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Social Sci LibreTexts

8.0: Introduction

I don't know a better way to say it, but as a species we've pretty much permanently screwed-up our planet. The real question is "What now?" Do we continue our nihilist craze to destroy the rest before going extinct, or do we try to salvage and restore as much we can? Most people in the Abrahamic Western tradition (Judeo-Christian-Islamic) have been enculturated to regard nature as something that needs to be dominated. Many Christians believe the hastened destruction of our world should be encouraged because it is a prerequisite for The Second Coming. Our current capitalist economy translates the domination of nature into the inalienable rights of the individual to exploit natural resources, even non-renewable ones, without taking into consideration the consequences for future generations. And to better use up those natural resources, capitalism creates a culture of consumerism, where our happiness is measured by conspicuous consumption.


Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\) - 2018 San Diego March for Science

How could a sane hominid have such low self-esteem that they would take a credit card to a shopping mall to buy things they don't really need, from a factory in China that uses slave labor and bribes its way out of pollution controls, to the point where they're in debt and need to burn non-renewable fossil fuels sitting in rush hour traffic for hours every day to pay off the interest on their card, to the point where if you asked them to help solve some of the problems that effect their fellow hominids, they would respond that they don't have any free time, or they're afraid of getting fired if they speak up?

So where's the hope?

I hope you got a sense in this class of the difference between culture and biology, and in this case, the difference between biological change and cultural change, especially in terms of time, the rate of change, how much faster culture can change compared to biology. When we talk about drastic biological change we can talk about evolution and the adaptive radiation of large groups of species into ecological niches over millions of years. When we talk about drastic cultural change we are talking about revolution. In an instant of geological time, our species went from crude tools to stunningly beautiful cave art in what we studied as the Upper Paleolithic revolution. I find hope in knowing how fast culture can change, that in the blink of an eye, the crude ideology of our dominant hominid could be replaced by something much more beautiful.