental conditions that all other species depend on. And we still have much more evolving to do, no matter how much power we wield over life on Earth. Tackling climate change, ensuring sustainability, and improving the state of the world are the tremendous tasks of our time. If we want to succeed and survive, we must combine our efforts, cooperate, and push the boundaries of what we think is possible.
Most of all, we must stop standing idly by and act to build the future we want. Starting right now.
art by: Mafer Martinez