Strong systems on Earth are those that follow the principles of diversity, connection, nuance, and dynamism. Our system, however, is currently built on hierarchies, individuality, exploitative growth, and numbing… To make it through the climate crisis, and to become truly intelligent and resilient, we need a systems overhaul. We need to shift our governing principles to those of the biosphere, and weave humanity back into Earth’s interdependent network by orienting ourselves around a new goal: to nurture life, connection, and a healthy planet, as conscious, creative creatures.
To do so, we must turn our intellectual attention towards Earth, and towards each other. Scientific investigations and philosophical inquiries that help us better understand our planet ought to be at the forefront of our imaginations, while we amplify the knowledge of ancient and indigenous communities who have already learned to live in harmony with Earth. Moreover, we must embrace the insight of those who have been most marginalized by society – who, forced to take matters in their own hands, have developed tangible solutions to our systemic inequity. We will find as many, if not more, answers in each other than in our models and microscopes.
We can effectively employ this growing knowledge of the biosphere and humanity by developing nuanced, advanced technologies that work to heal our planet — to clean our air, regenerate damaged habitats, find renewable sources of energy, increase connections between human beings and other forms of life, reduce inequality, improve the specificity and equity of our operations… While serving a variety of functions, these technologies should be built to be dynamic and regenerative, with the principles and purposes of the biosphere in mind. Project Drawdown, one of the many research organizations investigating solutions to climate change and technologies already at our disposal to reverse global warming, is leading the way for this work. We need more brains and more engineers joining in, and ensuring a just development of this infastructure.
Likewise, our built environments ought to emulate the adaptability and interconnectedness of our planet. Towns, cities, and structures should be integrated into natural landscapes, with natural borders and land formations dictating layouts. Green roofs and solar panels should dominate the aerial view of our settlements, which embrace surrounding ecosystems and keep indigenous ecologies intact. And every human – every color, ethnicity, sex, gender, and age – should have equal access to these enriching living environments.
For in order to have a healthy interdependent world, everyone needs access to the basic needs for survival. We thus need social structures that truly provide these needs – including housing, food, education, healthcare, creative and economic opportunity, and safety – to all, particularly our most vulnerable. Marginalized and oppressed communities most exposed to the impacts of climate change and environmental degradation must therefore be at the center of our efforts in developing these structures. Similarly, we must protect our habitats as we do our people, establishing policies and protocols that prevent us from overexploiting natural resources and harming our ecosystems.
And alas, this equity can only be upheld by an economy that isn’t driven by perpetual financial growth, but by human well being and planetary balance. An economy that doesn’t pillage our natural resources and consolidate power, but incorporates ecological limits and protects life’s support systems. An economy that uplifts all of the work done on this planet, and ensures that we all have the resources to live healthily. Each of us must take responsibility for the roles we play as consumers, workers, and global citizens in cultivating this system if it is to become a reality. There are many theories already out there that envision this kind of future, from Kate Raworth’s doughnut economics, to the Climate Justice Initiative’s Guide to a Regenerative Economy, to the study of feminist economics. Let’s explore them further.
Ultimately, though, I am just one person – I am only brushing the surface of what our future could look like, and by no means can I think of all the possibilities. That is a job for all of humanity. There is one last area, though, in which I am certain we need change, and that is ourselves. We – you, me, and every other living human being – are the ones responsible for changing society. It is up to us to embrace the full capacity of our human existence to foster the biosphere’s principles of diversity, connection and collaboration in our communities and everyday lives. For climate change is the symptom, not the problem. The net output, the final breaking point, of our destructive way of life. We will not solve this crisis, nor evolve as
a species, if we don’t change from within.