In 2006, Catholic Priest and ecological philosopher Thomas Berry said, “We might summarize our present human situation by the simple statement: in the 20th century, the glory of the human race has become the desolation of the Earth. And now, the desolation of Earth is becoming the destiny of the human…”.
All through written history, humans have conquered and decimated resources without care or consideration. Extinction due to overhunting, deforestation, harmful dumping of waste, and our tendency to urbanize everything are just a few of the bullet points on the “Issues Created by Humans/Reap What you Sow” list. These are problems that have been created by the humans’ tendency to create patternistic, ritualistic ways of life. People find comfort in patterns; it’s scary to break the mold and try something new sometimes. Unfortunately, these archetypal practices, installed in our brains years and years ago, have created major issues for the current Earth inhabitor.
Common human paradigms can and have created environmental controversy. Take our dependency on meat, for example. 51% of all CO2 released into our atmosphere is directly connected to factory farming. This dramatically greatens our carbon footprint. Hundreds of thousands of acres of land have been pulverized past the point of no return due to overgrazing and cattle corralling; not to mention the copious amounts of grain and water we feed the bovines could go directly to humans. Imagine how much of a help this would be in third world countries. Unfortunately, especially here in America, we LOVE our meat. The American people have even created paradigms centered around our love of meat; at Thanksgiving we eat an entire turkey, on Christmas Day we eat excessive amounts of ham, the Fourth of July isn’t a holiday without a barbeque, and Sunday brunches with our families aren’t complete without bacon. Imagine the chaos that would ensure if one day, all of our cattle, fowl, and hogs disappeared. How would that reshape our holidays? Our day-to-day meals? Our society?
To prevent the collapse of our atmosphere and ecosystems there must be a wholesale transformation of dominant cultural patterns. The paradigms that we have practiced for the past X amount of years must be altered to better suit the environment’s needs. This does not mean abandoning our celebrations, our family times all together. It simply means shifting the focus away from consumption (do we really need to devour an entire turkey?) and toward construction: construction of a healthier planet. Imagine a new Thanksgiving–one where planet earth thanked us for going out and planting trees instead of feasting; thanked us for cleaning the beaches instead of building bonfires on them; thanked us for parking our cars for a long weekend instead of filling the skies with emissions as we idle on overpacked freeways. Would it be easy? Of course not–nor would it happen over night. But if we do not try to shift our thinking now, soon there will be nothing at all to celebrate.