By Gabriela Faz
According to the NGO Global Footprint Network, the past August 1st was the day that humanity exhausted all its natural resources (water, trees, fertile soil and fish) available for 2018. Such day tends to occur sooner each year. “This means that, as of today, humanity is using resources 1.7 times faster than ecosystems can regenerate them” said Dr. Luis Ricardo Fernández Carril.
Today we live in a geological era distinctly marked by human impacts: the Anthropocene. This era is explained by Francisco Javier Carrillo Gamboa, member of the Research Group on Science, Technology and Society; and Luis Ricardo Fernández Carril, who also served as technical secretary of the Special Commission on Climate Change of the Mexican Senate. Both are professors at Tecnológico de Monterrey’s Escuela de Humanidades y Educación.
Anthropocene is the current geological era, characterized by a series of traces that will prevail for thousands and thousands of years in different terrestrial strata. This controversial initiative gives us the opportunity to rethink where we stand with regard to environmental issues.
“We only have one planet to live, so everyone, simply with our daily actions and our way of life are, whether we want it or not, in the midst of this problem”, said Dr. Fernández. So much so, that by 2050, the weight of plastic waste in the oceans could be greater than the weight of all fish on the planet.
This current state of affairs, more than despair, should lead us to a careful reflection.
“We are in the whirlwind of continuing doing the same we always do, and that is the most disturbing thing; our existential dilemma as a species is if we can break in time the global economic culture in which we are immersed”.
Dr. Francisco Carrillo
To analyze Anthropocene’s dilemmas of development the first thing is to abandon the technocratic imperative, -which claims to have solutions for everything-, and adopt a reflective position. “Initially, it does not seem feasible to simply try to intervene in nature ‘to restore it’, but rather to understand precisely the impracticality of the paradigm that brought us to this circumstance in the first place” pointed out Dr. Carrillo.
It is also necessary to redefine the terms of our relationship with other living beings and the universe itself. It is urgent to review the so-called progress and development based on economic growth and unlimited exploitation of the environment, as well as the associated patterns of extraction, production, consumption and waste.
In contrast, Dr. Carrillo added, the new approach suggested is the transition from an industrial society that is intensive in material consumption to one based on the preponderance of intangible values and the abating of environmental abuse. He pointed out that although elementary logic reveals the impossibility of infinite exploitation of the finite resources of the planet, the prevailing models of economic growth are far from recognizing this reality and adapting to it.
The planet is sick
According to researchers, in order to heal the planet, the first thing that must be done is to promote an environmental literacy, necessary to define what our reality is, how it manifests itself and what are the most fundamental aspects that suggest an existential crisis condition, not only for human beings but for all life forms of the planet.
Dr. Carrillo said that despite 9 ‘diseases’ have been identified and widely documented as deadly to the planet, no significant changes have been made in the way in which people live.
“One of the main dilemmas we face, both fascinating and terrifying, is the human response to these facts, as well as knowing what elements we have in our history to help us understand, create awareness and act appropriately”, declared Dr. Carrillo.
The human response to the Anthropocene
Why has environmental deterioration, which has been evident for decades, has not yet led to real action, despite reaching critical and potentially irreversible levels? Today, it is crucial to promote the enactment of policies and incentives to redirect the vicious circle in which we find ourselves in.
The first thing we must understand is that the planet does not exist only for us, it does not belong exclusively to human beings. “In order to grasp this, it is important to analyze the situation from different points of view: ecological, environmental, geological, climatic, epidemiological and nutritional; but also, using philosophy and ethics tools, such as posthumanism, speculative realism and new materialisms, in order to reinterpret what is the meaning of being human in the world we inhabit”, said Dr. Carrillo.
In the Research Group, and with collaboration of international specialists, this phenomenon is being explored: “The idea is to elucidate the implications of the dilemma between a Transhumanist agenda characterized by the NBIC Convergence (Nanotechnology, Biotechnology, Information Technology and Cognitive Sciences), which entails a definitive submission of human nature to technology; in opposition to a Posthumanist agenda in which the human nature does not dominate the Other but is integrated with it”, mentioned Dr. Carrillo.
scientific research than the human response to the Anthropocene, which
projects us the threshold of self-extermination as a species and the collateral unleashing of a Sixth Great Extinction?”
The fact that Anthropocene suffers human negation and paralysis has been studied using different tools and techniques: environmental literacy; behavioral analysis (cognitive, evolutionary and neurological psychology); economic culture; neourbanism and localized development.
“The great problems of humanity related to social and environmental deterioration lead us to analyze this potential catastrophe and to rethink our practices from perspectives such as urban development and the creation of cities of knowledge. The emergence of this type of consciousness is imperative to transform the relationship of the human being with the planet”, reflected Dr. Carrillo.
For his part, Dr. Fernández commented that it is also necessary the efforts of artists and humanists to shape the terms under which society must adapt to the problems of this era and its consequences.
“Starting at universities, the humanities have the task of enabling dialogue with sciences and technology, they have the role of being part of the solution through the management of creative measures and encouraging the sensitivity to explore new paths”, concluded Dr. Fernández.
To know more:
- Conferencia Las humanidades frente al Antropoceno: el reto de las nuevas capacidades científicas en el siglo XXI. Luis Ricardo Fernández Carril