The Anthropocene sounds like some sort of prehistoric dinosaur, right? That, or a terrifying skin condition, something you want to scrub away at every night. Well, it’s neither of those things, but, it’s a heck of a lot scarier than both of them.
The Anthropocene refers to the period in time we’re living in now – the period in which humans are the main determinants of the environment. Today, there are 7.2 billion of us and counting, each of us programmed more or less like the other – driven by selfish mechanisms to survive. Being selfish isn’t a bad thing, necessarily; it’s human. No one is born, and looks up to their mom thinking, “How can I help this woman survive?” Hell no! Before we can even articulate the words, we’re thinking, “Where the f*** am I? I just want my food back, and my cozy warm cocoon back, dammit. You, woman, strange creature staring down at me, provide me with food.” Terrible cries ensue, and our mothers’ hearts melt. Just like they’re supposed to.
The human species is a selfish one, and we should thank our selfishness for our existence today. Without it, there would’ve been a couple selfless humans that just kept giving and giving to the creatures around it and *poof* humans would have had an even smaller mark on our Earth’s history than we do today (we’re just a blip still anyway… right?).
But today, our selfish tendencies need to be seriously challenged. We aren’t just talking about eating-all-of-your-sister’s-candy selfish. This is destroying-our-planet-so-we-can-have-everything-we-want selfish.
As humans, we are truly being barbarically selfish.
Think about it. We are the only species on Earth that dictates the direction of our environment, our choices now implicate the planet itself, and every little (and big, and massive, and microscopic) creature on it. So it’s fucking scary that our selfishness is becoming increasingly wasteful and crippling to our environment. Shouldn’t it be going the opposite direction? As the one species that is now literally shaping a planet’s future, why aren’t we pulling the plug on our selfish mindset and beginning to think about the other creatures around us? Or, if we truly are selfish, why don’t we think about the fact that our home is going to be destroyed if we continue to cripple the environment? In my mind, it’s because selfishness and our ignorance – our lack of attention paid to anything that doesn’t somehow direclty affect us – didn’t have the same astronomical weight as it used to have.
Think about it this way: back when my great-great-great-great grandmother was kickin’ it – Lydia Morrell Harris Babbitt, to be precise – it was roughly 1790, and she was just a young thing. She ate lots of beans, some meat, some milk, some bread, fish. But then again, she didn’t have a fridge, nor electricity nor a car. Her carbon footprint was itty bitty. And every single one of her neighbours was the same.
Now? Every Canadian family lives “like their neighbours” too – eating roughly 110 pounds every year of red meat and poultry, and has one of the highest carbon footprints per person in the world. Yikes.
Where does our apathy come from? Dipesh Chakrabarty has a theory – we just weren’t evolutionarily wired to care about the environment. Historically, no matter what we did, the environment just acted as a background to the more frequently, and more exciting, human affairs happening.
Now that we’re comfortably (scarily) situated in the Anthropocene, where these human affairs are changing the environment, maybe we will finally begin to confront the unavoidale role humans have, every human, in restoring the environment.
That’s why I have little patience lately for people who blame convenience for why they’re not vegan, or their health, or their satisfaction of food. “Oh, I’m a foodie!” That’s not a reason. I am too! And sure, there are exceptions, but usually, let’s be honest, there aren’t.
Change is not going to be comfortable, but it’s necessary. We are in such a scifi reality right now – humans can alter the environment by what they eat and what they buy and how they get around their city. That’s one crazy unfortunate superpower.
Or is it?
Let’s make this anthropogenic superpower AWESOME. Let’s SAVE the Earth with this superpower.
And guess what? You can start shaping the Earth by choosing a frickin’ veggie burger over a beef burger. It’s a pretty easy superpower to wield.
Peace & love,