Sunday, May 19Royal Holloway's offical student publication, est. 1986

“We’re Knowingly Doing This”

A world of war is easily forgotten when you’re not living amongst it. A world of political squabble makes it easy to tune out. A world of environmental corruption provides a routine to abuse the natural world. We all make these excuses.


Leonardo DiCaprio, by giving up his only Oscar winning speech where he could have thanked his “supportive” family or made a joke about the iconic memes made of him, instead bored the world with a warning about the environment. But what he says is true, humans are knowingly destroying the Earth. As humanity grew careless towards the environment, with the mass emergence of industrialisation, there was a severe increase in the threats to humans.


We say that such things are normal because they aid our daily lives. This is essentially an anthropocentric view; that humans have overriding importance. It is simple evolution that humans are better, yes? Regrettably, it’s a purely ‘Westernised’ way of thinking, proved with just two groups: Druids and Buddhists.


Druids have a spiritual connection with the land. A famous and current blogger said that because she uses the land’s natural herbs to heal herself, she too must return the favour and heal the land. Similarly, ancient Buddhist stories often include taking a broom whilst walking to avoiding killing natures smallest, most insignificant creatures. Although, this is based around animals, they understand that it is not mankind’s authority to put themselves above the natural world.


To a modern secular individual, such values may seem too outdated to adopt. However, the irrefutable fact is that we take too much from the Earth and fail to return the same affection. Displayed with the foggy atmosphere currently in China, where civilians are wearing surgical masks in order to just breathe. If humans are the main excuse in exploiting the land, then why are we suffering?


Other examples of failed anthropocentrism include an American who was forbidden to put a compost toilet in her own home in order to reduce waste, yet the average toilet flushes more than 744ml  of clean water every day. To us, who very much like their water-operated toilet, this may not be of concern. But if we, as anthropocentric masses, were to all reduce other waste in many different matters rather than just taking from the world, then we may stop the possibility of ‘everything’ being on the endangered species list in the next few 100 years.


Why is being vegan, including the Green Party and campaigning for a better use of the environment so fashionable? Why now? Bhutan is a Buddhist country that made a promise in 2009 to remain carbon neutral, during COP 15 in Copenhagen. Their Prime Minister, Tshering Tobgay, claimed that “nobody heard” this, but during the December talk in Paris 2015, governments listened as they finally accepted the reality of climate change. This was the first sign that, not oil was leaked, but compassion and therefore, even though it may be hypocritical because of our excessive exploitation of the environment every day, change for the future is on the cards.


So it may be possible that skies shall be blue, rainforests may not be discarded so drastically for cattle rearing, Eastern citizens may breathe clearly and polar bears will not evolve into sea creatures. So it may be possible that one day we will nurse mother nature back to health, as she has essentially reared mankind with no complaint up until now.