By Alison Page
We are leaving the period of time known at the Holocene Epoch.
The Holocene epoch is the time that humans have inhabited the earth and the beginning of agriculture. Since the climate has been stable throughout the Holocene Epoch, humans have been able to survive with relative ease on the planet.
It is being speculated that because of the massive increase in consumption, pollution, and population growth since the Industrial Revolution, human activity has officially ended the relative stability of the Holocene Epoch. Scientists are calling this new age the Athropocene.
From the Smithsonian Magazine article “What Is the Anthropocene and Are We in it?” Joseph Stromberg writes:
“Have human beings permanently changed the planet? That seemingly simple question has sparked a new battle between geologists and environmental advocates over what to call the time period we live in.
According to the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS), the professional organization in charge of defining Earth’s time scale, we are officially in the Holocene (“entirely recent”) epoch, which began 11,700 years ago after the last major ice age.
But that label is outdated, some experts say. They argue for ‘Anthropocene’—from anthropo, for ‘man,’ and cene, for ‘new’—because human-kind has caused mass extinctions of plant and animal species, polluted the oceans and altered the atmosphere, among other lasting impacts.”
Whether climate change leads to increasingly desperate water or food shortages is yet to be seen. We are seeing water shortages already: in California, India, and parts of Africa to name a few. Cape Town is going to run out of water by spring.
In my opinion, the problem lies within the very structure of our society, which is a multilayered problem, but majorly fueled by consumer capitalism. Consumer capitalism is a theoretical economic and social political condition in which consumer demand is manipulated, in a deliberate and coordinated way, on a very large scale, through mass-marketing techniques, to the advantage of sellers (I stole this definition from google). Lack of infrastructure, inequitable access to resources globally, and lack of access to and knowledge about birth control, especially in third world countries are also major components.
Check out the “Endangered Species Condom” Project, a non-profit organization. They state that:
“Every day we add 227,000 people to the planet. And every day, dozens of wildlife species are lost forever. Human population growth—along with our reckless overconsumption—is driving the sixth mass extinction crisis. But we can still save wildlife, by choosing to stop hogging the planet.”
We have used large amounts of the Earth’s natural resources since the Industrial revolution and we are consuming that at a faster and faster rate. The Earth is responding to this massive burning of fossil fuels and is having trouble regulating itself.
Realistically, we cannot tear down the structures of our society. But, we can use our personal volition and power and begin to examine our consumption and what companies we support. We can also examine what drives us to consume so much in the first place. I look at my own consumption, and I can see how I am often driven to buy things that I do not need and sometimes don’t even use. In my daily life I am trying to drive less, buy less and watch less TV since there are so many commercials and socially prescribed crap in general.
It seems like it is not possible for the Earth to continue to sustain this level of consumption. Our options are to suffer the consequences, which could be very severe, or begin to individually and collectively do what we can to change and challenge the existing paradigm which is failing to protect the earth. This could mean putting pressure on the Trump administration to re-enter the Paris Climate Agreement and to re-strengthen our environmental protection agency. Also refusing to purchase from companies that do not adhere to strict environmental safety procedures.
Part of this would mean looking beyond our own selves, our own comforts, to think of the welfare of the future and our planet. What vanities or habits can we give up or change in our own lives that will improve the future of our planet and the animals and people who inhabit it?
Alison Page lives outside of Boston, MA and is an artist and a Buddhist. She enjoys watercolor painting, writing, camping, the ocean, and being around compassionate and open-minded people. Check out her website, Creative Buddhism and also visit her Etsy shop: WaterBrushPaint.
Editor: Dana Gornall
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