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IT IS ALL ABOUT PEOPLE by Anna Frank

“We must go down to the lowest depths before we can touch bottom and rise again.” [1]

When there is talk about the climate change one cannot avoid talking about people. It is quite clear now that people and nature are part of one unity. There is only ONE world and we all have to share it with all living creatures. With every breath we take, we influence what that world will become. Most discussions about the climate change are about the human role in it. There is a huge effort to prove that no matter what humans do, our actions are independent of nature. So, where does that leave us?

The traditional definition of a natural disaster echoes this human centered focus. It is a natural event such as a flood, earthquake, or hurricane that causes great economic damage or loss of life, more precisely human life, as in many cases the loss of animal lives is considered damage only in so far as it has an economic aspect. Climate change often triggers natural disasters. However, the linear conclusion that to climate change is to blame for everything is not true.

Climate change is not some entity that has will and the power of decision and holds a grudge against people. Climate change is simply a consequence of actions, human and natural. Only with proof that the world is untouched by humans, could we say that we do not influence climate change. This of course is not the case. Whatever we do, whatever we change we make, moves like numerous dominos in a chain, and forever changes the world we live in. If we refer back to my previous article about human education, it is exactly in our assumptions of the predestination of things that lays a trap and is the generator of denial of our influence.

We have 7 billion or so people on this planet, and each one uses resources, land, and water and influences ecosystems. Humans, like any other life forms, have requirements for survival, but we are far needier and impose a greater strain on our environment than any other life form we know. It is our teachings, which consist of social and familial customs as well as any formal education system, that form our mindset towards our responsibilities, roles and position within natural cycle. What defines our teachings? Within our modern-industrial society, these teachings inform how we see life, how we view others and ourselves, how we feel about ourselves, who we want to recognise us, and whose approval we want to gain. In societies that rely on nature as a source and not a just a resource, teachings are oriented more towards discovering an inner purpose with the aim of becoming a fruitful part of its cycle.

When researching climate change one cannot avoid researching religion, politics, social values and structures. All of them influence on an elemental level everyone. Each person contributes to, and is affected by, climate change. Moreover, each person will act in accordance with the teachings that he or she is following. Finally, we all act according to the situation we find ourselves in, where basic survival is above any other value.

According to some estimates, there are over 4,200 religions in the World. Just among Christians, there are more than 33,000 different interpretations or denominations. We all have some beliefs. Even the belief that there is no God is a belief. We tend to follow to beliefs and values that we have been taught. Given this background, what is the chance that 7 billion people can agree on anything? We are not short of knowledge or vision that show our current way of living is not sustainable, but we lack agreement as to what to accept that is a better way of living. The problems are lie in our human values.

“We were all humans until race disconnected us, religion separated us, politics divided us, and wealth classified us.”[Anonymous]

Humans are a reflection of nature and they express all its complexity. We have changed everything we could. We move rivers and mountaintops; we dig through, and dig out resources from the depths of the Earth. We are transferring energy and consuming it. We have disturbed the natural equilibrium. Climate change is not induced by the actions of one state or any one human but still we see that some suffer the effects more than others do. Those who stay without homes and resources are forced to move somewhere else. We witnessed in 2015 and 2016 the problems associated with, and the resistance to, accepting large numbers immigrants or refugees.

People in general are just not educated to deal with these sorts of changes. Everywhere, starting from their first steps children are exposed to their own society’s “dos and don’ts”, to different teachings, values, traditions and beliefs. If, due to a natural or manmade disaster such as warfare, you were forced to leave your home, you as an individual would need an adaptation period to accept what has happened and to assimilate to your new environment, to learn about it, and to accept new ways. However, events in the world are moving too fast to allow that time. Consequentially, people tend to continue to practice their traditional values. It is what they know. When confronted with a new environment having differ values and norms, one can ask, whose values are “more” right? Whose are wrong? Which way is better and why? We don’t have enough knowledge about the world to judge the depth and the severity of change we have set in motion. How deeply do we influence nature and how has this changed nature in turn influenced us? The energy balance equation is disturbed; we do not return what we take from Nature and at some point in time, somewhere, somehow equilibrium has to be established.

The Planet Earth – The changing World

In their analyses of planetary atmospheres in 1965, Lovelock and Giffin spoke about the importance of the Earth atmosphere for the life on the planet:

“In 1965, we were interested to know the extent to which information on the chemical composition of planetary atmospheres could constitute direct and primary evidence of life. In other words, could the chemical analysis of a planetary atmosphere constitute a life detection... Confusion often attends attempts to apply the thermodynamic concepts of entropy and equilibrium to living systems and this present topic is no exception. It is generally agreed that it is a property of life to reduce its internal entropy through the assimilation of free energy and the excretion of degraded energy to the environment. Controversy can arise, however, over the size of the maximum unit of life. There is, for example, no doubt that an animal has a highly ordered chemical composition but its environment to which disorder is rejected includes the atmosphere; it might seem pointless therefore to seek evidence of life by looking for order in the chemical composition of the atmosphere. If instead of individual living organisms, however, the planetary ecosystem itself is regarded as the maximum unit of life, the problem resolves. In an ecosystem, the atmosphere can have an ordered role as the conveyor belt for products between, for example, the plant and animal kingdoms of Earth, or their analogues elsewhere. With this large unit, the atmosphere is an internal component of the living system and the environment is now space, to which disorder is rejected in the form of degraded solar energy. ...If the atmosphere of the Earth is a biological contrivance, then it is reasonable to consider that the components are maintained at an optimum or near optimum composition for the ecosystem. For example, the Earth’s climate if strongly dependent upon the atmospheric pressure, that is the total amount of oxygen and nitrogen and on the concentration of red absorbency gases such as carbon dioxide and water vapor. The concentrations of these components are directly or indirectly under biological control. It may not therefore be an unreasonable speculation to consider the possibility that the Earth’s climate is also maintained at or near an optimum for the ecosystem.” [2]

Since then we have highly altered ecosystems and the atmosphere. We launched new particles and radioactive elements into the environment. Can we still avoid responsibility for changes that are ongoing on the Earth?

Species are disappearing, air is changing its structure, waters are polluted, land is disturbed and there is no doubt that humans do influence changes and that some are even triggered solely by human’s activities. Nevertheless, this is old news, in the 1970s an alarm bell rang. In the book “The Limits to Growth” [3] , some quite stunning conclusions were given almost 50 years ago.

  • If the present growth trends in world population, industrialization, pollution, food production, and resource depletion continue unchanged, the limits to growth on this planet will be reached sometime within the next one hundred years. The most probable result will be a rather sudden and uncontrollable decline in both population and industrial capacity.
  • It is possible to alter these growth trends and to establish a condition of ecological and economic stability that is sustainable far into the future. The state of global equilibrium could be designed so that the basic material needs of each person on earth are satisfied and each person has an equal opportunity to realize his individual human potential.
  • If the world’s people decide to strive for this second outcome rather than the first, the sooner they begin working to attain it, the greater will be their chances of success.

What it has been done since then? Unfortunately, for many the world has become even more divided. It is common knowledge that there is such thing as the “First World” and countries of the “Third World”. However, in fact we have only one world. One has to be aware that parallel with the rise of environmental awareness, we were dealing with the effects of Imperialism, Communism, and Capitalism’s Globalization of the economy. Humanity has faced many problems by trying to define, with force at times, whose way of life is the most valuable on the planet. There were many things going on globally. As mentioned in my previous article, there are far too many issues for the average human brain to contemplate at the same time, and too many of them will have a long-term impact beyond one life’s span. Social networks, and sometimes mainstream media, report atrocities and the political silence that follows. Climate change, wars, social breakdown, moral breakdown are among the news coming like waves without cessation. We need to hold accountable those who are responsible among them, bankers, global corporations and governments.

We, humans, are losing our own habitat. If we continue this, we will become endangered, with no one there to save us and without capacities to save the world we desperately need. We all need to change our habits and to do that we need to change concept of what it means to be a successful human. I will address only few problems:

  1. Political denial and issue of need of some people to have ultimate power over the world.
  2. Lack of the habitable environment and the rise of human population.
  3. Need of humans to practice their right on land, air and water, food, education, health, ultimately love, and lack of acceptance that all humans have equal rights.
  4. Lack of political and social will to treat all humans equally.
  5. The social divide and the huge issue of refusing to see yourself as part of the problem but moving problem to the “others”
  6. Giving power to “them” and accepting the status quo because we tend to live in the day and not to project or address long-term consequences.

A crucial issue for solving current environmental problems is how to influence and change individual values and needs. Humans are not isolated sticks in a field, ones that you just can pick up, shape and easily mold. Humans are far more complex than just being eating, sleeping and reproducing entities. In general, people need to learn the reasons why sustainable living is good and necessary for their own survival. In the end, it is all about people. We made many of the problems; we need to fix them. To apply solutions, to heal the planet we have to start by accepting the complexity of people and their diversity and figure out how to improve generally held values. That cannot be done overnight and it has to be done from the first breath. Each child is a step towards the solution if this child is thought to be part of nature and safe within society.

Are the adults willing to change? That is next issue.

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