Chapter Twenty two
What is the best narrative of ecosystem change on planet earth?
When Bill McKibben declared “The End of Nature,” in 1989, he was posing a hyperbolic kind of epistemological riddle: What do you call it, whatever it is, when forces of wilderness and weather, of animal kingdoms and plant life, have been so transformed by human activity they are no longer truly “natural”?
The answer came a few decades later with the term “the Anthropocene,” which was coined in the spirit of environmental alarm and suggested a much messier and more unstable state than “end.” Environmentalists, outdoorspeople, nature lovers, and romantics of various stripes—there are many who would mourn the end of nature. But there are literally billions who will shortly be terrified by the forces unleashed by the Anthropocene.
Wallace-Wells, David. The Uninhabitable Earth (p. 153). Crown/Archetype. Kindle Edition.
What‘s up with what is happening to our planet and thereby to us, homo sapiens? The End of Nature, the Anthropocene, the Apocalypse, End Times? Call it what you will. The name doesn’t change the fact that the temperatures on the earth are rising, the ecology is increasingly polluted, and the quality of life for existing species of living things on the planet is changing rapidly. The glaring fact in all this, is that these changes are being made by human activity.
What are the stories that are being told about these ecosystem changes? Who has the power to shape the narratives, for what purposes, in whose interests? What are the differences in the stories told by Rex Tillerson, Greta Thuneberg, Bill McKibben, James Hansen, Donald Trump? In the United States do Republicans have different stories from Democrats? Do Native people have different stories than those descended from immigrants? Do the rich have different stories from the poor?
In which of these stories is truth to be found? Which stories have a bigger consequence for the behavior of human beings conducive to their survival? Whose survival?
The stories are made up of biological ideas, sociological ideas, psychological ideas, economic ideas, political ideas, and spiritual ideas. The best model for helpful stories are those which take into account the bio-psycho-social-spiritual-economic-political frames of reference in appropriate balance.
Unitarian Universalism with its covenantal model of human community based on seven principles may be the best model of all from which to construct stories about climate justice.
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